Saffron buns are a traditional Cornish teatime treat – a rich yeast bun not dissimilar to a teacake, only better! Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice by weight, so how did it end up being a key ingredient in Cornish baking? Spices such as saffron were often landed in Cornwall, both legally and illegally, with records showing that it was once traded with the Phoenicians for tin and copper. The county’s mild maritime climate also made it one of the few places in the UK where the crocus flowers that produce saffron could be grown commercially. It’s been a couple of centuries since saffron was produced commercially in Cornwall, however one farm is now growing it here on the Roseland Peninsula. With such ready access to saffron, it was baked into revel buns on special occasions with so much being used that it gave the buns a characteristic yellow colour. For the past hundred years it’s been prohibitively expensive to use that much saffron, so many bakers used food colourings to turn their buns yellow. This recipe that I recently baked for Rodda’s Cornish Clotted Cream uses a decent pinch of saffron and clotted cream to create a rich, spiced, teatime treat. Enjoy!
300ml whole milk
Large pinch of saffron
50g Rodda’s clotted cream, melted
2 tsp mixed spice
550g strong bread flour
1 tsp fine sea salt
80g caster sugar
1 x 7g sachet fast-action yeast
4-tablespoons of milk
For the glaze:
50g caster sugar
2 tablespoons of water
Gently heat the milk with the saffron in a small pan until it’s steaming. Add clotted cream to the saffron-infused milk and return to a low heat for 2-3 minutes. Gently whisk until melted and combined.
Take the mixture of the heat and allow to cool until it is warm to the touch
Sift the flour into a large bowl and stir in the salt, spices, sugar, and yeast.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the warm milk. Mix and bring together into a soft dough. Knead on a slow speed in a free-standing mixer with the dough hook attached for 7-10 minutes, or slap and fold a few times to bring it together. After 5 minutes, incorporate the currants. To check if the dough is ready, when the dough is touched it should bounce back.
Cover the bowl and leave in a warm place for 45-60 minutes or until doubled in size. Knock back the dough and turn out onto a floured surface and knead briefly.
Divide the dough into 10 equal portions to make buns and place on a lined baking sheet.
Cover the buns and leave to prove again for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200°C, fan 180°C, gas mark 6. Then brush the top of the buns with a little milk and bake for 20 minutes until golden.
Once the buns have baked, its time to make the glaze. To make the glaze – put 50g of caster sugar and 2 tablespoons of water in a saucepan. Gently heat until the sugar has dissolved and then boil for 1 minute. Then brush the mixture over the warm buns and transfer them to a wire rack and leave to cool.
Slice in half and enjoy the buns fresh or toasted, spread with more clotted cream.
If you’d like to get stuck into more traditional Cornish bakes and dishes, why not join me for a Cornwall in a Day cookery course?