Elena Davis is a true Italian cook with true Italian flair! Her website is one to bookmark come dinner time. You can check out all of her recipes at cucinabyelena.com.
Make these Italian sweet saffron rolls a new holiday tradition!
This holiday recipe is a traditional Italian favorite. It combines saffron with sweet almond filling for a Christmas treat you’ll want to make more than once. Make it part of your holiday baking line up!
Elena Davis shares the story behind these sweet rolls. The filling isn’t frosting, but custard! It’s a delicious blend of Italian and Scandinavian tradition. Elena shares how to get the perfect swirl and clean cuts.
St. Lucia Sweet Saffron Rolls
- 1 1/2 cups warm milk (105° F)
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, lightly crushed
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 4 ounces (1 stick) butter, plus more for greasing
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 stick (7 oz 198 grams) almond paste + 1 tablespoon hot water
- 1/2 recipe for Italian Pastry Cream
Optional: Pearl sugar for decorating
- Grease a 17″ L x 11″ W rectangle baking dish with butter or cooking spray. Set aside.
- Prepare half a recipe for the Italian Pastry Cream as directed. In a small bowl warm almond paste and 1 tablespoon of very hot water in the microwave for 20 seconds until soft. Stir until combined. Stir warm almond past mixture into prepared pastry cream while it is still warm- until well combined (it may be a little chunky). Set aside. Note: the almond cream mixture can be made up to two days ahead of time and stored in the fridge in an air tight container.
- Make the dough: In a bowl of an electric mixer combine warm milk, yeast, sugar, saffron. Stir to dissolve into the yeast.
- Add beaten eggs, salt and 3 cups of flour. Mix on low speed until blended. Switch to a dough hook and then, again on low speed, slowly incorporate the remaining 2 cups of flour. Increase speed to medium, kneading dough until smooth and slightly sticky, incorporate the soften butter small pieces at the time. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large, buttered bowl. Turn dough over in bowl to coat with the butter from the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1-2 hours depending on house temperature. After the dough has risen, punch down with your fist one time. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface.
- Roll dough out into a 12″ x 18″ rectangle. Spread about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of the Italian cream almond mixture in an even layer on the dough (you may have a little leftover- grab a spoon!). Starting with the long side, roll dough into a cylinder. You may have a little of the cream run out the sides- use it to spoon on top of the rolls just before baking. Place the cut rolls seam side down on a flat surface and cut crosswise into 1 inch slices (see notes for how to cut the dough). Place dough slices, flat side down, in the prepared baking pan. Crowd them so they touch. cover with plastic wrap, let the buns to rise until double in size, (or refrigerate overnight- optional).
- Preheat oven to 375°. If refrigerated remove the rolls from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature while the oven preheats. Optional: Sprinkle buns with sugar pearls before baking. Bake rolls until slightly golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove pan from oven. Let buns cool slightly and serve warm. They can be warm up in the microwave ~ 20 sec. Best served warm.
TIPS FOR CUTTING THE SWEET ROLLS:
Since these sweet rolls are filled with cream you don’t want smush them down as you cut them, or the filling will ooze out the sides. Here are two options for cutting the sweet rolls:
1 – Use a very sharp knife and score the tops. Scoring the tops gives a head start to making the final cut. Then, with the same sharp knife go back and cut (with a back and forth motion as to not press down on the dough) until you make a clean cut all the way to the bottom of the dough. You will have a nice clean slice! Clean the knife every time you cut a new roll.
2- Use fishing string or non flavored floss to make a clean cut in your dough. Measure out about 12-15 inches, slide the floss or fishing string under your dough so that it’s centered, wrap it around the top and pull tight in one quick motion. The floss/thread should cut cleanly and easily right through the dough.