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Swedish Saffron Buns

1/2 tsp dried saffron threads
1 c half and half
2 envelopes dry yeast
1/4 c lukewarm water
1 tbs sugar
1/3 c sugar
1 tsp salt
1/3 c unsalted butter
1 egg, beaten
4 c sifted flour, or as needed
1 egg yolk beaten with
1 tbs milk
1 egg white, beaten
Raisins or currants, for decorations
Lump sugar, crushed
Grated blanched almonds

The lump sugar and almonds are not needed for "cats" but are adornments for other forms of these buns if you choose. Crush dry saffron to a fine powder and steep in 1 or 2 tablespoons lukewarm half and half for 10 minutes. Sprinkle yeast into 1/4 cup lukewarm water, add 1 tablespoon sugar, cover lightly and set aside in a
warm place for 5 to 10 minutes, or until foamy. Scald remaining half and half and add 1/3 cup of sugar, salt and butter, and stir until butter melts. Cool to lukewarm. Add to yeast mixture along with strained saffron milk (if you are sure all saffron is dissolved, straining is unnecessary) and 1 beaten egg. Mix well. Gradually stir in flour until mixture is smooth and not sticky, but still soft and pliable. Knead for 10 minutes, or until shiny and elastic. Place in a lightly floured bowl, dust top of dough with flour, cover loosely and set to rise in draft-free corner
until double in bulk - about 1 1/2 hours. Punch dough down and knead for 2 or 3 minutes. Shape into forms - Let rise 30 minutes and bake in preheated 400 F oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 F and bake 30 minutes more, or until golden brown.

Lussekatter - Lucia Cats: Pinch off small bits of dough and roll into sausage shapes 5-7 inches long. Place these strips together in pairs, pinching centers to join them and coiling four ends out. Brush with egg yolk glaze and bake. Using a little egg white, stick a raisin or currant in the center of each coil of the hot buns.
Recipe featured in Bread Daily on 12/06/01.