The Christmas season is now open and I am very enthusiastic about it. Here in Sweden, this time of the year is linked to beautiful festive traditions, that come with some very special spices. Among them, saffron is a favorite and we find it in many Christmas bakings!
While we have to face the almost never-ending darkness of winter here in the North, the Swedes love to set up a very cosy atmosphere with candles everywhere and beautiful little things that put us in the mood for festivities. They even have a very important word for cosy (“mysigt” in Swedish), which is very important in their conception of life. Proof is, they use it all the time!
And even if the snow hasn’t come yet, we really feel that Chritmas is coming in every house. The tradition wants that people invite each other and gather around mulled wine (or “glögg” in Swedish, made in a very special way) as often as possible before Christmas. All the interiors become very cosy, with lots of Christmas decorations and candles everywhere.
Tradition wants that people enjoy some mulled wine topped with raisins and almonds, along some small gingerbread biscuits (“pepperkakor” in Swedish). Very often, we also take the opportunity of the season to bake some traditional Saffron buns “Lussekatter“ (read the history behind in my article). Baking with saffron is actually very typical of the Christmas season here in Sweden.
As I already published some other Christmas recipes with saffron, such as the traditional Lussekatter I previously mentioned or the wonderful Saffron cheesecake (lactose free), I wanted something a little bit more unique this year: I baked this lovely Saffron braided bread with vanilla cream.
Saffron bakings are often only slightly sweetened and usually appeal to those who don’t like to eat too sweet. Moreover, this braided bread has a very light and airy texture that perfectly matches the vanilla cream softness. It is also very fun to bake, much easier than you’d think, and the result is lovely!
Start your Christmas festivities already now and enjoy this beautiful saffron braided bread with vanilla cream!
- 1g saffron + 1 tsp sugar
- 1½ cups (35 cl) milk, lukewarm
- 25g fresh yeast
- 1 large egg
- 1 pinch of salt
- ¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup (75g) butter,at room temperature
- 1 tsp cardamom seeds, freshly grounded
- 6¼ cups (770g) cups flour
- 1¼ cup (30 cl) milk
- ½ vanilla pod
- 3 egg yolks
- 4 tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp corn starch (maïzena)
- ½ tsp cardamom seeds
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 beaten egg
- 2 tbsp slivered almonds
- 2 tbsp pearl sugar
- For the dough: Crush the saffron in a mortar together with one teaspoon of sugar. Pour in the milk and mix.
- Crumble the yeast into a large mixing bowl and dissolve with the saffron milk. Add the egg, salt, sugar, butter and cardamom, then pour the flour, little at a time. Mix together until it forms a firm dough (but not too solid/hard).
- Knead the dough vigorously for a few minutes.
- Let it rise under a cloth for 50-60 minutes.
- For the vanilla cream: mix all the ingredients in a saucepan. Let it simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly until the custard had thickened. Let it cool. Stir in cardamom seeds.
- Shaping the dough: divide the dough into 2 pieces. Roll out them, 12 x 15,5 inches (30 x 40 cm) on baking paper (it is possible to roll the dough on a floured surface, but then it will be more difficult to move over a baking tray when it's ready).
- Spread the vanilla cream in the middle of the rectangle, lengthwise, as explained on the picture. Cut slanting stripes in the dough, about 1 inch (2 cm) wide.
- Braid length by adding the stripes over each other.
- Let the braid rise under a cloth for about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 390 F (200 C).
- Brush the braid with beaten egg and sprinkle with almonds and pearl sugar.
- Bake the braided breads at the bottom of the oven for 25-28 minutes. Let them cool on a rack under a cloth.