Saffron buns are a tradition for St. Lucia Day, which is still observed in much of Europe even though most feast days have fallen out of fashion. In Scandinavia, it’s a celebration of light in the darkest days of winter and these golden yellow buns are a lovely symbol of that.
My version is made with spelt flour, coconut oil, and sweetened with maple syrup (or honey). As with most vegan bread recipes, it works wonderfully without the need for eggs or butter in the dough.
Shaping is very simple for julgalt, the s-shapes pictured here. There are a number of other shapes for saffron buns but this is the easiest and very beautiful.
While these are vegan as written, I have provided some non-vegan substitutions and options for those who are just looking for recipes made with spelt flour.
This recipe is lightly adapted from my saffron wreath bread.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Spelt flour: light or sifted for the fluffiest buns. As always, white flour can replace light spelt flour. Whole grain spelt will make heavier buns but it can be used (you’ll need slightly less, but this will balance out during kneading).
- Saffron: look for saffron that’s sold in an opaque container, as it loses it’s intensity when exposed to light.
- Yeast: fresh and dry yeast can be used interchangeably. It doesn’t matter if it’s instant or traditional dry yeast, as it’s being bloomed in the hot milk in any case.
- Maple syrup: or honey, as pictured, because I didn’t have any when shooting. Maple syrup and honey can be used interchangeably. If you’re making these for someone else, it’s always good to ask what their dietary preferences are beforehand. I use local honey because it’s more sustainable than imported maple syrup.
- Oat milk: or another non-dairy milk. Dairy milk can also be used if preferred.
Step by Step
Step 1: heat the milk and bloom the saffron.
Step 2: mix the wet ingredients in a large bowl, then bloom the yeast.
Step 3: add the dry ingredients and mix into a shaggy dough.
Step 4: knead until a smooth ball of dough forms.
Step 5: set the dough aside to rise until doubled in size.
Step 6: divide the dough into ten equal pieces.
Step 7: roll into long strands, then shape as desired.
Step 8: curl both ends to make julgalt as pictured.
Step 9: place the buns onto a lined baking sheet.
Step 10: brush with extra milk or egg and bake until golden.
No Second Prove
There is no second prove, or rise, for this dough once the buns are shaped. This is not necessarily typical for bread, but when julgalt are left for a second rise, they lose their characteristic shape during baking.
You can see an example of this below. The bottom bun had a 30-minute proving time after shaping, and the swirls have lost definition during baking. The top bun didn’t have more than a few minutes (the time needed to shape the other buns) and it’s much more defined. The interior texture is excellent even with the shorter proving time.
The buns should be brushed with milk (or egg) before baking to ensure a nice golden bun and to keep the swirls from separating during baking. This will also remove any bits of flour present from rolling the dough. Only use egg wash if the buns don’t need to be vegan.
Grinding the saffron makes for a more consistent golden hue, but it’s not mandatory if you don’t have a mortar and pestle. Rubbing it between your fingers before adding to the milk will help too.
Rolling the dough into the shorter strands before stretching into the longer strands allows the gluten to rest, and will make it easier to lengthen without tearing.
Make sure the milk mixture isn’t too hot before adding the yeast. Generally, melting the oil in the milk will ensure this, but it’s still good to check. It should feel just warm to the touch, but not hot, when testing with a fingertip.
How to Store
Storage: these taste best on the day they’re made and will dry out a bit, but can be stored in a sealed container at room temperature for up to three days.
Freezing: place cooled buns in an airtight container and freeze for up to three months.
- Soak the raisins: if you want to decorate with raisins, soak them in hot water (or another liquid, like rum) for half an hour beforehand. They burn in the oven otherwise.
- Refrigerate your yeast: it will have the longest shelf life and be most reliable if stored in an opaque container in the refrigerator.
- Don’t over-knead: spelt dough doesn’t need as much working because it has a lower gluten content. If using a standing mixer, knead for about half the time as you would by hand.
More Holiday Baking
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Spelt Saffron Buns
- 250 ml oat milk plus more for brushing
- 1 pinch saffron threads ground (about 1/2 a teaspoon)
- 45 grams coconut oil
- 50 grams maple syrup
- 2 ¼ teaspoons dry yeast or 1/2 cube fresh
- 450 – 500 grams light spelt flour
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Add milk and a pinch of saffron to a small saucepan. Heat over medium until simmering but not boiling.250 ml oat milk, 1 pinch saffron threads
- Remove the milk from the heat and pour into a large, heat safe mixing bowl. Add the coconut oil and maple syrup, then whisk until the coconut oil has melted.45 grams coconut oil, 50 grams maple syrup
- Test the temperature of the mixture with a fingertip – it should feel just warm. Add the yeast and set aside to bloom for ten minutes. After this time, the mixture should look bubbly and expanded.2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast
- Add 200 grams (1 1/4 cups) of the flour and the salt. Stir to combine.1/2 teaspoon sea salt, 450 – 500 grams light spelt flour
- Add the remaining 250 grams (1 3/4 cups) flour and stir until it forms a shaggy, dry looking dough.450 – 500 grams light spelt flour
- Lightly flour a work surface and turn the dough out onto it. Knead for 5-6 minutes, adding flour as needed to prevent sticking, until a soft, smooth dough forms.
- Place the dough back into the mixing bowl and cover with a tea towel. Set aside to rise until doubled in size, about one hour.
- Once the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Divide the dough into ten equal balls (weigh for most accuracy). Use your hands to roll the balls out into short strands, setting aside as you work through all ten. Once all have been rolled in this manner, start again from the first one and roll into long, thinner strands, about 40cm (16 in.) in length.
- Take each end of a strand and roll them in opposite directions toward the centre, creating two spirals that intersect in the middle. This is a julgalt.
- Place the bun onto the prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all of the dough has been used.
- Brush the tops and sides of the buns with more milk.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until golden and the tops of the buns feel firm to touch. Cool for at least ten minutes before serving.
- Saffron buns are best on the day they're baked, but can be stored up to three days in an airtight container. They freeze well.
* 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.
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