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July, 2015

  1. Spice 12 – Saffron – Cornish buns

    July 18, 2015 by sarah

    I can say I have truely found a food I don’t like. It is rare and apart from dried fish and burnt rice tea, I can’t think of anything else I actually would chose not to eat. But I found another one – saffron. Until recently, I hadn’t appreciated the true flavour of saffron. I had added little pinches to my paellas and tagines but never was it a flavour on its own. The main reason for this is saffron, real saffron not any old cheap imitation, is hugely expensive. But when in Iran last year, I bought a 5g packet for $10 in the market in Tehran and after tasting the amazing Persian cuisine, most of which contains liberal amounts of saffron, I wanted to try it out further. So why don’t I like the flavour of saffron? Well, to me it tastes chemically and metallic almost like bleach! And my husband agrees with me. And it is not the saffron I bought because I tried some Spanish saffron and it tasted the same! But you might be one of the lucky people that find that saffron tastes of honey, the sea or smokey hay, so don’t let my experience of saffron put you off trying this recipe.

























    I have to admit that saffron does lend a fantastic splash of colour to whatever recipe you use it in; a beautiful sunshine, egg-yolk, golden yellow. The colour really comes through in these buns. I also use saffron to colour rice in the Persian style as just a few grains of golden rice on top of the plain white, accompanied but shards of grass green pistachios, makes an eye catching dish. So perhaps in the case of saffron, I can allow appearance to trump flavour. Just this once you understand. And I have quite a lot of saffron to use up.















    These saffron buns come from Cornwall but a similar form is also traditional in Scandinavian countries as lussekatt or Lucia buns which are made and eaten around Lucia’s Day. I enjoyed these buns for breakfast, warmed up and with some good quality butter. Enjoy and please let me know what you flavour you get from saffron!

    Cornish Saffron Buns


    Makes 12 buns.

    2 large pinches of saffron threads
    60ml hot water
    500g strong white bread flour
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    200g unsalted butter
    80g caster sugar
    7g sachet easy-blend yeast
    220g mixed raisins, currants, sultanas, sour cherries, cranberries
    45g mixed candied peel
    about 170ml milk
    demerara sugar

    Dry fry the saffron threads in a frying pan over a medium heat for a few seconds to toast them. In a small pestle and motar, grind the saffron with the salt until a fine powder. Put this powder in a small bowl and pour over the hot water; leave to sit.

    In a large bowl, rub the butter into the flour then add the sugar, yeast, dried fruit and candied peel. Pour in the saffron liquid and enough milk to make a soft and little bit sticky dough. Knead the dough for a good 10 minutes until it is soft, elastic and no longer sticky. Grease a large bowl with oil and place the dough in this bowl and cover with oiled cling film. Leave somewhere warm until doubled in bulk. Because this is an enriched dough, it will be slower than bread dough and could take 3-4 hours.

    Punch the dough down, knead again briefly and divide into 12 pieces. Using your hands, roll each into a ball. Place on greased baking trays, leaving about 5cm in each direction around the buns. Cover the trays with oiled cling film and leave somewhere warm until doubled again. This will take 2-3 hours.

    Preheat the oven to 200ºC/ 108ºC fan. Bake the buns for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven, brush the tops with milk and sprinkle with demerara sugar; return to the oven for another 2 minutes to dry the glaze. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.


  2. Apricot and Almond Friands

    July 7, 2015 by sarah

    I have to apologise but here is another French inspired recipe. But then I shouldn’t apologise because it is such a great recipe and our recent trip to Paris inspired me to make more French dishes. It does not need to be fancy patisserie to be good. In fact, this recipe is so easy to throw together and tastes super sophisticated. If you have never tried friands before, they are a lovely light fluffy sponge with an almond taste and the fruit cooked into them is almost like the best jam possible; so fruity but also retaining the sour tang. The original recipe used plum quarters instead of apricots but as it is full summer currently, apricots are in season and plums are not. I think this recipe would also work well with a small handful of raspberries or a large strawberry – perhaps something to try next time.


    Apricot and Almond Friands


    Recipe from Waitrose magazine

    125g unsalted butter
    50g plain flour
    115g icing sugar
    75g ground almonds
    4 medium egg whites
    1/4 teaspoon almond extract
    6 apricots, halved and stoned

    1. Preheat the oven to 200º C/180º C fan. Grease a 12-hole muffin pan with non-stick cake spray and line the bases with circles of baking parchment – I found jam pot discs fitted perfectly so no fussy cutting out.

    2. Melt the butter. Sift the flour and icing sugar into a bowl and stir in the ground almonds.

    3. In a separate completely clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Stir the melted butter and almond extract into the flour mixture, mixing well to combine. Using a large metal spoon, fold a quarter of the beaten egg whites into the butter/flour mixture then carefully fold in the remainder.

    4. Divide the batter among the holes in the pan. Arrange a half apricot on top and bake for 15-18 minutes until just firm and gold around the edge.

    5. Leave to cool in the tin for 5minutes then loosen the edges with a knife and carefully flip out. Cool completely on a wire rack and dust with icing sugar to serve.