Gluten Free Saint Lucia Saffron Buns

Gluten Free Saint Lucia Saffron Buns

Saint Lucia (Lucia ~ “light”) Day is a Christian holiday honoring a martyr named Lucia who died in the 3rd century. Her legend holds that she brought food — perhaps gluten free Saint Lucia Saffron Buns — and drink to Christians hiding in catacombs, lighting her way with a a candle-lit wreath she wore on her head, so her hands were free to carry her gifts.

Saint Lucia Gluten Free Saffron Buns for the holiday, or any time you want beautiful rolls for your table! Gluten-FreeThe feast of Saint Lucia is always on December 13 (well into Advent, thus signaling the coming of Christmas), but it used to also be the Winter Solstice — the day with the least sunlight. In Scandinavian countries, this dark period would be particularly long. With the adoption of the Gregorian calendar, the date of the solstice was changed, but the tradition of Saint Lucia remained tied to December 13.

Festivals honoring Saint Lucia include the traditional procession of girls dressed as the Saint herself, all in white with a red sash and a wreath of candles on their heads, as they bear cookies and rolls and sing songs. Oddly enough, I remember taking part in just such a ceremony at my school when I was in 3rd grade. I loved dressing like Saint Lucia and learning the songs, but the treats must have left an impression too, as my memories of this activity so many years ago are still quite vivid. (And no, I’m not sharing a picture of my 3rd grade self!)

A friend at church shared a tattered Scandinavian cookbook with me a few years ago, which is where I found the base for what would become my gluten-free recipe. So you can feel quite authentic when you make them! The saffron in these iconic buns plays a very important part, lending flavor and smell as well as the distinctive yellow hue. Saffron has long been one of the world’s most expensive spices, used throughout history for medicinal/herbal treatments, perfume, flavor and even dyes.

The dough for these saffron buns is shaped by twisting into a unique flourish on either end, adding to their distinctiveness as a symbol of this Advent holiday. And while it may not be historically accurate to say that these buns were always gluten free, they’re equally delicious made that way in modern times, so why not?

Tradition holds that if you fully embrace the traditions of Saint Lucia Day, you will survive the long winter days with enough light. It seems to me that the best way to celebrate would be to bake these gluten free Saint Lucia Saffron Buns, don’t you think? Wreath of candles or not, they’ll certainly spread joy and warmth on a cold winter’s night.


Gluten Free Saint Lucia Saffron Buns

Gluten Free Saint Lucia Buns on plaid
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  • 1 ¼ cups warm milk, dairy or non-dairy
  • 2 Quick Rise instant dry yeast packets (2 1/4 tsp. each) –Red Star® is gluten-free
  • ½  tsp. saffron threads (or powdered saffron)
  • ½ Tbs. bourbon, brandy or apple cider
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 egg white (or egg substitute)
  • ½ cup melted butter or non-dairy alternative (Earth Balance®)
  • 4 cups gfJules™ All Purpose Gluten Free Flour
  • 1 egg, beaten (or milk of choice) for brushing onto bread before baking
  • 1 handful raw almonds, slivered (optional)
  • raisins for decorating (optional)
  • Demerara sugar for sprinkling (optional)


To proof the yeast, dissolve the packets in ¼ cup warm milk.

bubbles-show-yeast-is-proofed for gluten-free-saint-lucia-saffron-buns

Unless dried already, dry saffron threads by spreading on a baking sheet and placing in a warm oven until dry. Pound smooth into a powder. Dissolve in ½ tablespoon bourbon, brandy or apple cider.

saffron threads for gluten-free-saint-lucia-saffron-buns

Dried saffron threads.


In a large mixing bowl, combine remaining 1 cup milk, dissolved saffron, sugar, salt, egg white, butter and gfJules Flour.

Beat in the yeast-milk mixture until integrated. If dough is too dry, add more warm milk, one tablespoon at a time until the dough holds together well in a wet, but not drippy ball.

Divide into 2-inch balls and roll gently in just enough gfJules Flour to keep from sticking. The dough will become dry if too much flour is used. A bench scraper tool is helpful in sectioning off the dough and moving the buns around, but it’s not essential.

Gently roll into a rope to braid into buns — don’t push down on the dough while rolling or it will become flat; simply roll gently under your palms until a rope is formed. Curl the ends of the rope into “S” shapes. Brush off excess flour, if necessary, with a pastry brush.


Roll dough in just enough gfJules Flour to keep it from sticking. A bench scraper helps with this process.


Gently transfer each bun to parchment-lined baking sheets, cover and let rise for 30 minutes to one hour in a warm location like an oven preheated to 200° F and then turned off.

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Once risen, brush with slightly beaten egg or warm milk and sprinkle Demerara sugar and chopped almonds, if using. Place raisins in the spirals.

Bake for approximately 10 minutes, depending on size. Do not over bake.

Yield: ~15 buns


3 thoughts on “Gluten Free Saint Lucia Saffron Buns

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  1. Hello! I have one packet of the pizza dough and I packet of yeast… Is it possible to do this recipe with those items? Please let me know. Thanks! 🙂

    • Hi Heather, while you could, the taste would be different because the pizza dough has Italian herbs in it. If you made them with savory in mind, rather than slightly sweet, it could work …. The pizza dough mix also has some other ingredients in it that my flour doesn’t have, so the dough will behave somewhat differently and may need more or less liquid than this recipe calls for – the end product will also be crunchier on the outside, whereas these rolls are soft throughout. None of these features would make the rolls bad, per se, they would just be different. That being said, if you’re up for experimenting, you could give it a try. I wish I could guide you better about how much liquid would be needed, but I’ve never tried the pizza mix in this recipe. I’d recommend only adding enough water to keep the dough together so you could roll it and shape it. Maybe even try milk instead of water. Let me know how they turn out if you try it; if you’re not up for the uncertainty of it, just use the pizza mix to make baguettes! At least you’ll know those will turn out yummy!

  2. THANK YOU FOR THE LOVELY GIVEAWAY YOUR BLOG IS AMZING I WENT GLUTEN FREE CAUSE I had gotten very sick , and had to do something right for my body. Just stopped eating bread and a lot of other things. Thank you fingers crossed