I know saffron is outrageously expensive, and it’s certainly not something you use every day. It’s something very special for the holidays, though, and a very worthwhile splurge to get a gram or two to make a festive saffron bread shaped as a wreath.
My mom always has a bit of saffron in the house and we used to bake a saffron wreath, braided bread, or buns around Christmas every year. It’s very common in Northern Europe and Scandinavia, but you might be most familiar with Lussekatter, or the pretty yellow buns made in Sweden for St. Lucia’s Day, a solstice celebration. They’re made throughout the holiday period but more traditionally on December 13th.
Our saffron breads during my childhood were heavy on butter and dairy milk, and I don’t remember them ever including chocolate or dates, but it’s the same idea. It’s just a vegan saffron loaf instead. The dark chocolate in combination with the rich saffron dough is spectacular, as is the sweetness and caramel notes of the dates and coconut sugar.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Spelt flour: plain white flour can be used in place of spelt, but note that the kneading time will have to increase if using white flour.
- Coconut sugar: this can be replaced with cane sugar if preferred.
- Coconut oil: butter can be substituted for coconut oil for both the dough and the filling.
- Add-ins: the chocolate and dates can be omitted if you prefer, or substitute something like raisins.
Make sure if you buy saffron that it’s in a dark package or container. Prolonged exposure to light is the worst thing for it, and it will lose colour and flavour as a result. So those cute little glass containers with saffron are not the best. And it’s more expensive than gold, gram for gram, so you should be getting your money’s worth!
I’m providing instructions to knead by hand, but you can also use a stand mixer. Just follow the same directions but mixing with your kneading attachment adding the flour a bit at a time until a soft dough forms.
If you want to make this bread but a wreath scares you, then just cut the roll into rounds and bake it like cinnamon buns. It’ll taste the same, but won’t be quite as festive.
How to Store
Storage: this is best fresh, but can be stored in a sealed container at room temperature for up to three days.
Freezing: place the cooled bread in an airtight container and freeze for up to three months. The bread will dry out slightly if frozen.
Braiding the Dough
To create the saffron wreath, you roll the dough lengthwise like cinnamon rolls, then cut down the middle lengthwise to create two pieces of dough with layers. Leave an “anchor” at the top, about 5cm where you don’t cut it. Then you twist the two strands around one another from top to bottom, keeping the cut side facing up, and then form it into the wreath.
A trick to make sure the wreath has a nice looking join is to take the two strands of dough, separate them from the coil, and wrap them around the other end of the wreath where you want to make the join. I usually cut the anchor after my two-strand braid is completed and use that to create the join. So instead of trying to squash the ends together, you’re wrapping it instead and sealing underneath. I hope that makes sense.
- Check your yeast: I highly recommend either buying fresh yeast for this recipe or testing your yeast beforehand! You don’t want to waste that precious saffron on dead yeast.
- Add the filling back in: the dough will want to fall open a bit when you cut it, especially if your dates are cut a little big. Don’t worry if some of the filling falls out, you can just add it back into the dough before it rises the second time.
- Use a light milk: a lighter milk will result in a better texture, as opposed to full-fat coconut milk from a can, for example. My preference is always oat milk.
More Sweet Bread Recipes
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Saffron Bread Wreath
- 250 ml non-dairy milk
- 1 pinch saffron threads ~1/2 gram
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
- 2 ¼ teaspoons dry yeast or 1/2 cube fresh
- 450 grams light spelt flour
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil softened
- 50 grams coconut sugar
- 50 grams dark chocolate chopped
- 50 grams dates chopped
- Add the milk to a small saucepan with the saffron threads and heat over low-medium until just simmering. Whisk in the coconut oil and coconut sugar, then pour into a large heatproof bowl.250 ml non-dairy milk, 1 pinch saffron threads, 3 tablespoons coconut oil, 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
- Let the milk mixture cool until just warm to the touch, then whisk in the yeast. Leave it for 15 minutes, or until foaming. Stir in 1 cup of flour along with the salt. Add the remaining flour in 1/2 cup increments, stirring between each addition, until it becomes too difficult to mix with a wooden spoon.2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast, 450 grams light spelt flour, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and knead, adding more flour as necessary, until a soft, smooth dough forms, around 8-10 minutes.
- Oil a large bowl and place the dough into it, turning it a couple of times to coat it in a little oil. Place a large plate over the bowl and set it into a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about an hour.
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a large rectangle, about 2cm thickness. Spread with the coconut oil, then top with the coconut sugar, chocolate, and dates in an even layer.2 tablespoons coconut oil, 50 grams coconut sugar, 50 grams dark chocolate, 50 grams dates
- Roll the dough up lengthwise, the cut lengthwise down the centre into two long strips. Leave the top 5cm of dough uncut to create an anchor. With the cut side facing up, twist the two pieces around one another, lifting one and placing it over the other from top to bottom. Give yourself plenty of space for this.
- Once your coil is finished, form the wreath. Bring the ends around to each other, then cut your anchor and wrap the two pieces around the other end of the coil and tuck underneath, pressing lightly to stick.
- Gently lift your completed wreath onto the prepared baking sheet and cover with a clean tea towel. Adjust to make sure you have the desired shape (now, before it proofs a second time). Place in a warm spot to rise again for 30 minutes.
- While the dough is proofing, preheat the oven to 180C / 350F. Once it’s finished rising, bake the wreath for about 30 minutes, or until lightly golden. Cool on the baking sheet for another 20 minutes before cooling fully on a rack. Best eaten fresh, but leftovers will keep in a well sealed container on the counter for up to three days.
* For American cup measurements, please click the pink link text above the ingredient list that says ‘American’.
Nutrition is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate. If this information is important to you, please have it verified independently.