Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate.
This authentic Swedish recipe was passed down to us from our great-grandmother, Bertha Anderson whose mother emigrated from Sweden to America as a twenty-nine year old young lady in 1882. Saffron Rolls are also often referred to as St. Lucia Buns. They most remarkable for their brilliant color and distinctive flavor, being flavored with both saffron and cardamom. We make them every year a few weeks before Christmas for our family and relatives. Last year we started making them for others as well when they ordered them ahead of time. I don't think I exaggerate at all when I say that it would border on sacrilegious in some circles to eat them any other time of year than the few weeks around Christmas and St. Lucia's Day.
Saffron is one of the most rare and costly spices in the world. It is in fact the stammen of the Saffron Crocus dried. To extract the mellow-sweet perfume and flavor, and vivid golden color for two batches of the delectable buns, we soak about $75 dollars worth of the precious strands in water and sqeeze every drop of the flavor out. This year we found a rarity in one of the plastic dish the saffron is packed in...a crocus petal!
Because there is no forgivness for mistakes with such precious spices, we are very careful about the preparing of the dough.
Grandma Bertha could find the correct temperature of the water with her finger, and Aubrey has learned to do the same. I am still learning that skill, but it gets easier every time I try it. There is no way to describe it. The correct temperature is neither hot nor cold, but it is warmer than luke-warm and cooler than warm...105 degrees!
There is always that great moment when you add the saffron with excitement...and fear and trembling.
Then of course there is the cardamom...that exotic, spicy, effervescent fragrance that tingles in your nostrils. It is so strong, some people use the whole seeds as breath mints! I was shopping in Bath and Body recently and enjoying the whiffs I was getting from their aroma-therapy candles when I suddenly found one that shouted "Christmas" to me in every breath. I thought for a minute it must be evergreen or something, but it wasn't in the Christmas area of the store. "Where have I smelled that before?" Then I looked at the label...Cardamom and Lemongrass. Well that explained it. Cardamom and Saffron are two scents that spell Christmas to me...hard to describe, but unmistakable once you know them. In explaining to other people, I often say that Cardamom is the primary flavor in most Chai teas, which it is, but that doesn't do much for them either since it is overwhelmed with a smattering of other spices. Needless to say I didn't leave Bath and Body without that candle!
Back to the rolls.
Safely on the other side of mixing, we start the long and delicate process of adding the necessary flour and kneeding by hand.
These buns rise for two hours both before and after you form them, but they only bake for around 15-20 minutes. We stand over the oven whatching and waiting during that time.
The final coat of butter to give them that shiny finish!
Everyone has their traditions...passed down through the generations. The tradition in and of itself may not be remarkable, but it reminds the next generation of the things their fathers held dear. Saffron Rolls are that way for us. We talk often about maintaining the principle that tradition serves the generations, rather than the generations serving the tradition.
Our great-great-grandmother emigrated from Sweden as an indentured servant to a wealthy family in Omaha Nebraska. Our grandma said that Anna Katarina, or Kate, as she liked to be called, never wanted to talk about the voyage from Sweden because the conditions on the ship were humiliating. She met her husband, a farmer and widower with eight children, at a Baptist tent meeting in Omaha. Kate had three children of her own before her husband died in a wagon accident, leaving her with eleven children and a farm. We have the Swedish Bible Kate brought with her on the ship from Sweden, filled with marked passages. Although her life was filled alternatly with hardship and joys, her faith was built on God's faithfulness. The youngest of those eleven children was our Great-grandmother, Bertha, born in 1894.
Great-Grandma Bertha had special memories of Christmas. As a child on Christmas day, she would run from window to window keeping peepholes in the frost open with her breath. Having all those big brothers and sisters was like having so many parents. They prepared the Christmas tree every Christmas Eve in the parlor of the farm house. Bertha had to recite the Christmas story from memory in Swedish before they would throw open the doors to reveal the tree! And of course there were the Saffron Rolls. Bertha lived to be 101 years old and passed the tradition of the Saffron Rolls, and the story of our family, to her daughter and her grandaughter, Karen, our mother!
The amazing story of God's provision amidst blessing and hardship is the story behind the Saffron Rolls. Saffron Rolls alone can give us nothing. But they serve as a reminder of the faithfulness of God to work in our lives for our good and His glory through the generations of those that serve Him.