Saffron buns with almond paste

Saffransbullar med mandelmassa

Saffron buns with almonds by candle light
Enjoy saffransbullar by candlelit during Advent.

Saffron buns are enjoyed throughout Sweden during Advent. They are particularly nice when eaten by candle light with a mug of hot chocolate or a glass of glögg! The most common form is as lussekatter in which the buns are shaped in spirals with two raisins, which are supposed to make the buns look like curled up cats. A popular alternative is to add some mandelmassa (almond paste) to the mixture which adds another flavour and helps to keep them moist. John Duxbury



• These buns are best made with Swedish mandelmassa (almond paste), which can be obtained from a specialist shop, ordered online or you can make your own using our recipe.
• If you’ve not got any almond paste you can use marzipan, but omit the sugar from the filling.
• Using Quark cooking cheese reduces the fat content of the buns, but you can use the dough from the lussekatter recipe if you prefer.
• The buns are easier to make with a standmixer, such as a kMix or KitchenAid, in which case skip step 2, cut the butter into small pieces and slowly add it during step 4.


0.4 g (½ tsp) saffron threads, 1 packet
240 ml (1 cup) whole milk, 3-4% fat
75 g (¾ stick) unsalted (sweet) butter, softened
500 g (4 cups) strong (bread) flour
50 g (¼ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
7 g (1½ tsp) "fast action" dried yeast, 1 packet
5 g (1 tsp) salt
100 g (4 oz) Quark, 1% or fat-free

Filling and glaze

110 g (1 stick) butter, at room temperature and cut into small cubes
200 g (7 oz) almond paste (mandelmassa), grated
3 tbsp   caster (superfine) sugar
1 tsp   vanilla essence
1   egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp   pearl sugar
3-4 tbsp   flaked almonds


Milk and saffron threads being heated in a saucepan

1. Heat the saffron and milk together until warm. Leave to cool for 10 minutes.

Melted butter being added to the saffron milk mixture

2. Melt the butter, allow to cool slightly and then stir into the milk mixture.

3. Put the flour, sugar and salt into a bowl and mix. Add the yeast and mix.

Saffron dough after kneading

4. If making by hand: stir in the milk mixture and Quark. Bring together to form a dough and knead on a floured surface for 10 minutes.

If using standmixer: fit the dough hook and, with the machine running on minimum, slowly add the milk mixture, Quark and then the soften butter (cut into small pieces). When everything has been added increase the speed to 2 (kMix) or 3 (KitchenAid) and knead for a further 5 minutes.

Because flours vary, sometimes you may may need to add a little more flour. Gently poke the dough with your finger. If the dough sticks to your finger it is too wet, so add a tablespoon of flour and knead for a further minute. (Take care not to add too much flour because your buns will end up too dry!)

Saffron dough after doubling in size

5. Clean the bowl and put the dough back in it and cover with cling film (food wrap) and leave in a warm draught-free place for 1½ hours or until it has doubled in size.

Saffron dough rolled out

6. Tip the dough out on to a floured surface and punch once or twice to knock it back. Roll out the dough into a rectangle at least 40 cm x 25 cm (16” x 10”). (If you are having difficulty getting the dough to keep its shape, let it sit for 5 minutes before trying again. Like pizza dough, it needs to time to relax whilst you are forming it.)

Almond paste and butter mixture

7. Mix the butter, almond paste, sugar and vanilla essence together to form an evenly mixed paste and spread over the dough.

Saffron dough topped with amlond paste

8. Roll the dough up along the long edge into a sausage and cut into 2 cm (¾”) thick rounds using a serrated knife. Place the rounds onto greased baking trays and cover with a tea towel. Leave somewhere warm again to double in size.

9. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F, gas 7, fan 190°C) and grease two baking trays (pans).

Saffron and almond buns ready to be baked

10. Brush the buns with the beaten egg. Sprinkle with pearl sugar and almond flakes and then bake for about 10 minutes until golden brown and the undersides sound hollow when tapped.

Saffron buns on a serving dish

11. Leave to cool on a rack and then transfer to a serving dish or a bread basket.


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Editor and Founder