13 . 04 . 17
Saffron & Pistachio Hot Cross Buns

NOTE TO READER: I have written this entire recipe with a Cornish accent in my head. You must read this to yourselves only in Cornish accents, otherwise I don’t think the Saffie buns will turn out very well. Recipe & image by Julia Georgallis.

I’ve often noted that it takes roughly the same amount of time to get from London to Cornwall as London to Iran – about six hours, that is. Or at least whenever I’ve been driving it’s taken me that long. And whenever I do end up down Cornwall way, it always feels like I am extremely far away from anywhere. As well as liking the far awayness of the place, I’ve had some pretty good Cornwallian eating experiences over the years. Picking mussels off rocks, the whole ice cream with clotted cream on top situation, crab sandwiches, catching fish and eating them. And. Saffron buns. Toasted, the yellow dough slathered in butter. Yum. But also, how? I mean, I always associate saffron with the Islamic world. Persian rice puddings and Moroccan saffron chicken spring to mind when I think of this precious, luxurious spice, more expensive than gold. How the bloody hell did it end up in Cornwall? I looked into this. It was the Phoenicians (kids who hung around the Levant for a while) who shipped it over, swapping their saffron for Cornish tin. The Cornish loved it they did, and quite right, because it’s beautiful and eventually it started to be grown in Essex, Devon and Norfolk, all along the sea’s edge. Saffron buns and cake (or saffie buns and saffie cake) have been eaten around the coasts of the more southerly parts of the UK for hundreds of years now, originally just for celebrations. I was in the middle of my saffie bun making experiments when Easter cropped up, so I thought I’d decorate the buns with some hot crosses on top, as we often do during Easter time. If it’s not Easter when you’re reading this, you can do without the cross. Rather than just currants, my recipe uses more eastern fillings – pistachio, almonds, mixed sultanas, dried apricots and an apricot glaze to signify a little hand shake between those Cornish and those Phoenician fellers, who exchanged some strands of red, edible thread for shiny tin all those years ago. Enjoy!

Makes 16 saffie buns

Ingredients for the dough:
300 g Jersey or whole milk
1 tsp of saffron threads
(If you want a deeper colour you can also had a pinch of turmeric or a tsp of yellow food colouring, but this will alter the flavour slightly so I don’t recommend doing this – it’s just if you’re saffron doesn’t end up as yellow as you might like it to be)
100 g cubed butter
140 g unrefined caster sugar
2 eggs
200 g warm water (about 20 degrees)
2 tsp of vanilla extract
8 g dried yeast or 16 g fresh yeast
100 g chopped dried apricots
100 g toasted almonds
100 g smashed pistachio kernels
150 g mixed sultanas, raisins and currants
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cornflower
8 g salt
800 g white bread flour

For the egg wash:
1 egg white and 1 whole egg, beaten together gently.

For the glaze:
400 g apricot jam (homemade or otherwise, I won’t judge!) boiled in 200 g water.

For the cross:
Mix 150 g bread flour with 150 g water and add yellow food colouring or a bit of turmeric

1. Heat the saffron with the milk and butter until the butter has melted. Leave for about half an hour for the saffron colour to develop. If it doesn’t go particularly yellow, it might be because you are not using good quality saffron – you can add some turmeric to colour if you would like a deeper flavour.
2. Add the eggs, sugar, warm water, vanilla extract and yeast to the saffron milk.
3. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, nuts and dried fruit.
4. Slowly fold in the liquid to the flour until well combined. Leave for an hour to prove.
5. Line a square or rectangular tin with baking paper and divide the dough into 80 g each. Roll into balls and arrange on the tin with a small gap between each ball. This is so that there is space for each bun to grow.
7. Leave the dough covered under a tea towel for 30 minutes. Heat oven to 200 degrees.
8. While the dough is proving, make your apricot glaze and if you are piping crosses over these, the make the cross mixture.  Leave these both to rest for a little while.
9. The buns should have proved enough so that they are now touching each other on the tray. Brush them with egg wash, then pipe on crosses.
10. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
11. When still hot, slather apricot glaze over the top of the buns a couple of times.