Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
- 2 1/2 cups milk
- 1 cup plus 1/4 cup melted butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. powdered saffron or 1/2 tsp. saffron threads (dried in 250º oven for about 20 minutes, then crumbled)
- 2 pkg. dry active yeast (4 1/2 tsp.)
- 2 eggs, well beaten
- 8-9 cups all purpose or bread flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup raisins, dried currants, dried cherries, or a mixture of these
- 1 egg plus 2 Tbsp. water, whisked into an egg wash
- pearl sugar (or crushed sugar cubes) to sprinkle on prepared loaves
Heat milk to a light boil, turning off heat when it reaches the scalding point (with small bubbles across the top). Stir in 1 cup melted butter, sugar, salt, and ground saffron. Pour mixture into mixing bowl and allow to cool until “finger-warm” (still quite warm, but just cool enough to touch). Stir in yeast and let sit for 10 minutes.
Stir well-beaten egg into liquid (Note: if making Lucia buns rather than loaves, stir 1 cup raisins or currants into batter at this point).
Add flour into mixture 1/2 cup at a time until dough is firm and pulls away from the side of your mixing bowl (Tip: If using a stand mixer, replace the mixing paddle with the dough hook after you’ve added the first 5 cups of flour. Use the dough hook to mix and knead the dough as you add the remaining 3-4 cups of flour).
Cover the dough in the mixing bowl with a clean towel and let rise until doubled, about an hour. Punch down the dough, then remove from bowl. On a floured counter, knead dough lightly until smooth and shiny.
Divide dough into two halves and use to make loaves, wreathes, or Lucia rolls.
For loaves: On a floured counter, roll dough into two rectangles, about 12” x 18”. Brush these with 1/4 cup melted butter, then sprinkle with 1/2 cup sugar and 1 cup raisins. Roll crosswise into long cylinders (like a jelly roll), pinching along seam and ends to close.
With scissors or a sharp knife, cut loaves into 1/2”-long partial slices (taking care not to cut through the rolls completely. Only snip about 2/3 of the way down). Gently separate the slices, pulling the first one to the right, the second to the left, then repeating for the length of the loaves. Cover with a clean towel and allow to rise about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 375º. Brush risen loaves with egg wash, sprinkle with pearl sugar, and bake for 30 minutes, or until done.
Yield: 2 loaves.