March 5th, 2008

This is my first official documented disaster. Well, disaster is a strong word, let’s use mishap, shall we? In celebration of International Women’s Day on Saturday, Zorra and Fiordisale organized an event where one must make a dish with yellow. I immediately thought of saffron.

Saffron is a spice used to flavor and color food with a golden-yellow shade. Also, saffron to me has always had a strong link to women. I remember in my old Latin class writing a paper about Roman weddings where the woman would wear saffron colored clothing. The first time I ate a dish with saffron, I met an interesting Iranian woman, whose experiences give reason for International Women’s Day. Saffron even comes from the female part of a certain crocuses plant, the stigmas. Somehow saffron always has an association with women and so seemed like an appropriate spice to use for this event.

After deciding upon saffron as my main spice, I looked for a recipe that I could make from the ingredients in my pantry, ever the thrifty cook. I only have some saffron because my mother gave me a little of hers. Anyway, I stumbled across Saffron Buns at Muffin Top and those seemed like they would work. I mixed and kneaded, watching the saffron bleed into the dough going from red to golden yellow. It was beautiful. Then I waited and waited and waited and waited. The dough would not rise enough! Finally, frustrated, I formed the dough into small buns and set them aside for the second rising. Again, I waited and waited and waited and waited. But, they would not rise enough! I ended up baking them and they turned out fairly well, a little dense. Also, they are not a true yellow- I think I was too stingy with my saffron. Given these mishaps, I decided not to enter these into the International Women’s Day event, but stay tuned…on Saturday, I do have something tasty!

Saffron Buns
(From the King Arthur Four Website through the Muffin Top)

1/4 cup hot water
1/4 teaspoon crushed saffron threads
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons instant yeast
3 to 3 1/4 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

1 egg white beaten lightly with a teaspoon of water

1. Combine the hot water and saffron, and let sit for 10 minutes to soften the saffron.
2. In a mixing bowl, beat together the saffron water, milk, sugar, butter, salt, egg, yeast, and 2 cups of the flour.
3. Add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough.
4. Knead the dough (for about 15 minutes by hand, 12 minutes in an electric mixer, 90 seconds in a food processor, or in your bread machine using the dough cycle), then set it aside to rise till puffy (but not necessarily doubled in bulk), about 2 hours (Mine took about 3 hours- see P.S.)
5. Punch the dough down, and let it rest, covered, for 10 minutes.
6. Divide the dough into 16 pieces, and shape each piece into a ball. Place the balls fairly close together (but not touching) in a greased 9 x 13-inch pan, cover them, and let them rise for 1 1/2 hours, or until they’re puffy (again, it took about 2 ½ hours).
7. Glaze the buns with the beaten egg white, and sprinkle them heavily with sugar (recipe calls for pearl sugar but normal superfine worked well).
8. Bake them in a preheated 375°F oven for 20 minutes, or until they’re golden brown. (Watch them closely at the end; because of their high sugar content, they tend to brown quickly.)

P.S. Why did it take so long to rise? I misread the recipe and used Active Yeast instead of instant yeast. Instant yeast does not need to be proofed and still rises well. Recently, Allen of Cooking Out Loud explored how one could make the substitution but just increasing the temperature of the liquids. Next time I would either dissolve the saffron in 1/8 cup of hot water and the yeast in 1/8 cup warm water or warm the milk slightly before adding it to the rest of the ingredients. I would probably stick to the first method because by proofing, I would make sure I did not kill the yeast (my greatest fear!). I believe that it will not change the outcome significantly but I have not had a chance to test it yet. Regardless, if you are patient or use the correct kind of yeast, the recipe makes some delicious sweet buns.

International Women's Day

5 Responses to “Disaster…well…Mishap…Delicious?”

  1. fiordisale on March 6, 2008 1:49 am

    Thank you for participating in this great event.

  2. Manggy on March 6, 2008 5:21 am

    Sorry the recipe didn’t turn out as it should.. I hope they were still finished in a flash :) Can’t wait to see your entry on Saturday (though I will be on a plane :)

  3. Ginny on March 6, 2008 6:08 am

    fiordisale- thanks for hosting! It has been alot of fun!

    manggy- it happens, what are you going to do? have a safe trip! just think of all my “wonderful” posts you will have to look forward to when you get back. haha! have fun!

  4. C(h)ristine on March 6, 2008 8:42 pm

    Hi! I’m sorry the saffron buns didn’t turn out so well–yeast is a tricky thing. Hope you found something else yellow! I cooked a lemon sorrel soup last year when I had to cook something yellow in the name of Lance Armstrong’s “Livestrong” movement.

    (and yes, I was super generous with the saffron)

  5. LyB on March 7, 2008 9:19 am

    Still, they look pretty tasty! I’ve actually never used saffron in anything yet, you’ve piqued my curiosity! ;)

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