Sunday, December 11, 2011

♬ Santa Lucia Crown for the Feast of St. Lucia ♬




From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...St. Lucia is an Italian saint who has been "adopted" by the people of Sweden. Christmas celebrations in Sweden begin on her feast day, which is the 13th of December. Prior to the introduction of the Gregorian calendar, that date was the shortest day of the year and in some regions of Scandinavia the sun didn't rise at all. Lucia is the patron saint of light, and legend tells us she wore a wreath of candles on her head to free her arms to carry bread to starving Christians hiding in the catacombs. The man she was to marry denounced her for assisting the poor and as a punishment she was blinded and set afire. The flames, however, didn't touch her and it took a stab wound to the heart to finally kill her. It is said that Lucia regained her sight just before her death. She is, to this day, revered as the patron saint of the blind because of her association with light. Her place in Swedish legend was earned because farmers in the middle ages believed she walked across a lake to deliver armloads of bread to starving members of their villages during a famine. They reported her path across the water was illuminated by the crown of candles she wore on her head. Lucia's name is synonymous with light and her crown symbolizes the light of faith and the promise of the sun's return. If you would like to see the procession that takes place on Saint Lucia day, you'll find a beautiful example here.

I have a special fondness for this holiday. Although I'm not Swedish, or Italian for that matter, I have enduring memories of Santa Lucia Day as it was spent on the south side of Chicago when I was a child. You've heard those stories and I've shared my recipes for some of the special foods that I associate with the holiday. We've already done done a coffee cake and Lussekatter or Lucia buns. Today's feature is a special sweet bread called a Lucia Crown. The crown should actually be made from two braids, one large, the other small. They are baked separately, and the small crown, which holds the candles, is placed on top of the other just before serving. The last time I did that, the small crown, with lit candles, slid off and caused more than a little excitement in the kitchen. These days, I use a much safer method of construction and no longer need the assistance of the fire department when I present the crown to my family. It's basically a long braid that's knotted into a circle. A demonstration of the technique can be found here. The dough used to make the crown is actually easy to prepare and it is not beyond the capabilities of a novice baker. There is, obviously, some symbolism built into the crown. Saffron is added to the dough to give it the color of the sun and the use of the candles is self-explanatory. This is a delicious bread and it is handsome enough to be used as a table centerpiece. I hope you'll give it a try. Fans of sweet breads will be happy to know this bread comes with a recommendation and an alert. My socks are going up and down. Hang on to yours. Here's the recipe.




Santa Lucia Crown...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite inspired by Bread World

Ingredients:
1/2 cup warm water
2-1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
4-1/4 to 4-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 eggs, divided use
Powdered Sugar Glaze, optional (recipe follows)
Red and green candied cherry halves, optional

Directions:
1) Place 1/4 cup warm water in large warm bowl. Sprinkle in yeast; stir until dissolved. Add remaining water, warm milk, sugar, butter, salt, saffron, and 1-1/2 cups flour; blend well. Stir in 2 eggs and enough remaining flour to make soft dough. Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 6 to 8 minutes. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
2) Punch dough down. Remove dough to lightly floured surface. Divide into 3 equal pieces. Roll each into a 36-inch rope. Braid ropes. Place on a greased baking sheet and knot into a crown shaped circle. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
3) Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake crown for 25 minutes or until done, covering braid with foil during last 10 minutes to prevent excess browning. Remove braid from baking sheet and let cool on a wire rack.
4) To decorate, make holes for candles in crown. If desired, drizzle with Powdered Sugar Glaze and garnish with candied cherry halves. Insert candles in prepared holes.

Powdered Sugar Glaze: In small bowl, combine 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted; 4 to 5 teaspoons milk; and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Stir until smooth.








St. Lucia Day: Traditional Santa Lucia Buns
















St. Lucia Day: Claire and Cinnamon Meringue Coffee Ring








This post is being linked to:

Wild Yeast - Yeast Spotting
Foodie Friday
Pink Saturday
Mom Trends

39 comments:

Hovkonditorn said...

I remember how we celebrated Lucia in school and it was a day we looked forward to! Your Lucia Crown is so beautiful and I know it tastes good!

Ginny said...

This bread looks wonderful. I have heard and seen a bit about Santa Lucia, as I have a blog friend in Sweden. Gosh, what an awful legend. And I hope it is just that, and not true.

Vicki Bensinger said...

Fun facts. Your loaf of bread is beautiful! In fact I'd hate to eat it, ruining its beauty. I can only imagine how fantastic your house smelled as this was baking.

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

I have never heard of the Feast of Santa Lucia, but this recipe looks gorgeous, your photo as always is excellent. Diane

lauren@spicedplate said...

Have you ever made st. lucy's day soup? That's also super yummy. This recipe brought back memories -- thank you!

Joanne said...

I remember learning about saint Lucia in elementary school when we learned about how other cultures celebrate Christmas! That loaf is absolutely amazing!

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Thanks so much for this story and the gorgeous Lucia Crown bread. I've always been interested in learning more about this winter feast day in her honor. Wish my "bread braids" looked this good!

What's Baking?? said...

Superb. And a great tale too.

Margaret Murphy Tripp said...

I am a huge fan of sweet breads and this one is simply beautiful and looks marvelous as a centerpiece. I may have to get ambitious do this for my Christmas Eve party!

