A glass of wine, a good book, and sunset on my deck. What could make a quiet Friday evening any better?
These days, it's definitely the bright flavor of saffron, colored to match the autumn evening colors.
Saffron risotto has been a family favorite for years, and a true comfort food. It's one of the first dishes that my now 18-year-old daughter learned to make on her own, and the reason I sent her away to culinary school with her own stash of precious saffron threads. Is it wrong of me to hope she'll be making the meals when she comes home on vacation?
When searching for a new idea for biscotti, I came across a recipe in an older regional cookbook for anise toasts. Very simple ingredients and technique allowed the anise flavor to shine through.
I'm not a huge anise fan, but something about the texture reminded me of a saffron biscotti I had had a long time ago. It wasn't as hard as regular biscotti, but lighter and more airy. A bit like those Stella d'Oro-brand toasts my Gramma Coppolino served sometimes.
Suddenly I really needed to make those cookies.
If you've never tried saffron in a sweet application before, definitely make time to try this recipe. It's sweet, it's savory. It's warm, exotic, and flavorful – a touch sweet, and a touch briny.
A little saffron will go a long way, so don't be surprised by saffron recipes that call for just a few threads instead of teaspoons or tablespoons. Saffron should be readily available in larger grocery stores and middle-Eastern markets. No question that it's expensive; but remember, a little box will last for at least a year in most kitchens.
Now that we have our supplies, let's get started making Saffron Toasts.
No, I haven't been out collecting tadpoles. Those are saffron threads rehydrating in 1 tablespoon of water. The photo on the left is when they're just added; the photo on the right is after 10 minutes of soaking. What an incredible difference in color! You can just imagine the difference in flavor and aroma, as well.
Remember, you can click anywhere on the photo to enlarge it to see details
The batter comes together very easily by hand with an egg beater or large wire whisk.
Blend together 2 large eggs and 2/3 cup sugar until pale yellow and foamy.
Stir in the saffron water. (I know it rather looks like 3 eggs in the photo, but I got a double yolk in one. How cool is that?)
Gently fold in 1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour. The batter will be thick and very bright yellow in color. You should still see a few threads of saffron throughout the batter.
Pour the batter into a greased biscotti pan. Bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 20 to 25 minutes. If you don't have the biscotti pan, you can use a 9" x 5" loaf pan; increase the baking time by about 10 minutes.
The toasts are done when the top is dry to the touch, the edges are deep golden brown, and they begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.
Place the pan on a rack to cool for 10 minutes. Turn the loaf out and allow it to cool until just barely warm to the touch. Slice the loaf into 1/2"-wide slices with a sharp serrated knife.
Oh, bonus saffron sighting ahoy!
Lay the toasts flat down on a baking sheet. Place under the broiler for about a minute until the toasts begin to brown up. Remove from the oven, flip the pieces, and repeat.
Your toasts will have a crisp browned outside, and a feathery light center. They're not as hard on the teeth as biscotti, but can still hold up to dipping in wine or sherry.
The toasts make an excellent appetizer, and are a great addition to a cheese and cracker platter. The first day I made these, my daughter's friend Nathan tried one, then circled back through the kitchen a couple more times to grab another, and another. They play a table-top role-playing game together, and I'm always happy when I win points for baking them good treats. Mom rules!
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