I even like Saffron Burrows
January 28, 2009 4:00 PM   Subscribe

Inspired by the Brunch Like a Viking Meta and the saffron buns therein, I'm looking for your best recipes containing saffron as a key ingredient. Also: where can I get saffron?
posted by misha to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Saffron's not terribly hard to get in most supermarkets/grocery stores. Here in the UK, my local Co-Op definitely has it, if you're in the States, try Publix. The problem is that when you do find it, it's damnned expensive. Have to ask someone else for recipes :)
posted by fearnothing at 4:09 PM on January 28, 2009

I can find saffron in the spices section of my regular old chain grocery store. A tiny, tiny little packet, comes in a regular sized spice bottle, from Spice Islands runs a little over $15 in the midwest. I recently found a little box of saffron in another local grocery store that offered 2-3 times as much saffron at half the price, but it's essentially flavorless.
posted by Science! at 4:09 PM on January 28, 2009

You should be able to pick up saffron from any good supermarket in the herbs and spices section - look for a tiny vial or tub with a small pinch inside. Failing that, an Indian or Middle-Eastern shop will be sure to stock it. Spanish is good, Iranian is excellent and Kashmiri is supposed to be the best and most expensive (I use whatever is cheapest at the time).

Saffron loves rice, so look for recipes for paella, biriyani, and risotto (I make crab and saffron risotto and it's lovely). You can use small amounts in sweet dishes like puddings, cookies, custards and pastries. I use it to make fresh pasta and it makes it deliciously golden. Essentially, you can add it to just about anything that benefits from a golden colour and/or a fragrant, woodsy, spice flavour.

The key thing is to remember that a little goes a LONG way (which is good, coz it's damn expensive). You generally only need a few threads in an eggcup of hot water (mash them a bit with a spoon and let it sit for 10 minutes) or whatever other liquid your recipe will be using.

Be adventurous! Some recipes to get you started are here and here (including your Swedish saffron buns). Good luck!
posted by ninazer0 at 4:17 PM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

I really love this chicken biryani recipe--it's a little complicated but so very good.
posted by carrienation at 4:21 PM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Check out Manjula's Kitchen for Indian recipes, she's awesome.
posted by Science! at 4:23 PM on January 28, 2009

Penzey's spice store has outlets across the country, a mail order catalog, and an online page. Their saffron is good and not too expensive.

Add a little to a vanilla pudding.
posted by acrasis at 4:26 PM on January 28, 2009

You guys are great! Please keep them coming. ninazerO, I can't believe all those recipes are in one link!
posted by misha at 4:31 PM on January 28, 2009

Amazon's gourmet section has quite a few options at all price points.
posted by aquafortis at 4:46 PM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Both the glögg and the saffron buns mentioned in the article are traditionally for Christmas season only. Here is a normal Swedish Lussekatter (saffron bun called "Lucia cats") recipe (traditionally baked for Saint Lucy's day on December 13.)

1 cake compressed fresh yeast (About 50 grams. Substitute one 1/4 oz package of active dry yeast)
150 grams (about 3/4 cup) butter
5 deciliter (500 ml or 2.15 cups) milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1.5 deciliter (0.6 cups) sugar
1 - 2 teaspoon ground cardamon to taste
1 gram saffron (approximately 1/4 teaspoon)
1.4 - 1.5 liters (6 - 6.5 cups) unbleached flour
1 egg and raisins for garnish

Crush the saffron threads into a fine powder in a mortar and pestle (put a sugar cube in the mortar to make it easier), then dissolve it in a splash of the milk.
Melt the fat.
Add milk to the fat and warm to lukewarm (37C/98.6F).
Thoroughly mix the yeast with some of the warm milk
Combine the milk/butter, yeast, saffron, salt, and sugar into a bowl
Add almost all of the flour (about 6 cups) to the bowl
Work the dough until it lets go of the edges of the bowl, adding more flour if necessary
Spread some loose flour over the dough and cover it with a clean towel.
Let it rise to double its size, approximately 30 minutes
Work the dough lightly on a floured surface. It should be a light, pilable and rather loose dough
Form the dough into wreaths, S-shaped "cats" or small smooth buns
Put them on a non-stick oven paper on a baking tray and let rise for 20-30 minutes (shorter time for smaller shapes)
Brush with a whisked egg and garnish with raisins
Bake in oven 5-10 minutes at 440 degrees F (225 C)

If you want to try to use saffron in other recipes, you can use it in any type of soft cake or bun. Just add a little extra fat and some additional sugar, or it will get dry.

You can buy saffron at the regular grocery store spice aisle, although it's pretty poor quality and very expensive. There are places online where you can buy powdered saffron or strands of saffron that are higher qualities, but I would suggest trying the supermarket brand first.
posted by gemmy at 5:28 PM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

This recipe for saffron chicken risotto is one I'm fond of, and it's not at all hard to make — it involves a lot of stirring, but no real technique beyond that. It's meant to be done with seafood; there's a link to the original if you prefer that.

If you like saffron, do yourself a favor and don't buy it from the grocery store. I did the math and it's like $300/oz from our local supermarket. Saffron Vanilla Imports will sell you a stupendous amount (compared to the tiny crack-vial quantities you get normally) for relatively cheap ($65 for a half or $120 for an ounce), and it is better quality. They also sell real vanilla beans, which are awesome as well. At least when I ordered, they tossed in some free vanilla beans as a sample, along with my saffron.

Kept properly, saffron lasts quite a while, so if you can afford it I'd pick up a half-ounce, especially if you like the flavor and are planning on doing a lot of experimental cooking with it. With some recipes, it can take a few tries to get the flavor right — too little saffron and they can be bland, too much and it can be overwhelming or just bitter.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:11 PM on January 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

i just had some saffron pistachio ice cream (or kulfi i guess) from the indian market and it was sooooooooo good. i bet a pinch of saffron plus some chopped pistachios in a normal vanilla ice cream recipe would be close.
posted by genmonster at 7:05 PM on January 28, 2009

Second recommendation for saffron.com, although the price seems to have fluctuated significantly - back in March 2006 a half ounce of iranian saffron was $21.95. Just for reference, I use it frequently, have given away a couple of good sized chunks to friends, and still have plenty left over from that original batch. Way better both in quality and price than the supermarket stuff...
posted by mikw at 12:38 AM on January 29, 2009

I made these saffron cookies just a few days ago, I made them with chopped cashew nuts in them and they were really tasty. I think they might get even better if you add a bit of orange zest.

About buying half an ounce (or even a whole), that seems to be quite a lot, I've usually seen it sold in 0.5g (that's 0.017oz) packets. If you're sure you like the flavour of saffron and are sure you're going to try lots of things with saffron, then it sounds like a great deal, but if you're just starting out perhaps it'd be better to buy one of those small packets first just in case you discover you aren't that fond of saffron after all.
posted by bjrn at 2:02 AM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Saffron is lovely in risottos-- just a pinch, added at the frying stage. I also love saffron rice pudding. I make it on the stovetop, risotto style.

Rice (I use risotto rice but you could also use basmati), milk/coconut milk, saffron, orange zest, cardamom pods, cinnamon, ginger, a dash of vanilla. Sugar to taste. You could also add pistachio nuts.
posted by Pallas Athena at 12:35 PM on January 29, 2009

You can add it to chicken soup to get a lovely, rich yellow color. This is typically known as Amish Chicken Soup. Also, it's great for braising chicken, and will give the chicken a great yellowish color.
posted by xammerboy at 4:22 PM on January 29, 2009

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