saffron buns

saffron buns

These saffron buns are perfect for cheering up a grey dismal day.  The prospect of having something to melt a generous helping of butter on is incentive enough to start the recipe in the morning, so they’re ready in the afternoon with a cup of tea. 

Rick Stein’s easy recipe for saffron buns from BBC Food, is just the thing for our fragrant saffron from Lebanon.  His recipe asks for 0.5g of saffron. Zejd’s saffron is very high quality, so we used only 1/4 of a teaspoon, which was a couple of generous pinches. Using tweezers allows you to extract just the amount you need. The saffron threads infuse beautifully in the warm milk, and looks a lot like custard!  This recipe is a good way of using up left-over Christmas mixed peel and dried fruit. However, we have made them with only a few raisins and they were equally delicious. No clotted cream? Crème fraiche or double cream work really well, and yoghurt would give an even tangier taste. Experiment! 

makes 10 – 12 buns

saffron buns ingredients

300 ml whole milk
1/4 tsp Zejd’s saffron – 2 good pinches
90g clotted cream (or crème fraiche) 
50g butter, room temperature 
550g strong bread flour
1 /2 tsp fine sea salt
50g golden caster sugar (plus 50g for the glaze)
7g sachet of fast-acting dried yeast
30g chopped mixed peel 
70g raisins or currants (optional)


  1. Bring the milk to just off boiling point in a small saucepan. If you have a pestle and mortar, warm the saffron gently over a low heat, then using a pestle and mortar crush the threads. Tip into the milk, then stir. Add in the clotted cream (cream or crème fraiche) and butter and stir until completely melted. Leave to infuse for 15–20 minutes, until the mixture is about blood temperature and the colour of custard.
  2. Combine the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in the bowl of a food mixer which has a dough hook. Make a well in the centre and add the warm milk mixture, and combine on a slow speed. Keep this mixing at this speed for 5 minutes, as the dough is kneaded.
  3. Then add the mixed peel and raisins (if using) and keep kneading for 5  minutes more until the dough feels springy and elastic. When you press it with your finger, it should bounce back and look glossy.
  4. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for about an hour – it needs to double in size.
  5. When risen, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gently knead for a couple of a minute.
  6. Divide the dough into 10-12 even pieces, rolling each into a ball.  Arrange them on a lined baking tray, leaving some space between each. Cover with a tea towel or cling film and leave to rise again for about 45 minutes -1 hour, if cold. (We often leave them in a cool kitchen overnight and bake them first thing in the morning).
  7. Preheat the oven to 200C / Fan 180C / Gas 6.
  8. Bake the buns for about 20 minutes until risen and golden.
  9. Make the glaze while the buns are cooking. Dissolve 50g of caster sugar in a pan with 3 tablespoons of water. Bring slowly to the boil and cook for about a minute to create a glossy syrup.
  10. Once the buns are golden brown after 20 minutes, remove from the oven and transfer to a wire wrack. Brush the tops with the syrup and leave to cool a little.

(If you don’t have a food mixer and a dough hook, mix the liquid ingredients into the flour, salt, sugar and yeast, knead for 5 minutes, before adding the mixed peel and raisins, then continue for at least 8 minutes until the dough is shiny and elastic when stretched.)

Serve with generous helpings of butter or clotted cream. They toast beautifully and taste wonderful with marmalade or Lebanese rose petal jam. 

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