Freshly baked saffron buns are as much a tradition in Cornwall as pasties and fudge! Their bright yellow colour comes from the saffron and is reminiscent of our golden sands and cheerful cliff top gorse bushes.
These yeasty golden buns are packed with sultanas, currants and mixed peel and can be eaten on their own, split with butter, or for an even more indulgent treat, try them topped with jam and clotted cream – Cornish of course!
Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world and costs around £5,500 per kilogram! The reason it is so costly is the labour intensive process in producing it. It comes from the dried stigmas of the saffron crocus which can only be picked by hand – it takes over 250,000 stigmas and 80 hours of labour to make just half a kilo of saffron! In medieval times saffron was one of the most popular spices and loved for the colour it gave to food as well as the unique flavour. It’s thought that saffron came to Cornwall as early as 4000BC with foreign merchants bringing it with them when they were trading in tin. Ever since the Cornish have been cooking with it and the traditional saffron bun gradually developed.
We visited our friends at The Chough Bakery in Padstow to learn more about how to make these tasty treats, after all they bake 9,000 saffron buns and 2,500 saffron cakes a year so they know a thing or two!
We are lucky enough to have Chough’s authentic Cornish recipe to share with you – thank you Chough!
Saffron is widely available and although expensive, a small amount for a batch of these buns won’t cost more than about £4 and will be well worth it for a delicious treat.
575g strong white bread flour
60g caster sugar
120g white shortening (Trex)
25g fresh yeast
275g tepid water
A generous pinch of saffron
50g dried mixed peel
- Dissolve saffron strands in a tablespoon of boiling water and set aside to cool
- Weigh dry ingredients into a bowl
- Mixed the tepid water, yeast and cooled saffron mixture
- Add liquid ingredients and mix until the dough is smooth and elastic
- Add the fruit and mix through
- Remove from the bowl and knead on a floured surface. Pop it back into a clean bowl, cover and leave to prove in a warm place for 40 minutes
- Knock back the dough and allow it to rest for 10 minutes before dividing it into 100g balls for buns or in half for two saffron cakes
- Mould and shape the buns and pop them on a baking tray or into two bread tins for saffron cakes
- Cover and leave in a warm place for 20 minutes or until they have risen well
- Place in the oven at 180°C for 16 minutes for buns or 30 minutes for cakes
- For a sticky glaze dissolve 2 tablespoons of sugar in one tablespoon of boiling water and brush the buns with this as soon as they come out of the oven