Saffron Bread

Recipe and photo contributed by Lynda Balslev Yield:  12 small breads
Prep Time:  45 minutes Resting and Rising Time:  1 hour 45 minutes Cook Time:  10 minutes

Saffron Bread

Saffron is pricy, but well worth the investment for these luxurious buns. The saffron perfumes the dough, tinting it with a golden, sunny hue. As the bread rises and bakes, the soft, sweet saffron aroma will waft through your kitchen, tempting you to sneak tastes, so be sure to make a double batch.

Ingredients

¼ teaspoon saffron threads

⅔ cup (136 grams) granulated sugar, plus a pinch more

⅔ cup unsalted European-style butter, softened

2 cups whole milk

1 (¼-ounce/7-gram) packet active dry yeast (about 2¼ teaspoons)

½ teaspoon salt

6½ cups (845 grams) unbleached, all purpose flour, plus extra for sprinkling

¼ cup raisins, plus extra for garnish

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Instructions

  1. In a small porcelain mortar or bowl, crush the saffron and a pinch of sugar with a pestle or spoon until finely ground.
  2. Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the milk and heat over medium-low heat until warm to the touch, but not hot.
  3. Pour the yeast into a large bowl. Add ¼ cup of the milk mixture and let stand until yeast dissolves, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the remaining milk and the saffron mixture; then add the ⅔ cup sugar and the salt. Stir once or twice to blend.
  4. Add the flour and mix with a wooden spoon to combine. Add the raisins and knead the dough (see Kitchen Tips) until it pulls away from the side of the bowl and is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes, sprinkling it with a little extra flour if it’s too sticky. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and place in a warm draft-free spot. Let rise until doubled in size, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Punch the dough down and let stand at room temperature for about 45 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the dough on a work surface and roll into 1shapes: Grab a small handful and, with light hands, roll out into a ½-inch thick rope. Shape the rope into  “S” shapes, or braid 2 ropes together. You should have 12 shapes. Place the shapes on the prepared baking sheets.
  6. Lightly brush the breads with the egg. Garnish in the folds and corners with a few raisins (see Kitchen Tips). Bake until puffed and golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool slightly on wire racks. Serve warm with butter and a glass of gløgg or hot chocolate.

Kitchen Tips

  1. Kneading is a technique used to develop bread, pastry, and pasta doughs and make them smooth and easy to work. To knead dough by hand, press it down firmly with the heel of your hand, fold it over, rotate a quarter-turn on your work surface (don’t turn it over), and repeat the process.
  2. Be sure to brush the formed breads with the egg before garnishing with raisins, to prevent the raisins from burning while baking.

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