What is a more special treat than a homemade bun at teatime? These delightful Cornish saffron buns are just the thing to serve at a tea party or as an afternoon pick-me-up. They’re loaded with currants, so there’s no worries about not getting enough dried fruit in your bun.
These soft, vibrant yellow buns originate in Cornwall, England. Saffron used to be grown there, so it makes sense that they would have recipes using this expensive spice. Indeed, saffron is responsible for coloring these buns such a unique color. These saffron buns used to be a very popular snack at church functions in Cornwall, and live on today in old family recipes.
Have you ever baked with saffron? Don’t be nervous; it’s really quite simple to use. Saffron requires an infusing time in a hot liquid before it’s used to bring out the brilliant yellow color. I think that toasting and crushing the saffron before infusing, like I’ve described in the recipe below, really helps bring out the color.
You’ll be tickled pink (or yellow?) when you taste these delicious buns! Trust me, you need to buy some saffron and make the time for these special treats. It’s a labor of love! (Just start the dough the night before to shave off some time.)Print
Traditional Cornish saffron buns are brilliant yellow sweet treats packed with currants, making them a perfect treat for teatime when they’re spread with butter. You’ll be amazed with the flavor and texture of these delightful buns!
- 1 teaspoon saffron threads (about 0.5g)
- 3 tablespoons boiling water
- 4 1/2 cups bread flour (500g)
- 1 teaspoon fine salt (5g)
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled (87g)
- 6 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon lard, chilled (87g)
- 1/2 cup caster sugar (110g)
- 3 teaspoons fast-action yeast (10g)
- 1 large egg
- 3/4 cup whole milk (175 ml)
- scant 1 1/2 cup dried currants (225g)
- 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest (from 1 medium orange)
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (from 1 medium lemon)
- Extra butter for brushing on buns
Preparing the Saffron (10 minutes toasting + 30 minutes infusing)
- Preheat the oven to 275 F. Spread the saffron on a small cookie sheet and bake at 275 F for 10-15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. The saffron should dry out and turn a deeper shade of red. Watch it carefully to prevent it from burning.
- Pour the saffron threads into a small bowl and crush them between your fingertips. Stir in three tablespoons of boiling water and let the saffron infuse into the water for at least 30 minutes, up to overnight. The water should turn a deep golden orange.
Making the Dough (25 minutes + 3 hours proving)
- Warm the milk to 115 F. If you use the microwave to warm the milk, put a small wooden spoon in the milk to break the surface tension and prevent it from exploding.
- Place the bread flour in a large mixing bowl and stir in the salt. Cube the butter, then add it and the lard to the flour. Rub the fats into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
- Stir in the sugar and yeast, then dump in the egg, saffron mixture, and half of the milk. Mix with your hand to start bringing the dough together, gradually adding more milk as needed to create a soft, slightly sticky dough. Keep mixing until all the flour is picked up from the bottom of the bowl.
- Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead vigorously for about 15 minutes, until the dough is very stretchy, silky smooth, and has a lustrous sheen on its surface. Test the dough by stretching a lump of it between the thumb and forefinger of each hand. The dough should stretch until it’s translucent without breaking. If it breaks, knead a minute longer and check again.
- Shape the dough into a ball, place in a large buttered bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough prove in a warm place until doubled, about 3 hours. Alternatively, let the dough prove in the fridge overnight.
Shaping the Buns (30 minutes + 1 1/2 hours proving)
- While the dough is proving, zest the orange and lemon and mix the currants and zest together. Let them sit on the counter, covered, until the dough is ready.
- Pull out two 9×13-inch cookie sheets. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and punch it down all over to knock out the air.
- Knead in the currants until they’re evenly distributed.
- Divide the dough into 16 pieces, using a kitchen scale for accuracy.
- Roll each piece into a ball and place 8 balls, spaced well apart, on each of the small cookie sheets.
- Place each tray inside a clean garbage bag. Inflate the bag and tuck the ends underneath the tray to seal. Set the tray in a warm place and let the buns prove for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until about doubled in size.
- About 10 minutes before the buns are done proving, preheat the oven to 375 F.
Baking the Buns (20 minutes)
- Bake the buns in the middle of the oven at 375 F for 12 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350 F and bake for another 5-8 minutes. Watch them carefully to make sure they don’t burn. The buns should be well browned and have an internal temperature of 200 F.
- Brush the tops of the buns with butter, then let them cool a little on a wire rack. Serve the buns warm, split in half, and spread with salted butter. They taste great with a cup of tea or coffee!
These buns taste best the same day they are made. Freeze any leftovers for later.