This is my first official documented disaster. Well, disaster is a strong word, let's use mishap, shall we? In celebration of International Women's Day on Saturday, Zorra and Fiordisale organized an event where one must make a dish with yellow. I immediately thought of saffron.
Saffron is a spice used to flavor and color food with a golden-yellow shade. Also, saffron to me has always had a strong link to women. I remember in my old Latin class writing a paper about Roman weddings where the woman would wear saffron colored clothing. The first time I ate a dish with saffron, I met an interesting Iranian woman, whose experiences give reason for International Women's Day. Saffron even comes from the female part of a certain crocuses plant, the stigmas. Somehow saffron always has an association with women and so seemed like an appropriate spice to use for this event.
(From the King Arthur Four Website through the Muffin Top)
1/4 cup hot water
1/4 teaspoon crushed saffron threads
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons instant yeast
3 to 3 1/4 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 egg white beaten lightly with a teaspoon of water
1. Combine the hot water and saffron, and let sit for 10 minutes to soften the saffron.
2. In a mixing bowl, beat together the saffron water, milk, sugar, butter, salt, egg, yeast, and 2 cups of the flour.
3. Add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough.
4. 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 (Mine took about 3 hours- see P.S.)
5. Punch the dough down, and let it rest, covered, for 10 minutes.
6. Divide the dough into 16 pieces, and shape each piece into a ball. Place the balls fairly close together (but not touching) in a greased 9 x 13-inch pan, cover them, and let them rise for 1 1/2 hours, or until they’re puffy (again, it took about 2 ½ hours).
7. Glaze the buns with the beaten egg white, and sprinkle them heavily with sugar (recipe calls for pearl sugar but normal superfine worked well).
8. 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.)
P.S. Why did it take so long to rise? I misread the recipe and used Active Yeast instead of instant yeast. Instant yeast does not need to be proofed and still rises well. Recently, Allen of Cooking Out Loud explored how one could make the substitution but just increasing the temperature of the liquids. Next time I would either dissolve the saffron in 1/8 cup of hot water and the yeast in 1/8 cup warm water or warm the milk slightly before adding it to the rest of the ingredients. I would probably stick to the first method because by proofing, I would make sure I did not kill the yeast (my greatest fear!). I believe that it will not change the outcome significantly but I have not had a chance to test it yet. Regardless, if you are patient or use the correct kind of yeast, the recipe makes some delicious sweet buns.