The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Rich Saffron Buns

NoCashBaker's picture

Rich Saffron Buns

So, I finally made those saffron buns that I mentioned in my intro post a few weeks ago.  (Ok, so I made the buns a couple weeks ago, but hadn't gotten around to posting the pics!)  But here they are.  I should mention that I deviated somewhat from the Saffron Bun recipe that I initially saw here on TFL.  Mine ended up more like a Saffron poor man's brioche.  So I guess you could say I took the TFL recipe as an inspiration, mainly.

Proofed Saffron Buns

The formula I ended up with went like this (with %'s approximated...)

Saffron Infusion:

255g Whole Milk, heated, 37%

30g Melted Butter, 5%

1 heaped tsp Saffron Threads (A friend of mine donated saffron to the cause, so I figured I'd be generous and use the whole lot)

(I saw the discussion on here about saffron infusion methods, and I had read that many of saffron's pigment compounds are fat soluble, hence the bit of butter.  It may not have really made a difference, but either way)



175g Whole Wheat Flour, 25%

Infused milk mixture

10g Instant Yest


Final Dough:

520g Bread Flour, 75%

15g salt, 2%

210g Eggs, 30% (I ended up using mostly yolks, 7 yolks and 2 whites to get the 210g)

3g Ground Cardamom

175g Butter, 25%

85g Sugar, 12%

Handful of currants (probably 2/3 cup)


I've got a couple of questions, if any of the more experienced folks have some insight.  Here's the basic process I went through:

I do my kneading by hand, because I'm not fortunate enough to have a fancy stand mixer.  I tried to go for full gluten development before adding the final butter and sugar, but this was more difficult than I'm used to.  I kneaded for at least twenty minutes, after which the dough did get pretty elastic, but I couldn't get a nice windowpane or anything.  I knew I still had a job ahead of me getting the butter in there, so I called it good for that stage of kneading. 

Again, once the butter and sugar was all in, the dough just didn't seem to want to achieve good development.  We make a 42% fat brioche dough at work (in a mixer), and so I was aiming for the look of that dough, where you can pull it gently and really get it to stretch out.  I could pull a pinch off of mine and get it to stretch a few inches, but not much more.  This had taken another twenty minutes, so again, I just called it good.

Scaled the dough to 120g portions (in retrospect, 90g would have been better; I baked these in a muffin tin and the bottoms burned before the buns were fully baked.  But I take this as a simple trial and error lesson).  The crumb was not terribly dense, but I feel like they could have been lighter in texture.  Possibly a result of underdevelopment?  I did bake them slightly underproofed.

So here are my questions:

1) Regarding the difficulty in developing the gluten, could this have been because of the fat present in the initial dough stage, from the infused butter or all the egg yolks?  Could the milk have prevented good development (I read something here about glutathione, but I'm not sure if that reaction happens only over an extended period of time.)

2) Regarding the butter, I understand why high fat breads benefit from an initial development period before getting the butter in there, but is there some "cutoff point"?  In other words, I've heard that anything over 20% fat needs to be added later.  Any thoughts on this number?  And am I crazy for doing this by hand?  I did a 25% fat bread for Christmas, which was noticeably easier to work with than this bread, so I'm working my way up :]

Thanks for any thoughts / comments!


Oh, and there are larger versions of the pictures here.  Also, I saw this after I made mine.  After!

pmccool's picture


Since you bake at work, these may already have occurred to you.  If so, I'm sorry for not bringing anything helpful.

1. It sounds as thought you did a very thorough job of developing the gluten.  "I kneaded for at least 20 minutes, after which the dough did get pretty elastic..."  That's a description of well-developed gluten, even if you couldn't pull a windowpane.  The quality you were looking for is extensibility (the ability to stretch the dough without it snapping back).  A couple of thoughts.  First, the sponge was made with whole wheat flour.  The bran in the whole wheat flour makes it more challenging, though not impossible, to achieve a windowpane because the bran particles tend to cut the gluten strands as the dough is worked.  Second, the final dough was made with bread flour.  Bread flour typically contains more gluten-making proteins.  On the one hand, this should make windowpanes easier to achieve because of a strong gluten network being formed.  On the other hand, that flour needs a lot of water to be soft enough to tease to windowpane thinness.  It is more elastic than extensible, so it wants to stay as a thick lump, rather than stretching out to a thin film.  Your water content was limited to what was in the milk, the butter, the egg yolks, and the egg white.  None of those have as much water content per volume as water itself has.  Consequently, the dough will tend to be less hydrated than if it were made with an equal volume or weight of water.  Although the fat from the milk, the egg yolks and the butter in the infusion would interfere with the formation of gluten strands, I don't think they would prohibit achieving a windowpane.

2. If there is a cutoff point for the amount of butter that can be mixed in after dough development, I'm not knowledgeable enough to tell you.  I have gotten a pannetone dough to accept a significant quantity of butter after the dough was developed (by hand mixing/kneading), so no, it isn't a crazy proposition.  It would be easier with a mixer, certainly.  I'm curious about the bread you make at work, and that you made at Christmas.  What kind of flour did you use?  Was it a bread flour, with higher protein levels, or was it more like an AP flour, with lower protein levels.

The rolls look lovely.  I hope that they tasted as good as they look.