Crumb: The Baking Book
Saffron is at once heinously expensive and ambrosially delicious. At around £7 per gram, it’s hardly a budget ingredient. Fortunately, a little goes a long way: a pinch of the stuff 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 around 20 small buns
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 ochre 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.
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 ad elastic. Leave the dough to rise in a large, covered bowl for 1-11/2 hours, or until doubled in size.
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 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 around 45 minutes, or until almost doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas mark 6 while you wait.
Bake for around 15 minutes in the preheated oven, rotating the tray halfway through the cooking time to ensure an even cook. 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.