Catholic Recipe: Leissi Katter (St. Lucy's Cats)
Leissi Katter are yellow Swedish buns shaped like cats for the feast of St. Lucy (or Lucia).
If you have a cat lover in your family, as we have in ours, you might want to try your hand at making a Leissi Katter or Saint Lucy's Cat. "Now what on earth is that?" you ask. Saint Lucy's feast day falls on December 13, and is the formal opening of the Christmas season in Sweden. St. Nicholas watches over school boys, and the young St. Lucy protects school girls.
Most little girls like kittens, so for this day we make yellow buns in the form of cats with very black raisin eyes. If we need a model all we have to do is open the door a crack. Our three cats, Silky and Blacky and Butterball, will rush you with perfect football tactics and teamwork. I have a suspicion that soon Ann and Saint Lucy will take over our house for their cats. If all our prospective feline mothers have kittens, we shall have to give them as Christmas presents.
Since I was the one who wanted a cat in the first place, I bake Saint Lucy's cats and feel like an old witch. It was an ancient superstition, you know, that if you wanted to get rid of someone or something you told the witch. She would make an image or effigy of the hated one out of dough. After scorching him nicely in her bonfire, she would eat him and charge you a pretty penny. Then after a certain number of days there would be a dear departed — she hoped. That is where our gingerbread men came from. I don't think it would work — not for cats with nine lives, not with Ann and Saint Lucy to protect them.
Add yeast and sugar to warm water. Scald and cool milk. When yeast mixture bubbles add to milk. Beat in shortening, sugar and two cups flour. Cover and let rise. Put saffron in three-fourths cup hot water one hour. Strain and add liquid to dough only for color. Combine fruits, flour and salt. Let rise again. Shape into oval buns with round heads. Add a tail if you wish. Use raisins as eyes. Brush with beaten egg and water and let rise again until it doubles its bulk. Bake in a moderate oven (350°) for 30 minutes.Recipe Source: Cooking for Christ by Florence Berger, National Catholic Rural Life Conference, 4625 Beaver Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50310, 1949, 1999