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Imaginary Christmas market: a recipe from Norway

Since Strasbourg’s world-famous Christmas market is sadly cancelled in 2020, we wondered what it would be like if we simply imagined this year’s market. 

Every year, one country is the market’s guest of honor, and place Gutenberg is filled with stalls selling souvenirs and culinary specialties from that country. In previous years, the guests of honor have been Belgium, Lebanon, Iceland, and many others.

Since Stephanie is Norwegian, we’ve imagined a market with Norway as the guest of honor. On that occasion, we wanted to share a typically Norwegian Christmas tradition with you. Those of you who are familiar with Alsatian Christmas traditions will know the Mannele, or Mannala, which is essentially a little brioche-man (as opposed to a gingerbread-man) enjoyed all through the month of December, but particularly on December 6th, for the feast of Saint Nicholas.

In Norway (and throughout Scandinavia) there is a somewhat similar tradition for making “Lussekatter“, or saffron buns, for the feast of Saint Lucia on December 13th. These very tasty buns have a bright yellow color (from saffron or turmeric) and are traditionally shaped into swirls and spirals. This is done to symbolize light winning over darkness and the sun slowly returning after the gloom of winter.

Just imagine the Norwegian village at the market … the smell of fresh saffron buns, the spicy aroma of gløgg (Norwegian mulled wine), stalls selling risgrøt (rice porridge with cinnamon, sugar, and butter) or smoked salmon, others offering aquavit and Christmas ale, little decorations with gnomes and trolls, traditional wool sweaters and mittens …            

Let’s hope it comes true some day! See you in 2021, for next year’s market. In the meantime, we hope you will enjoy this recipe! God Appetitt!

Recipe for LUSSEKATTER or saffron buns

Ingredients:

• 1 to 1,5 g of saffron

• 50 g of fresh yeast 

• 0,5 L of milk

• 150 to 200 g of butter or margarine

• 0,5 teaspoon of salt

• 1-3 dL of sugar

• 1 egg

• About 1,5 L of flour

• Raisins for decorating (optional)

+ 1 egg and a splash of milk for the egg wash

How to make lussekatter:

Grind the saffron to a fine powder.

Crumble the yeast into a large bowl and stir out into a few tablespoons of the milk.

Melt the butter, then add the milk. Gently heat the mixture until tepid (test a drop on your skin, it needs to be tepid to activate the yeast, but too much heat will kill it.). Add the saffron.

Pour the milk and butter over the yeast and stir in the salt, sugar and about half of the flour. Add the rest of the flour a little at a time (you might not need all of it) and knead it in by hand until the dough is nice and smooth. Sprinkle a little flour on top, cover with a tea towel and set to rise in a warm place with no cold draughts until it doubles in size.

Knead the dough in the bowl for a minute, then knead out on a smooth surface where you’ve sprinkled a little flour, until it is smooth and easy to work with.

Cut or rip the dough into smaller parts, then twist, roll or braid different buns. Just remember larger buns will take longer to cook through. Decorate with raisins (optional).

Put the shaped buns on a greased tray and let them rise under a tea towel for another half hour). Lightly paint them with an egg wash.

Cooking time:

Bake at about 200 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes or more, depending on your oven and the size of the buns. Just keep an eye on them and take them out of the oven when they are golden brown.

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