Saffron Bread

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes

    2

    loaves

Appears in

Making Bread at Home

Making Bread at Home

By Tom Jaine

Published 2005

  • About

This recipe is by now traditionally connected to the county of Cornwall, but it was not always so. The crocuses whose stamens are saffron were cultivated throughout southern England, just as they were in continental Europe and further afield. Medieval cooks loved the golden colour, as well as the heady flavour. By the Victorian period, however, Cornwall and the south west were particular strongholds of the taste. They called it ‘cake’ rather than bread, but it was cooked as bread or buns, not generally as a round cutting cake.

Ingredients

Saffron Infusion

  • 1 g (1 packet) saffron stamens
  • 90 ml/3 fl oz water
  • ½ teaspoon white sugar

First Stage

  • the saffron infusion
  • 200 ml/7 fl oz tepid milk
  • ½ teaspoon white sugar
  • 25 g/¾ oz fresh yeast
  • 60 g/2 oz unbleached white bread flour

Second Stage

  • 400 g/14 oz unbleached white bread flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 60 g/2 oz white sugar
  • 60 g/2 oz butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • the ferment made in the first stage
  • 120 g/4 oz sultanas, slightly warmed

Glaze

  • 60 g/2 oz white sugar
  • 30 ml/1 fl oz water
  • squeeze of lemon juice

Method

  1. To make the saffron infusion, empty the saffron into the water in a pan and bring to the boil. Add the sugar and let steep off the heat for 30 minutes. Bring to the boil again and cool to tepid. Mix the saffron infusion with the tepid milk and the ½ teaspoon sugar. Crumble in the yeast and stir in the flour for the first stage. Leave to ferment for 30 minutes.
  2. Put the flour, salt and sugar for the second stage in a bowl and rub in the butter. Mix the egg and lemon juice into the ferment. Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour on the liquid. Mix to a dough. Turn on to a floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes. The dough will be soft, try to work it with as little additional flour as possible. Leave it to rest for 15 minutes. Add the warmed sultanas and knead again to incorporate them thoroughly. Return it to the mixing bowl, cover tightly with oiled clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm place (26°C/80°F) for at least 1½ hours.
  3. Grease two 1 kg/2 lb loaf tins, which should be slightly warmed. Turn out the dough on to the lightly floured work surface, knock back lightly and divide in half. Mould two loaves to fit the tins, cover them with oiled clingfilm and leave to prove in a warm place for about 45 minutes. They should rise to fill the tins. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas 7.
  4. Bake the loaves in the centre of the oven for about 25 minutes. The crust will at first be soft, but they should still sound hollow and feel light when handled. Meanwhile, make the glaze. Put the sugar, water and lemon juice in a pan and bring to the boil. Brush the cooked loaves with the glaze and leave to cool on wire racks.