The Fresh Loaf

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Saffron Buns

saffron bun

The first time I saw this recipe in Linda Collister and Anthony Blake's Country Breads of the World I nearly threw the book out the window. The recipe, called "Daniel's Saffron Bread," shows a 6 year old all decked out in an apron happily baking this Saffron Bread.

"A six year old??? Baking with saffron?!? The stuff costs as much, by weight, as gold!!!" I thought.

A month or so ago my mother-in-law returned from a trip to Portugal and brought me a souvenir: saffron. So I decided to try it. I have to admit, they are good.

The recipe in the book includes a bit more butter and skips the initial rise. He also bakes it in a loaf pan, whereas I baked them as little buns. I was happy with the way mine turned out, so I'm posting the recipe my way.

Saffron Buns
Makes 1 dozen buns.

1/2 teaspoon saffron strands
1 1/4 very warm milk
4 cups (500 grams) unbleached bread or all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoon instant or active dry yeast
2/3 cup dried fruit

Stir the saffron strands into the hot milk and set aside to infuse for half an hour at the minimum or as long as overnight (in the refrigerator).

Combine the flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Cube the butter and cut it into the flour with a fork or a pastry cutter so that the mixture resembles course crumbs.

Stir in the sugar. If using active dry yeast, heat a half cup of the milk to room temperature, then stir in the yeast and allow to activate for 10 minutes. Otherwise, add the instant yeast directly to the flour mixture and stir in all of the milk.

Knead by hand for 6 to 8 minutes or in a stand mixer for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the dried fruit and knead some more until the fruit is distributed throughout the dough.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside to rise at room temperature until doubled in size, roughly 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Shape the rolls by hand and place on a baking sheet. Cover the baking sheet with plastic and set aside to rise another 45 minutes. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bake the rolls at 350 for approximately 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the baking sheet once halfway through. The buns should be nicely brown.

saffron bun

Serve immediately.

Saffron Buns


Cooky's picture

It's not terribly hard to grow your own saffron. The bulbs (fall-flowering crocus sativus) are shipped in late summer or early fall (about now in some zones) a couple of weeks before they bloom. You can find plenty of bulb sources online. While the bulbs are not cheap (a little less than buck a bulb, if you're buying small amounts), they do multiply and come back year after year if you treat them right. All you have to do is wait for the flower to bloom, then carefully pluck the long, red stamens, and dry them for a day or two by laying them out on a paper towel.

One big advantage: Saffron tastes better when it's fresher. Plus, the bragging rights are priceless.

P.S. Be sure you have the right crocus. There are other fall-blooming crocus that have six stamens. Those are poisonous. Sativus has three stamens per blossom. 


"I am not a cook. But I am sorta cooky."

jeb's picture

A great place to purchase saffron and other high quality spices is at Penzeys Spices at . They have several stores in the midwest, and sell by mail order.

Their prices are reasonable (and great for the quality of the product).

I have no financial interests in Penzeys, but am a satisfied customer.

qahtan's picture


 So I guess these autumn crocus growing in my back garden are poisonous, shame,,,, but they are pretty.

 qahtan, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada.

Picture005-2.jpg picture by qahtan

RichmondJim's picture

This recipe calls for letting the saffron stand in hot milk for 30+ minutes. I started making Saffron Rolls with my mother 45 years ago and she always ground the saffron with a mortar and pestle and added a couple tablespoons of brandy. Stir it and add it to the wet ingredients. Never had a problem getting a rich saffron flavor in the rolls with this method!

What are your thoughts on "infusing" the saffron?

stephy711's picture

Which one did you use for this recipe?

Ummsalem's picture

I usually crush the saffaron in a morter with some sugar before adding it to the cold milk. Great yellow color everytime.