This is a recipe that my parents have made on occasion for almost as far back as I can remember — I love it! 🙂
Top tip: This recipe involves hand-mixing, so use one hand only if possible and, when the dough sticks to your fingers, use your clean had to take a small palmful of plain flour and rub it thoroughly over your dough-y hand — this should get most of the stuck dough off.
Makes 6-8 buns
- 500g/18oz plain or strong white bread flour, plus extra plain flour for kneading
- 200ml/7 floz milk (I prefer semi-skimmed, but it’s your choice)
- Generous pinch saffron (about half a gram or so)
- 1 sachet fast-action dried yeast (should be about 7g)
- 1 teaspoon golden granulated sugar (for the yeast to feed on)
- 50-100ml/1.5-3 floz tepid water (about blood-heat)
- Generous handful of sultanas (technically optional)
- Put the milk in a jug and add the saffron and allow to soak at room temperature for 2 to three hours, or (if there’s a danger of the jug being knocked over and/or inquisitive kitties trying to drink the milk) for 24 hours in the fridge. Make sure the milk is allowed to come up to room temperature before adding to the dough. This helps release the saffron’s aromatic components.
- Mix the flour, yeast and sugar in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the saffrony milk a little at a time with one hand, mixing with the other until everything’s combined.
- Knead the dough mixture firmly, adding a little bit of the water at a time and pummelling thoroughly between each addition. (Tip: When your dough resembles a big lump plus lots of little bits, squish the big lump until it’s concave, put a load of the little bits into the dip and dribble the water into that, then fold it over and squash hard) Keep kneading until the dough goes into one smooth ball that feels nicely moist but isn’t very sticky, rolling it around the bowl as you go to pick up any stray little bits of flour, dough or saffron. Done right, the bowl should have no spare dough stuck to the sides and be pretty easy to clean afterwards.
- Keeping the dough in the bowl, put it in a warm place for half an hour to an hour to rise (supplemented with warm wheatbags if necessary). After the rising, knead in the sultanas (if using), divide into buns and place them on a greased baking tray. Stick a warm wheatbag under the tray, or put it in a warm place, and leave for half an hour or so for the second rising.
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Once it’s up to temperature, put the tray of buns in for 30 mins.
- Once the buns are done (check by lifting the largest one and tapping the base — if you get a hollow sound, it’s properly done), leave to cool a bit.
- Split, maybe toast, definitely have with lashings of butter!
Final tip: Be careful about the oven temperature — too low (150C-ish) and the buns won’t cook properly in the middle, too high (200C or so) and they turn out pretty crusty — still edible, but needing a little extra jaw work.