Since going to New York and starting my new job, I have had NO time to be creative in the kitchen and write about it. But I miss it! And now that I’m getting back into my bread making, I feel like I need to document my trial and errors.
Firstly, saffron buns. I had never known what saffron smelt or tasted like before this as I’d only (supposedly) had it in paella in a restaurant, so it wasn’t distinguishable. As the most expensive commodity by weight, I was curious to experiment with it. It’s difficult to describe saffron – it is very fragrant (almost like a musky perfume), with a slight floral, honey scent and flavour. It tastes bitter when too much is used, which is probably why I did not enjoy my first experience in these buns! I got a little too excited as I wanted to be able to taste the saffron…boy, did I taste it! It wasn’t inedible, but the fragrance overpowers in the mouth!
I used my sourdough, which I refreshed twice the day before, just to ensure that it was active. Even though it takes patience to work with sourdough, I love the naturalness of it – it’s just flour and water…and it’s alive!
Look at that shreddable softness! ^ Sourdough can be soft too!
Saffron buns (adapted from txfarmer’s recipe)
- starter, 15g
- milk, 25g
- bread flour, 41g
- Mix and let fermentation at room temp (22c) for 12 hours.
- bread flour, 203g
- honey, 55g
- butter, 25g, softened
- egg whites, 60g
- salt, 3g
- milk, 102g
- saffron, half a teaspoon crushed (I used about a teaspoon which was too much!)
- raisins, 60g
- Heat the milk and add the saffron, let it sit for 10 minutes. Mix all ingredients until the windowpane stage.
- Bulk rise at room temp (22c) for 3 hours, the dough would have expanded noticeably, but not too much. Txfarmer’s recipe states to bulk rise in the fridge overnight, but I was too impatient.
- Punch out the dough, add raisins and shape into “S” shaped buns.
- Let them rise at about 7-10c overnight (some people say to leave bread in the fridge to rise, but mine never does – I find that 4c and below is too cold for any yeast to be active!). The buns did not rise much.
- Spray buns with water, and bake in preheated oven at 220c for 18min. Spray the oven with water every minute for the first 4 minutes to create steam for ovenspring!
The buns rose very well in the oven (doubled in size!), but my oven is a fan oven so I had to cover them with foil to prevent the tops from browning after the first 8 minutes. The bottoms of the buns were a little burnt, and I still haven’t figured out why…is it the pan, the non-stick paper? Does anyone have a clue? As mentioned before, I used too much saffron, but when reduced, it pairs nicely with the sweet raisins. These buns are not sweet, so if you want sweet buns, double the amount of honey or use sugar.
I have a go-to base recipe for a sourdough loaf inspired by The Wild Yeast, which is so reliable and has great flavour. I tweak the recipe by adding ingredients to create different flavour combinations. Sourdoughs require a lot of time and patience but the end result is always so rewarding. To ensure a good texture (soft, well-cooked interior, and a crunchy crust), technique is so important. The Wild Yeast has great instructions, and I would emphasise the most important points as being the presence of steam in the oven for a good rise, checking the internal temperature with a thermometer at the end of the bake (you don’t want all that effort to result in an undercooked loaf!), and don’t cut the loaf until it is fully cool.
Obviously, the flavour of your sourdough will depend on your starter and that is not always consistent, and this unpredictability is what I love about sourdough. Recently, in the warmer London weather, I’ve found that my sourdoughs have been tangier, which I will miss now that the weather is turning cooler.
I love experimenting with flavour, so when I read about the combination of apricot and sage, I was fascinated. The floral notes from the sage pair very well with the sweet dried apricots. However, even though I used approximately 2 tsp of chopped dried sage (from my herb garden!), the sage flavour was not evident enough for me. Next time, I might double the amount of sage. I love nuts and seeds in my sourdoughs, which provide texture and earthiness to the bread, so I added pecans. My parents (who are my current food critics) loved this flavour combination, and if they’re happy, I’m happy. I’m always on the lookout for new flavour combinations so if anyone has any suggestions, feel free to let me know!
This recipe makes 2 large 1kg loaves – each loaf perfect for a family of 4. I usually freeze the other loaf.
- 900 g white flour
- 120 g whole rye flour
- 600 g water, 23C
- 360 g mature 100% hydration sourdough starter
- 22 g salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 3/4 cup chopped dried apricots
- 2 tsp chopped dried sage
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the flours, water, and starter on low speed until just combined, about one minute.
Let the dough rest (autolyse) for 30 minutes.
- Add the salt, sugar, apricot, sage, pecans and continue mixing on low or medium speed until the dough reaches a medium level of gluten development. This took 6 minutes in my bread machine.
- Transfer the dough to an oiled container.
- Ferment at room temperature (~22C) for 2.5 hours, with folds at 50 and 100 minutes.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter. Divide it into 2 pieces. I usually make two 1kg loaves, and freeze one loaf after baking.
- Shape into batards and place seam-side-up in a floured banneton or an oiled container.
- Cover with plastic wrap and proof at room temperature for 2.5-3 hours. Alternatively, the loaves can be proofed for about 2 hours at room temperature, then refrigerated for 2 – 16 hours and baked directly out of the refrigerator; this will yield a tangier bread with a lovely, blistered crust.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven, with baking stone, to 240C. You will also need steam during the initial phase of baking, so prepare for this now.
- Turn the proofed loaves onto parchment. Slash each one with two overlapping cuts that are almost parallel to the long axis of the batard.
- Once the loaves are in the oven, spray the sides of the oven with water and turn the heat down to 230C. For 1kg loaves, bake for 15 minutes with steam, and another 35 minutes without steam. I cover the bread with foil after 25 minutes to prevent the crust browning too much. Nearer the end of bake, you can take the foil off if the crust is not dark enough. The crust should be a deep brown and the internal temperature should read 96c.
- Turn off the oven and leave the loaves in for 5 minutes longer, with the door ajar, to help them dry.
- Cool on a wire rack. Don’t cut until the loaves are completely cool, otherwise it will be sticky! This takes about 2 hours.