CORNISH SAFFRON BUNS
I am definitely starting to feel the chill in the weather now, although I have it on good authority that it is not yet as nippy as it is back home, which is of some comfort.
Not as much comfort however as curling up on a drizzly afternoon with a cup of tea and a toasted sunny yellow saffron bun.
These are made with sweetened dough enriched with milk but they are far denser in texture than something like a brioche or even a teacake. The saffron largely adds colour but there is a subtle hint of it’s flavour amidst the sweetness of the dried fruit. If you can, use mixed dried fruit for these (the kind with the peel in it) as they really benefit from the extra citrus tang.
Saffron buns are another treat that you can find everywhere back home, they aren’t even limited to Cornwall, but they don’t seem to have achieved global expansion, although I believe they are a Christmas treat in Scandinavia.
Having consulted the Cornish oracle that is my dad I have learnt that no one (not even him) knows exactly why they are so unique to Cornwall but it is probable that saffron was traded for tin by the Phoenicians. I’m not sure that fully explains why something as valuable as saffron ended up in a tea-time treat! He also told me that he knew a lady when he was growing up who made the best saffron cake ever, but then he hasn’t tried mine!
300g strong white flour
120g mixed dried fruit
1 tsp yeast
120ml approximately warm milk
Crush the saffron and steep in 1 tbsp freshly boiled water. The longer you can leave it the better, you’ll get more colour into the buns this way.
Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and rub in the butter lightly with your finger tips. Next mix through the sugar and salt so that they are well distributed. Then stir through the yeast. Finally scatter in the fruit and give the whole lot a big stir.
Drizzle over the saffron and water and mix this in (a butter knife is the best tool for the job here.)
Add the milk, a little a bit at a time, until the whole lot comes together and you have a ball of soft dough. You may not need all of the milk. Gently knead for a few minutes. Because these are relatively dense the gluten doesn’t need much stretching out, so you don’t need to work it as much as a bread dough.
Wash and dry the mixing bowl, making it nice and warm. Lightly grease it and return the dough to it. Cover with cling film and leave to rise until it has doubled in volume.
Once the dough as expanded you can roll it into a fat sausage shape and cut it into eight even pieces. Take the chunks of dough and roll them into buns.
Place the buns on a greased and lightly floured tray. Cover with the cling film again and leave them to rise again, it doesn’t matter if they join up a bit.
Pre-heat the oven to 210°c whilst they rise. Brush the buns with milk and bake for about 20 minutes until they are browned slightly on top.
Leave to cool on a wire rack.
If you’re lucky, and you get up before my dad you sometimes get these toasted and slathered with butter for breakfast at my parents house. Utterly yummy!