My favourite thing to do at this time of year is EAT – but more specifically, to graze. You know, it’s a snacky time of year and I’m a snacky kind of gal. Actually that’s not true, most of the time I’m not really a snacker, but come the twinkling lights and Christmas trees, I guess I let myself off the hook.
This beautifully tender loaf is a cultural mash-up that I have basically no business doing, since I am neither Jewish nor Scandinavian. But when the idea came to me to combine a saffron-scented St Lucia bun with eggy, doughy challah, it was too good to pass up!
Especially because a slice of this challah, slathered in butter while it’s still warm from the oven, is about the perfect thing to serve to friends if you happen to have any over for the holidays. And what better thing to serve with, than a delicious, warming drink or cocktail. Lucky for us, the lovely folks at Foodie have sponsored this post and you can find all my favourite Winter Drinks in the collection above!
Once you’ve pressed a cup of s0mething delicious and a buttery slice of Saint Lucia Challah into your friend’s hands, you might want to tell them a little about St Lucy’s Day, which just happens to be tomorrow the 13th of December (get baking, ya’ll). The feast of St Lucia used to fall on the longest night of the year in the Nordic countries, so it became a celebration of light.
In Sweden on St Lucia’s Day, the eldest daughter of the family would wear a white gown and red sash, with a wreath of nine candles on her head, and wake up her family by singing and serving them coffee and Lussekatter – I’d love to know if this still goes on! As a bratty kid, I can’t imagine ever doing that for my siblings.
Similar celebrations go on in all the Nordic countries, but it’s the buttery little yellow buns that interested me the most! And I have to say I am immensely happy with how this gorgeous loaf came out. I based the dough recipe on Molly’s marzipan challah, and it worked a treat.
What are you giving out to friends and visitors this Christmas? And what’s your favourite holiday drink?
- 1 pinch saffron
- ¾ cup (185ml) warm water
- 1 tbsp dried yeast
- ¼ cup sugar + 2 tsps
- ⅓ cup raisins
- 2 tbsp rum (optional)
- 3 cups (450g) plain flour
- 2 eggs + 1 extra, for egg wash
- ⅓ cup oil (I used canola, but any flavourless oil will work)
- Place the saffron, water, yeast and 2 tsps of sugar into a small jug and stir to dissolve. Set aside for 10 minutes to activate.
- Place the raisins and rum into a small saucepan and bring to the boil, then turn off the heat. Alternatively, place in a microwave safe bowl and zap them on high for 30 seconds.
- Place the remaining sugar and flour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. When the yeast mixture has activated, add that to the flour, along with the soaked raisins, eggs and oil.
- Work on a low speed for 7-10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. It's a damp dough, but it should be climbing the dough hook. If it's too wet, add up to a cup of extra flour.
- Cover the bowl with cling wrap and set aside to rise for 1-2 hours or until doubled in size.
- Knock the dough down, and turn it out onto a floured surface. Split the dough into three pieces and roll each piece out into a 10 inch log. Braid the three logs together and place the loafonto a lined baking sheet.
- Leave the challah to rise for a further 30 minutes, and preheat the oven to 350F/180C.
- When the dough has risen, beat the remaining egg and brush the loaf with the egg wash. Bake for 20 minutes, and then tent the loaf in foil and bake for a further 20 minutes. It should be dark golden brown. Leave to cool at least 10 minutes before cutting.