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Santa Lucia Crown
Saint Lucia Day is the Swedish holiday celebrated December 13. Saint Lucia, the patron saint of light, was said to be a beautiful maiden who wore a crown of candles to light her way when she carried food to persecuted Christians in Rome who were hiding in caves. In Sweden Saint Lucia Day is celebrated by having the oldest daughter be the first to rise and wear a crown of candles as she brings buns to all who are sleeping in the household.
1/2 cup warm water (100° to 110°F)
2 (4-1/2 tsp.) envelopes Fleischmann's® Active Dry Yeast
1/2 cup warm milk (100° to 110°F)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter OR margarine, softened
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon crushed saffron
4-1/4 to 4-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
Powdered Sugar Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 to 5 teaspoons milk
Red and green candied cherry halves
Place warm water in large warm bowl. Sprinkle in yeast; stir until dissolved. Add warm milk, sugar, butter, salt, saffron, and 1-1/2 cups flour; blend well. Stir in 2 eggs and enough remaining flour to make soft dough. Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 6 to 8 minutes. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 hour to 1 hour, 15 minutes.
Remove dough to lightly floured surface; reserve 1/3 of dough for top of crown. Divide remaining dough into 3 equal pieces; roll each to 25-inch rope. Braid ropes. Place braid on greased baking sheet. Form braid into circle; pinch ends together to seal. To shape top of crown, divide reserved dough into 3 equal pieces; roll each to 16-inch rope. Braid ropes. Place braid on separate greased baking sheet. Form braid into circle; pinch ends together to seal. Cover braids; let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Lightly beat remaining egg; brush on braids. Bake in preheated 375oF oven for 15 minutes (small braid) and 25 minutes (large braid) or until done, covering large braid with foil during last 10 minutes to prevent excess browning. Remove braids from baking sheets; let cool on wire racks.
To decorate, make 6 holes for candles in small braid. Place small braid on top of large braid. If desired, drizzle with Powdered Sugar Glaze and garnish with candied cherry halves. Insert candles into prepared holes.
Powdered Sugar Glaze: Stir together powdered sugar, vanilla and milk in a small bowl, adding enough milk to reach drizzling consistency. Stir until smooth.