Saffron Raisin Sourdough Rolls

Recipe and photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser Yield:  24 rolls
Prep Time:  55 minutes Resting and Rising Time:  2 hours 50 minutes Cook Time:  15 minutes

Saffron Raisin Sourdough Rolls

These rolls are so very lovely in so very many ways. Beneath a lovely crust, these rolls are a bit tart and robust from the sourdough, and a bit gentle and tender in texture that still has a solid bite. The sweet raisins contrast with the tincture of saffron that provides both a sumptuous color and a savory, exotic note. I created this recipe for my fantasy meal with Rashida Jones. Everything about this complex, multidimensional roll reminds me of her.


1½ packages (1 tablespoon plus ⅜ teaspoon/⅜ ounce/11 grams) active dry yeast   

¾ cup warm water, divided (see Kitchen Tips)

30 to 35 threads saffron, divided

¼ cup (51 grams) granulated sugar

2 cups (272 grams) bread flour

3 cups (390 grams) unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon (12 grams) kosher salt

⅔ cup (110 grams) white raisins

1½ cups (368 grams) sourdough starter (see Kitchen Tips)

3 eggs

3 egg yolks

⅓ cup olive oil

1 egg

1 tablespoon water

Kosher salt, for sprinkling


  1. In the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the yeast, ¼ cup of the warm water, and the sugar, and mix gently until the sugar dissolves.  Add 22 to 25 saffron threads to the remaining warm water and allow both mixtures to stand for about 5 minutes, until the yeast mixture foams and bubbles.
  2. Combine the bread flour, all-purpose flour, and salt, in a mixing bowl and mix well to combine. Add the white raisins and mix well.
  3. Add the sourdough starter and saffron-infused water to the yeast mixture and mix at medium speed to combine. Add the eggs, egg yolks, and oil to the yeast mixture, and mix until fully combined.
  4. Add the flour mixture, about ¾ cup to 1 cup at a time, and mix, at low speed, switching to the machine’s dough hook when it becomes hard to mix. Knead for 8 to 10 minutes at medium speed. You will have a slightly tacky dough. It will not completely pull away from the side of the bowl.
  5. Transfer the dough to a large mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and set aside in a warm spot for about 2 hours, until doubled in size. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  6. When the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 350°F. Position 2 racks in the oven, one in the top slot and the other in the bottom slot, so there is space for both loaves to bake and rise.
  7. Dust a work surface with all-purpose flour. Divide the dough into 24 equal pieces and roll each into a ball. Arrange them on the prepared baking sheets, about  2 inches apart (not squished together). Press to flatten, so they are about 2½ inches in diameter. Spray a piece of plastic wrap with nonstick vegetable oil spray and cover the rolls with it. Set aside to rise for 40 to 50 minutes, until almost doubled in size.
  8. Make the egg wash: Mix together the egg, water and the remaining 8 to 10 strands of saffron and let stand 5 minutes to allow the saffron the bloom. With a pastry brush, slather the egg wash on the rolls. Sprinkle with the salt. Bake for 8 to 9 minutes. Swap the baking sheets between the top and bottom oven racks and rotate them 180°, front to back, to ensure even baking. Bake for 5 to 6  more minutes, until nicely golden brown. (An  instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of a roll will register between 195°F to 200°F.) Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack.

Kitchen Tips

  1. The water for your yeast mixture should be between 85°F and 100°F. Yeast is a gentle, living creature, albeit dormant when you buy it, and it needs special handling. You need warm water to activate it and get it started eating and bubbling, but if the water is too warm, you’ll kill it and it simply won’t work at all.
  2. A starter is kind of leavener that is pre-fermented and used for making bread; these days it’s largely used for artisanal breads. Starters are typically made by mixing flour, water, and yeast—in the case of sourdough, naturally occurring yeasts develop in it over a period of weeks. Sourdough, enriched with lactobacillus culture, has a distinctive sour flavor that makes for delicious bread. If you’d like to try making a sourdough starter, check out this post from the folks at King Arthur Flour. They also sell sourdough starter products. Best of all, get some from a friend.

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