Breads 30 & 31: Cornish saffron buns and Greek New Year bread

Both of these are delicately-spiced sweet breads, not the sort of bread I usually bake. I’ve previously avoided saffron on the principle that nothing that is mainly famous for how expensive it is can be worth the price. However, I have some left over from the Medieval feast, and I seized the opportunity to try it out. saffron buns (2)

I made this recipe for saffron buns, which calls for 1 drachm of the stuff. I’m a little baffled, because if I’ve understood the conversion correctly, this is almost 2 grams – far too much of the flavour and equivalent to four pots of it as sold! I used the amount in the bowl above. I’m not sure how much this weighs, but it was half of what I had left (I think about 0.3g, so 0.15g), and the taste came through nicely.

The flavour is warm and woody, and robust. Saffron gently underlines the sweetness and fattiness of an enriched bread. I would use it again for a special occasion.

saffron buns

I spent New Year at a house party on the wind-swept coast of Sussex. The house was a thin-walled wooden one right on the sea front, and its sturdiness in the face of the howling wind and rain of the past few days was remarkable.

I made this Greek New Year bread (vasilopita) for the party. It has mahlepi and mastic crystals in it, which I tracked down in a Greek grocers in Bayswater, the latter labelled as mezdeki (the Turkish word for it, I think). If you can’t find them, they can be substituted with fennel and aniseed. I didn’t have much time to make this on the day I left and sweet fatty doughs are notoriously slow to rise, so I used half of the flour the night beforehand to make a sponge and got the yeast off to a flying start. This cut the whole process down to about 5 hours on the day.

The texture is quite like pannetone: a smooth and confident sweet bread. The bread turned out under-cooked in the centre, which I attribute to being in a rush and also to making a single large loaf instead of two small ones. But I was rather pleased with this overall; it was good fun to make something celebratory and decorative. Please note the inelegant ‘2014’ below. Happy New Year!

Greek New Year (2)