Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My very precious buns ...


When my dog Mojo is really excited and happy, he runs around in circles, either around the small patch of grass I call my yard or in and out of the house. He seriously looks stark raving mad running about like that, his ears flopping about and his mouth in a big wide open grin. 

Yesterday, after seeing a batch of saffron buns rise to perfection in my oven, I did a little jig  in the kitchen myself. I looked kinda crazy too, I am sure. Thankfully, no one was around to see me. 

I really can't explain the feeling of joy and immense satisfaction every time my bread turns out perfect. The feeling is out of this world.  

Saffron-infused milk.
I saw the recipe for these saffron buns in The Fresh Loaf, one of my go to sites for bread recipes and tips on making bread. I bought some saffron five or six month ago but because saffron is so expensive -- about RM16 for 1g (yes one gram) of saffron -- I hadn't used it yet. It was sitting pretty on my shelf, in between a bottle of pine nuts (another precious ingredient) and a can of green peas (not so precious).

This, I thought, was the perfect recipe for them.   

Saffron buns are also known as Saint Lucia buns or lussebulle are Swedish buns flavoured with saffron, raisins and, sometimes nutmeg. In Sweden, the buns are eaten on St Lucia's Day in December. Traditionally, the buns are baked in an S-shape but , as you can see, I chose a more contemporary (lazy) approach. Ha!


So I prepped for my little project. This was my first attempt -- and unfortunately, it didn't make me go all crazy-dancing-prancing. I got the recipe off The Fresh Loaf, which I must mention is a fabulous site because apart from just recipes, there is plenty of discussion among bread enthusiasts about the recipes posted: there is feedback on how the recipes turned out, how they can be improved and so on. I usually read through the comments before I try a recipe but this time, I didn't which is why I didn't realise that some of the measurements given in the recipe were incorrect. 

The recipe called for 2.5 tbsp of yeast for four cups of flour: that's an unusually high ration of yeast even for a yeast-rich bun like this. I didn't think much of it and followed the recipe. Needless to say, the dough rose super fast. Instead of the one-hour resting time bread dough usually needs to double in size, this batch took just about 30 mins. I left it for 45 mins and then proceeded to shape then and line them up in my baking tray. The rolls puffed up in no time and I didn't have to wait the required 45 mins before popping them in the oven. It took just 15 mins. While it was gratifying to watch the dough rise like that, I couldn't help getting a little anxious. 

I popped them in the oven and they looked great. Took them out and cooled them before tasting them. Boy, were they yeasty! Didn't taste bad but they didn't taste right. Damn. My precious saffron ....wasted!

I went back to the site, read through the forums and realised others faced the same problem The measurement for the yeast in the recipe was indeed wrong. The correct measurement should be about 2.5 tsp.

I decided to give it another go. I had just enough saffron left. This better work, I thoughtAnd ..... it DID. It worked. *cue silly, crazy dance*

The dough rose as it should and the buns turned out nice, soft and fluffy... without the overpowering taste of yeast. The taste/smell from the saffron wasn't that obvious, although the dough (above) was nice an yellowish. The mixed fruit adds some sweetness and texture to the bun.

Saffron Buns
Adapted from The Fresh Loaf
1/2 tsp saffron strands
1 1/4 cup tepid milk
4 cups bread flour
1 tsp salt
112 gms butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1/2 cup dried fruit

Put the saffron strands into the tepid milk; set aside to infuse for 30 mins or longer.
Combine the flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Cube the butter and cut it into the flour with a fork or your fingers till the mixture resembles course crumbs.
Stir in the sugar. Add the yeast (if you are using active dry yeast and not instant yeast, you will have to heat a half cup of the milk to room temperature, then stir in the yeast and allow to activate for 10 minutes first). Stir in all of the milk.
Knead in a stand mixer for 3 to 5 minutes (you can knead by hand for about 8 mins if you like). Add the dried fruit and knead until the fruit is distributed throughout the dough.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl, roll it around once so its evenly coated. Cover with plastic wrap and set it aside to rise at room temperature until it doubles, between 45 minutes to an 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. Preheat the oven to 180C.
Bake the rolls for approximately 20 to 25 minutes, rotating them midway.

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