I recently have been in the enviable position of having obtained about 30g of saffron for free and needing to find a way to use it up. I had heard of saffron bread before but had vaguely thought it was a savoury bread until I found this recipe which is a traditional Swedish Christmas bread.
The texture of the bread is wonderfully light and moist - I'll be using an adapted version of it to make Stollen and cinnamon buns soon.
You need to begin the recipe the day before you want to make the bread. It's so nice fresh that I would recommend you bake the bread on a Saturday morning so you can enjoy it at it's nicest.
1/2 tsp saffron strands
2 tbsp boiling water
125g salted butter, melted and cooled
250g plain flour
250g strong bread flour
50g caster sugar
200ml full-fat milk, bloodhot
15g fresh yeast (1 sachet fast-acting)
1 egg for egg wash
The first stage the evening before you plan to bake the bread is to soak the saffron strands in the boiling water for at least 12 hours. I crushed the saffron strands slightly as they would be going into the final dough along with the coloured water and I didn't want the strands to be too noticeable.
After the saffron has soaked you can begin making the bread.
Place the flours and sugar in a large mixing bowl and rub the crumbled yeast into the flour. In a separate jug, beat the egg into the bloodhot milk.
Pour the milk mixture, saffron liquid (including pieces of saffron) and melted butter into the flour and mix well. It should form a smooth dough fairly quickly.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured worksurface and knead for 7 minutes. I usually use my Kenwood mixer for this kind of dough as it means that I don't have to worry about adding additonal flour and spoiling the consistency. It's very important that you only use one light dusting of flour (no more than 2 tbsp) for the kneading process or your bread will be tough and dry.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rise for an hour.
After the hour, the dough should have doubled in size.
Turn the oven on now, to 200C.
Carefully turn it out onto an unfloured worktop. When working with rich, buttery dough like this, there is no need for flour and it ruins the texture of the dough. I promise the dough won't stick to your hands or the worktop at all.
There are different ways to shape this dough. You can make a challah shape by separating it into 4 sausage like strands and plaiting or go with the traditional crown shape which is what I did.
To make the crown, divide the dough into 7 equal pieces and allow them to rest for 15 minutes. Then make long sausage-shaped cylinders with each strand and roll each one up like a snail.
Place one snail-shaped roll on a well-buttered baking sheet in the middle and arrange the other 6 around it. Cover the bread again and let rise for 30 minutes.
If you are using an egg wash then brush it onto the top of the dough after the second rise.
Bake for 25 minutes. The bread will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom and will still feel quite springy.
Let cool, but be aware that these are wonderful when they are still slightly warm.