Yesterday we were invited to a Lussevaka at our neighbours. It was the night before Saint Lucia’s Day and in the old times, the Lucia night was the longest night of the year. A night when the animals at the farms would start to talk and you could meet dark creatures when you went outside to get a basket full of firewood – so people better stayed inside and were awake all night (lussevaka) with candles lit until the morning to scare away anything evil. It was also the day before fasting started and people made sure there was enough food on the tables. The youngsters often went from farm to farm though to play pranks, in the hopes to get a glass of homemade schnaps or Lucia buns.
To our neighbour’s lussevaka, I brought a salad with lettuce and spinach leaves from our garden (we have cold frames and still a lot of vegetables outside) with pear, parmesan and walnuts and a honey-balsamico dressing. Since I was baking anyway for the week to come, I also made a walnut bread and saffron-porcini butter and thought I’d share the recipe with you because it is so simple:
For the saffron porcini butter
- 250g butter
- 1 g saffron
- 2 tsp dried porcini, finely chopped
- a little bit of white wine (or water)
- olive oil for the skillet
- salt, pepper
- Put the dried porcini in a small bowl and cover with white wine. Let soak for an hour. If you are in a hurry, use boiling water instead.
- Heat some olive oil in a skillet and add the mushrooms. Cook for 4-5 minutes until tender and lightly browned, stir occasionally with a wooden cooking spoon. Let cool.
- Gently mix the butter, fried mushrooms and the saffron in a bowl until the mixture is smooth. Add a bit of pepper and salt if you like (Swedish butter usually is saltened, it isn’t necessary to add extra salt). Put in a nice jar with a lid and keep in a cool place.
For the walnut bread (makes two loafs of bread):
- 25 g fresh yeast
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. honey
- 400 ml lukewarm water
- 4 tbsp. olive oil
- 320 g plain white flour, sifted
- 200 g rye flour, sifted
- 200 g walnuts, chopped
- plain white flour, for dusting
- olive oil for greasing
- Place lukewarm (not hot) water in a small mixing bowl, add honey, salt and olive oil and mix well.
- Add the yeast and stir gently until it has dissolved. Let stand in warm place for five minutes.
- In the meantime, sieve the flour (both white flour and rye) in a large mixer bowl.
- Pour the yeast-water mix over the floor. Do not mix yet but let stand in a warm place for another five minutes until the surface starts to bubble.
- Knead the dough (either with a mixer or by hand) until it is smooth and elastic. Depending on the ingredients you use, you might want to add a little bit of liquid or a bit more flour. Once the dough is ready, knead it into a smooth ball.
- Grease a pastry bowl with olive oil. Place the dough ball in the pastry bowl and cover with a clean tea towel. Leave to rise in a warm place until it has doubled its size, it will take about one hour in room temperature.
- Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface, knock it back and divide in half. Shape each portion into a small loaf and place on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Gently cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise for another half an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 200° Celsius (392°F).
- Remove the tea towel and use a sharp kitchen knife to make criss cross cuts on the top of each loaf.
- Optional: Fill a heat-resistant bowl or baking dish with 100 ml water. Place on the oven’s bottom shelf [the steam-trick will add a nice crust to your bread and helps the loafs to puff up].
- Bake the loafs for about 30 minutes until nicely browned.
- Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack, cover both loafs with a clean tea towel. Leave to cool completely before serving.
The recipe for the walnut bread has been published in the recipe book “Kärlek, oliver och timjan” (Bergenström, Anna and Fanny, Albert Bonniers Förlag, Stockholm 2001). For this blog post, I have made slight alterations.