I’ve been wanting to try this loaf for a while because I’ve previously made braided challah and this looked like a version of that. However, I’ve been unsure of where to find saffron. I looked in two of my local grocery stores, both the regular spice aisle and the specialty food aisle, but found nothing.
After some googling, I found saffron sold at a local gourmet food store, so I went there yesterday and bought some. I knew it would be expensive but I also knew this would be the one and only time I’d buy saffron for a recipe like this, so I paid $5.99 for 0.5 grams of this luxurious spice.
I probably could have found it in another store for cheaper, but I figured what’s $6 in the grand scheme of things.
Also, a quick note about saffron: I’ve always thought saffron was famously in Indian cuisine, but then the salesperson at the gourmet store asked if I was making paella. This particular saffron that I bought is from Spain. I have had paella and, travel brag alert, I have had delicious paella in Barcelona (travel brag over.) But I had no idea saffron was in it.
At around 10 a.m. I measured the required 3/4 teaspoon of saffron (coincidentally it was the full 0.5 grams) into a bowl.
Then I poured 150 ml of hot water over top of that to let it sit.
It’s so interesting to me that something such a bright shade of purple can turn such a brilliant shade of yellow. The recipe says to “leave to soak for at least an hour, or up to 6 hours if you can (the longer the better).” I figured starting it at 10 a.m. would make it flavourful enough for an afternoon bake.
*4 hours later*
I was ready to make the dough, so I put 700 grams of bread flour (I actually bought bread flour for this one instead of just using all-purpose) into a bowl. And then I measured out the required 35 grams of unsalted butter and was confused by the ratio.
I was to rub the butter until the pieces disappeared. So I did that and I have to say: bread flour is so much softer than all-purpose flour. It was lovely! Pre-sifted and fluffy.
Technically the next step was to stir in the fast-action yeast and the salt, but I think I mentioned before that I had a brain malfunction the last time I bought yeast and I got traditional instead of instant. So I put 7 grams in a little ramekin and added hot water to make it sudsy.
After 10 minutes had passed, I made a well in the flour and tried to figure out how to take the saffron threads out of the saffron water. I scooped some up with a fork but didn’t get it all so I grabbed a sieve and hoped (1) it would catch the threads and (2) it wouldn’t stain everything.
Wasn’t saffron once used for dyeing? I feel like that’s a fact I heard somewhere. I also feel like it’s general knowledge to never directly touch saffron, lest you permanently stain your fingers.
Anyway. The sieve worked.
In addition to the saffron water, I added the honey and sudsy yeast to the well. Then I poured in the beaten egg.
Then I added 250 ml of the 300 ml of milk.
Full disclosure: I did the sniff test with the milk. The expiry date was, well, it was 9 days ago. But I poured it into a measuring cup and put my nose fully in the measuring cup and smelled nothing. No sourness. Barely even smelled milk! I also saw zero clumps.
Ever since I found out Canada is one of the worst countries for food waste because of our incredibly confusing “best before” labelling system (or lack of system), I’ve been trying to be a lot better about trusting the food, not the date on the container.
Back to the recipe.
I put attached the bowl to my mixer and let it do the kneading.
The recipe says “to make a dough that feels slightly firm rather than slightly soft,” which I assume means avoid sticky. To be honest, I let it mix and saw it wasn’t sticking to the sides so I assumed it wasn’t sticky. Then I touched it and realized it very much was. Well first it was dry so I added milk. But I must have added too much milk because I kept having to add in bits of flour. After about 10 minutes of testing and mixing and kneading poking, I called it a day, scooped it out to form it into a ball, and plopped it back into the bowl with a touch of flour.
The recipe says to cover with a snap-on lid or clingfilm, but I ran out of clingfilm a while ago and never got more, so I just used a towel.
I put it in the oven (non-drafty area) and turned on the oven light to keep it slightly warm (I live in a basement and it’s often cooler than your average room temperature).
*1 1/2 half hours later*
After all that rising time, I was sending my friend a video message and looped her into the big reveal. Then I stopped the video message to take a picture.
Looks doubled to me!
Then I punched it down to deflate it, which was super satisfying.
Also I’m loving this colour!
The recipe says to cut it into three or four equal parts, depending on what kind of plait you want. The challah I’ve made before was a four-strander so that’s what I decided to do again.
The recipe says to roll out the strands to 40 cm, so I did one and then measured it: exactly 40 cm.
I did all four and pinched the ends.
Then I grabbed my challah recipe where I wrote down the super easy system for four-strand braiding:
4 over 2
1 over 3
2 over 3
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Then I went and got a plastic bag, inflated it as best I could and put it back in the lit (not turned on) oven to rise another 45-50 minutes.
*45 to 50 minutes later*
This is the biggest bread I’ve ever boke. I wonder if it’s because I used actual bread flour.
The recipe says to do two layers of egg glaze, so that’s what I did.
Then I popped it into the preheated oven for 15 minutes.
*15 minutes later*
I turned down the heat and kept baking it for 20-25 minutes.
*20 to 25 minutes later*
I am so proud.
I had to set up a little photo shoot for my bread baby.
So yellow. So beautiful.
It was so soft I probably could have eaten it on its own, but what’s bread without butter?
It’s really tasty! And totally different. It’s hard to know how to describe it.
Fluffy saffron bread.
I guess you’ll just have to make it yourself to find out.
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