To explain this recipe I must first start with an explanation of saffron buns – also known as lussekatter or saffransbullar in Swedish.
These yellow, coiled, baked goods, dotted with currants, are a Swedish December classic, traditionally served on Lucia Day. The art is in shaping them, and often when perusing through old Swedish cookbooks you’ll find a guide for all of the different ways to form them.
You simply can’t have Swedish Christmas, or December for that matter, without these bright yellow coils.
When it comes to baking traditional recipes and tweaking them to fit your dietary preferences I am a believer that it’s often hard to replicate the exact taste and texture of the original, so instead of replicating you have to reinvent. My mother and I for many years have taken to making saffron muffins, of which we can easily whip together a gluten-free version. Come up with a recipe for gluten-free saffron buns that remain yeasty and fluffy and taste the way they should? That’s a whole other challenge that I am not willing to take on.
But I still wanted that shape, color and smell of saffron in my kitchen. So I reinvented, and came up with these cookies.
Using finely ground almonds and rice flour, you get a light cookie texture that is the perfect base for the saffron. In fact I had tried to bake saffron buns with buckwheat flour, and while tasty, left a little something to be desired as the buckwheat totally overpowered this exotic spice. I would never pretend to call these saffron buns, because they are not. But they are saffron bun cookies, full of saffron flavor and perfect for pairing with a mug of glögg or hot tea.
Want the traditional saffron bun recipe? It’s here.
Gluten-Free Saffron Bun Cookies // Glutenfria saffransbullar kakor
Makes: About 16-20 cookies depending on what size you want them.
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
Dash of whiskey or vodka
1 cup (5 ounces, 142 grams) raw almonds
1 1/2 cups (6 3/4 ounces, 191 grams) rice flour
1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces, 70 grams) dried currants
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces, 49 grams) natural cane sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup (60 ml) non-dairy milk
One whisked egg (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
Using a mortar and pestle, or the back of a spoon, crush the saffron threads. Place in a small bowl and pour over a little bit of whiskey or vodka to draw out the flavor. Set aside while you prep the other ingredients.
In a food processor, finely grind the almonds, then in a large bowl, mix them together with the rice flour, currants, baking powder and salt.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and sugar until foamy, then add in the olive oil, non-dairy milk and the saffron and mix together until well blended. Pour into the bowl of dry ingredients and work into a dough.
Take half of the dough and split it into 8 to 10 evenly sized balls, then roll them out to about 6 to 8 inches long. Roll them into the classic saffron bun “S” shape. You can make them smaller if you like, just be sure to adjust the baking time.
Roll out the second half of the dough in the same method.
Place the cookies on a greased baking sheet or silicone baking mat and bake. If you would like, brush the tops of the cookies with the whisked egg and place a currant in the center of each coil. You can skip the egg glaze if you would like to, but certainly not the currants!
Bake at 400°F (200°C) for 10 to 12 minutes.
As soon as they are cool, store in an airtight container as otherwise they will dry out quickly.
Images: Anna Brones, Viriditas