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Tender and lightly sweetened, luminous as gold, these saffron buns are a wonderful breakfast treat, spread with sweet butter.
1/4 cup hot water
1/4 teaspoon crushed saffron threads
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons instant yeast (we recommend Fermipan Brown or SAF Gold)
3 to 3 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 egg white beaten lightly with a teaspoon of water
pearl sugar or other coarse sugar
Combine the hot water and saffron, and let sit for 10 minutes to soften the saffron. In a mixing bowl, beat together the saffron water, milk, sugar, butter, salt, egg, yeast, and 2 cups of the flour. Add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough. 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.
Punch the dough down, and let it rest, covered, for 10 minutes. Divide the dough into 16 pieces, and shape each piece into a ball. Place the balls fairly close together (but not touching) in a 12-inch deep-dish pizza pan or 9 x 13-inch pan, cover them, and let them rise for 1 1/2 hours, or until they're puffy.
Glaze the buns with the beaten egg white, and sprinkle them heavily with pearl sugar. 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.) Serve with butter or Devon cream. Yield: 16 buns.