Nordic Saffron Knots

With Christmas firmly in sight, it’s time to enjoy a traditional festive season whilst treating ourselves to those indulgent recipes we look forward to throughout the year. This week’s dessert recipe takes inspiration from an authentic Nordic dish, and is set to infuse any festive feast with the strong spiced flavors of Christmas.

The Nordic Saffron Buns, brought to us by culinary storytelling blog ‘Life & Thyme’, are a must-try choice for happy holiday baking.  With a delicious yellow finish, the knots are filled with an almond and orange flavor for a indulgent sweet taste whilst filling your home with a warming Yule tide aroma. Finished with sprinklings of pearl sugar for glittering appeal, the Saffron buns are set to become your favorite baked goods to enjoy over the holidays…

To make approx. 40 knots


1 g (0.035 oz) saffron
2 tbsp Grand Marnier liqueur or cognac
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 cups + 2 tbsp lukewarm milk (preferably whole milk)
50 g fresh yeast (or alternatively 1 tbsp + 2 tsp (instant) active dry yeast, used according to packet instructions)
180 g (¾ cup + 2 tbsp) granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp fine sea salt
1 egg
about 1 kg (6 ½ cups) bread flour
170 g (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the filling:
150 g (1 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
100 g (1 cup) ground almonds
zest of 2 organic oranges

For the egg wash:
1 egg
pearl sugar, to sprinkle

To make the dough

To ensure maximum taste and color, mix together the saffron, liqueur, and sugar in a glass and steep for at least 30 minutes or, even better, overnight. This step is optional but highly recommended. Should you prefer to skip this step, simply add the saffron to the milk mixture; no need for the liqueur and sugar that would normally be used for steeping.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the lukewarm milk and crumbled yeast. Stir with a spoon until the yeast is completely dissolved. Add sugar, salt, saffron mix, and egg and mix until combined. Gradually add about two thirds of the flour and knead. Add butter and knead until well combined. Continue to knead the dough, and gradually add just enough flour so the dough comes clean off the sides of the bowl and doesn’t stick to your hand. Don’t overwork the dough or you’ll end up with hard knots, not soft as we want them to be. The dough can be made by hand, like I do, or in a stand mixer.

Shape into a ball and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place for about 1 hour, or until double in size.

Meanwhile, mix together the butter, sugar, ground almonds, and orange zest for the filling. Set aside.

To shape and bake the knots

Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Punch down the dough and divide into two equally sized portions. Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour. Roll out the first portion of dough into a large, about 23-by-16-inch rectangle. Spread half of the filling evenly on top. Beginning with the long side closest to you, fold it two thirds up, then fold the top third down. You should now have three layers of dough and it should resemble a business letter. With a knife, cut the dough into 1″ wide strips. Cut them in half lengthwise, leaving the top part attached. Stretch and twist each strip into knots and tuck the ends in the middle.

Place the shaped knots on the baking sheets, spacing them about 2″ apart. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for 30 minutes. Repeat with the second batch.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 435°F.

For the egg wash, lightly whisk the egg. Before baking, brush each knot with the egg wash and sprinkle with pearl sugar. Bake the knots on the middle rack for 10 – 15 minutes, or until golden to dark brown in color. Repeat with the remaining knots.

The saffron knots are best eaten while still slightly warm or on the same day. However, you can freeze them once baked and warm them up when ready to serve.

Happy Christmas!