Monday, April 23, 2012

Sweet Saffron Bread

This Sweet Saffron Bread is one of the most delectable breads I've ever eaten.  The lovely aroma of saffron and the sweetness of dried currants that plump up and turn juicy during the bake is a really wonderful combination and something that I will surely crave for again and again.  Despite its somewhat complicated looks, this bread, from Dan Lepard's book "The Art of Handmade Bread," is actually a very easy bread to make thanks to his thorough instructions and minimal kneading technique.  There's absolutely no need for a mixer and the duration of the kneading is only for about 10 seconds each cool is that?!  All of the breads in his book seem to benefit from long rests as opposed to thorough kneading until a desired gluten development is achieved.  It's not quite the popular no-knead method of bread baking but it's very close to it.  

Lepard has many recipes in the book that makes use of currants and it's important to know that "currants" is very different from "black currants" which was also used in one of the recipes in his book.  Currants are tiny dried black grapes called Zante or Black Corinth and is in fact, completely unrelated to black currants which are little dark fruits from a relative of the gooseberry and the primary ingredient of Creme de Cassis or Cassis.  Black currants are also sold in dried form though but it is not what's used for this bread.      

Above: Flour rubbed with 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
Below: The sponge
Another thing that I like about Lepard's book is the use of very little yeast in all of his bread recipes.  This particular bread makes use of only a pinch and quarter of a teaspoon of instant yeast!  But what makes it work is that it's first mixed with small amounts of milk and flour to create a sponge where it essentially accelerates the activity of the yeast before it is incorporated to the final dough.  Another interesting step was how the butter was incorporated in the recipe.  All of the breads that I've made that had butter in them requires you to add the butter as you near the end of kneading but this one makes you rub the butter into the flour prior to mixing all of the ingredients together.  Seems like something you would do more for pastry than for breads!  I still wonder though (as it wasn't explained in the book) what difference this makes compared to the other methods of adding butter.

One thing I found confusing about this bread is determining exactly how how much 12 strands of saffron is as one piece would have 3 strands attached together.  Is one of the 3 strands considered one strand or is the whole group of 3 strands considered 1 strand? LOL I guess Lepard didn't include the weight measurement of the saffron as it would be such a small amount for a conventional home scale to measure but based on the baker's percentage written in the recipe, the amount of saffron needed for this is 1.25 grams.  I suppose if you have a scale specifically meant for small quantities (which I think any avid bread baker should have) it wouldn't be a problem.  Just to be sure on the saffron I considered the whole clumped strands as one and used 12 pieces of those which I had to soak in a little boiling water first.

It was really fun turning the dough into an S-shaped loaf but I found it a little challenging to keep the dough's seams to the bottom while rolling and elongating it which caused the creases on the surface.  But I think it's interesting to have that kind of texture on the finished loaf though....makes it look more rustic :-)

Sprinkle the baking pan with cornmeal....
Then brush the dough generously with egg wash.

The amount of fat from the milk and butter plus the sugar that's in the dough and currants will make this brown rather quickly so I had to cover it with a sheet of aluminum foil 20 minutes into the bake.  Brushing the dough with egg wash will also help even the browning and give this bread a nice sheen.

You can really smell the wonderful aroma of the saffron as the bread was baking...I had a difficult time waiting for this to cool before I sliced myself a piece!

I'm pretty satisfied with how this bread turned had a very moist and tender crumb, soft and sweet-tasting crust and the flavors just work wonderfully together.  The saffron flavor is not overpowering at know it's there but you can still taste the flavor of the wheat, the currants and everything else.  I think this would work great with other dried fruits a well, even nuts and citrus rind.  I highly recommend this to anyone who loves bread with fruits in them!

*Submitting this post to YeastSpotting*


  1. Worth noting that in the UK we don't say "black currants" but "blackcurrants" - we're not suggesting currants that are black, but a berry related to the whitecurrant and redcurrant (and as you say, the gooseberry - in the same way that the gooseberry isn't related to the goose!).

  2. Your bread is gorgeous! I like the "S" shape, and it does look like fun shaping it this way, different from the usual way! It is almost unbelievable that a bread uses such a minimum amount of yeast can rise so beautifully! I've got to look into that book! And I love raisins in bread, so I would definitely like this!

    1. Thanks Joyce! This book is a must have! So many recipes that I'm sure you'll love!

  3. What a beautiful loaf! Love the shape and the interior looks wonderfully soft and light. You're a bread making pro :o)

  4. Beautiful! I will have t o put that book on my list of books to buy!

  5. gorgeous looking bread...i love the shape

    was baking breads all last week on my blog - do check out when u get a chance -

  6. It may be saffron bread to you but the kind my grandma used to make was deep yellow color form steeping the saffron in water to make a tea, then pouring it in before kneading the dough.