THIS RECIPE IS FROM CRUMB: THE BAKING BOOK by RUBY TANDOH
Saffron is heinously expensive but so, so delicious. Fortunately, a little goes a long way: a pinch is enough to dye an entire batch of dough a glorious yellow and infuse it with a fragrant, honeyed taste. It works equally well in custards, rice puddings and almond cakes. To show the saffron in its best light, I’ve avoided adding too much butter to this dough — such richness would mask the delicate flavour of the spice.
Makes 20 small or 12 large buns
330ml full-fat milk
2–3 pinches of saffron threads (no more than ½ teaspoon)
500g strong white flour
7g instant dried yeast
1 teaspoon salt
30g caster sugar
50g unsalted butter, softened
150g icing sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 In a small pan, heat the milk and saffron together until the milk is scalding. As soon as the saffron threads hit the milk you’ll notice them bleeding an ochre colour into the pale milk. Before long, the milk will have first turned creamy, then barely yellow before settling on a colour close to the golden hue of a block of good butter. You can squeeze even more colour from the saffron by pressing it against the pan with the back of a spoon, as you might wring the flavour from a brewing teabag. Set the mixture aside to cool until tepid. If you dip a teaspoon into the infused liquid at this point you’ll be able to taste the saffron: nuanced, faintly metallic and very slightly bitter.
2 In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, salt and sugar. Add the now-tepid milk and the butter, combine using your hands and then knead for 10 minutes, until smoother, less sticky and elastic. Leave the dough to rise in a large, covered bowl for 1–1½ hours, or until doubled in size.
3 Line a large baking tray with baking parchment. Roll the risen dough out to a rectangle approximately 50x30cm, lightly flouring the work surface as you go. Cut into strips of equal width, each 30cm long. Cut 20 strips if making small buns or 12 wider strips for the larger buns. One by one, roll the strips up from the bottom to their midpoint, then turn over and roll the top down to the middle, creating an S-shape. Leave the shaped buns to prove on the prepared baking tray for 45–60 minutes, or until almost doubled in size, Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas mark 6 while you wait.
4 Bake for 12–15 minutes for the small buns, or 20 for the bigger ones, rotating the tray halfway through the cooking time to ensure an even bake. Prepare the glaze by adding the water to the icing sugar a little at a time, until smooth and thick, but slack enough that it will run from a spoon. Once the buns are cooked and while they’re still hot, use a pastry brush (or a small, very clean paintbrush) to brush them all over with the glaze. Leave to cool on a wire rack.