Gloria (The Little Red House with the White Porch) said...

Hi, Mary. I enjoyed hearing the legend about St. Lucia. But damn her fiance!! :|
I did, however, really enjoy your story of yours sliding around! THOSE stories are the best because they are a family story that you will talk about for years to come. Much more interesting than having something work perfectly all the time! Anyway, your bread looks delicious, I'd like some right now. :)
Take care.
Best,
Gloria

Tanna at The Brick Street Bungalow said...

I had not heard of Santa Lucia's Feast, but I can tell if I had been around it growing up, it would be one of my favorite Christmas memories, too. And, you know I love it when your socks have gone up and down!! That recommendation is the highest of all! ;) blessings ~ tanna

Sue/the view from great island said...

What an incredible centerpiece this would be! it's glorious, and the song is already stuck in my head, I'll be singing it all day...

kitty said...

What a beautiful bread, Mary! I know it will taste as good as it looks. Thanks for the history behind the St. Lucia crown, too.

From the Kitchen said...

If I can just find my little vial of saffron, I think I'll put this lovely and symbolic bread on our table this week. We are having perfect staying-in-and-baking-bread weather here.

Best,
Bonnie

Shug said...

I have not ever heard of this before, but I find it to be very interesting! I love visiting you because I get these wonderful recipes and I always get some new insight to all kinds of things for which I did not know about...
Bread is my weakness and this one looks so DELICIOUS!
Blessings,
shug

Maria @ Neipori Apartmani said...

Thanks for posting the how-to! Going to give it a try :) My boys just love fresh breas! Happy holidays

FABBY'S LIVING said...

Oh so wonderful this St. Lucia bread, your house must smell heavenly, which is home made bread! Thanks so much for sharing. I know about Sta. Lucia, here people celebrate their Sts. Day often instead of their birthdays, so I have a couple of Lucias who celebrate it. I wouldn't, poor Sta., so sad her life. Merry Christmas for you and yours. FABBY

Bill Dixon said...

I think I just visited the culinary blog of all culinary blogs...I like your taste. Bread is my weakness and favorite food.

Elisabeth said...

Mary-the Lucia Crown Bread is magnificent!
When I clicked to your site, I thought I heard music...and I did. So beautiful, and so befitting the scene. Loved the history about Lucia, which I knew learned about, since childhood. One of my niece, in Sicily is named Lucia
(pronounced Lu-chtia)
Thanks for sharing this beautiful tradition, and delicious bread!
Hugs,

Susan Lindquist said...

My daughters always wanted to be Lucia on her saint's day ... we have made the saffron rolls every winter since they were peanuts ... yours are much more beautiful than mine, but the sentiment remains as powerful where ever they are served (very early in the morning at our house with nothing but candle light and hot cider and coffee).

Blessings tomorrow morning!

David said...

Mary, That is a beautiful loaf of sweet bread! Serve that to me warm with some soft butter and that's all I'd need for dinner... Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Rosemary said...

I went to a Catholic college and we wore wreaths and carried candles! Would have loved this "crown afterwards!

Rachana said...

Such a gorgeous loaf! Loved the click!

Kitchen Gypsies said...

I have always wanted to know more about The Feast of St. Lucia, have heard of it but never bothered to find out it's origins, Thanks Mary! Your bread is beautiful.

Au and Target said...

Amazing how non-Christian holidays can be Christianised. Lovely picture!

Buttercup said...

Beautiful photo! Mary, the music is so lovely.

Pegasuslegend said...

gorgeous!

Monet said...

What a magnificent creation! I love learning about the history behind these recipes. I would love to try this out for our holiday feast. I love collecting recipes for my family and me to make! Thank you for sharing this with me and brightening my morning!

mia xara said...

Hi Mary,thank you for posting the lovely sweet bread recipe,as well as the story behind it..Have a great week,XO

That Girl said...

I remember learning about Saint Lucia and the candle crowns in school. It sounded so beautiful!

Deb in Hawaii said...

Such a beautiful loaf and a stunning photo. It does make such a wonderful holiday centerpiece too. ;-)

Mary said...

Maria, I'm so glad you found your way to One Perfect Bite. Now that you've found us, I hope you'll be a regular visitor. Have a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

Martha in KS said...

My birthday is 12/13 and I have a precious wooden candleholder that my mother bought me. A girl in a white gown wears a ring of greenery on her flowing yellow hair, and a single candle fits in the middle. My mother would put it on the table every year on my birthday. I may have to bake myself one of these lovely breads.

GStaples said...

Your bread is beautiful!! We made cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate and my youngest daughter would dress up and past the food around for our breakfast. We are not Swedish or Catholic, but have enjoy participating in this holiday. I miss those days of when the children were younger.

Honey for Jam said...

This bread looks amazing, thank-you for sharing your story!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Mary - I'm a little behind in my blog reading but had to comment on this beautiful bread. I remember my daughter dressing up as Santa Lucia for Halloween one year. One of these days I will attempt to make this loaf but don't know if I'll be as successful as you.

Pat's Pink Apron said...

This bread with the candles makes such a beautiful presentation. It looks very good. Pat

LV said...

How delicious that looks. Sorry, I have missed out on a lot of your good cooking lately. Rest and enjoy a Merry Christmas.

Marti McClure said...

What a wonderful tradition. Thanks for sharing the recipe. Happy Pink Saturday. ~Marti

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