Sunday, February 4, 2007

Saffron & Tomato Bread

So when's the last time you spent a thousand bucks or more to season your food?
Probably never, I'd wager. Even the most intrepid foodie isn't quite
that crazy to buy a pound of saffron at a time. But if you ever wanted to, y'know, splurge a bit, you'd be looking at 4 figures to get 16 ounces of these teeny threads.

Okay, I don't need to tell you that saffron is the most expensive spice in the world; everyone who's spent some time in a kitchen knows that already.

The photo above is a more reasonable amount for the home kitchen. That's about half a gram of Spanish
Coupé, which I carefully extracted from the darkest corner of our spice cabinet. At $10-15 a gram or more, it gets coddled like a baby - I keep it in a glass vial with a tight fitting cork, then it's wrapped in foil, then that bundle is stored in a sturdy zip-top bag. After all that, I drag out a chair to stand on and tuck it all the way in a back corner of the topmost shelf where no light or heat or draft can reach it.
(Most people have a spice rack. We have an entire cabinet for our spices/herbs/etc which makes dish storage a challenge. But, c'mon, priorities!!)

After watching this season of Top Chef, it was next to impossible not to have saffron on the mind (heh heh heh). Unfortunately I don't have Bravo's budget, so my use of saffron had to be calculated and judicious. Fortunately saffron has a strong, distinct enough flavor that a little bit goes a long way.

When saffron is paired with tomatoes and baked into bread, your loaves wind up with a beautiful orange color, a moist crumb, and a wonderfully complex flavor that doesn't need much more than a bit of butter or a hint peppery salami to enjoy.

Saffron & Tomato Bread
adapted from Fairholme Manor
makes 2 loaves

1 T active dry yeast
1/2 cup water, divided
about 8 saffron threads
1 1/2 cups crushed, seeded tomatoes
3 T honey
3 T olive oil
5 1/2 - 6 cups bread flour
1 T salt

About 1 hour before starting, steep saffron threads in 1/4 cup hot water. You can also do this the night before and hold in the refrigerator overnight.

Heat the remaining 1/4 cup water to 105* - 115*, or until it feels warm against the inside of your wrist. Mix in the yeast and the honey. In a large mixing bowl, or in the bowl of your stand mixer, allow to sit until frothy, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, warm the tomatoes and olive oil slightly.

Strain the threads from the saffron & water "tea" and discard threads. Add the 'tea' to the yeast mixture.
Add the tomatoes and olive oil. Mix well.

Add 2 cups of flour and mix until incorporated. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Add the salt and 2 more cups of bread flour. Mix well.
Continue adding flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough holds its shape and is soft and slightly sticky.
Knead the dough for 5 minutes in a mixer or 10 minutes by hand, adding a sprinkle of flour if needed, until it's supple, smooth, and moist but not sticky.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in bulk, 30-40 minutes. While they rise, preheat the oven to 375*.

Gently deflate the dough and divide in half. Form into two loaves - either in loaf pans or freeform rounds. Sprinkle tops with flour and let rise again, covered, until doubled in bulk.
When the loaves have risen, gently slash the tops with a razor or a sharp knife about 1/4" deep.

Bake at 375* for 40-45 minutes, or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped. Cool on wire racks before slicing.


wheresmymind said...

Saffron...such a precious ingredient for bread! :D

Misty said...

Sounds yummeh, but I thought I'd mention that when you list the ingredients, you list "1/2 water". Is water like milk, in that it comes in different percentages? What does skim water taste like? 2%? Whole? :)

Chellie said...

Misty, it's extra special water. Half water, half something else... O_O
LOL I fixed the recipe, it's supposed to be 1/2 CUP of water. ;)

I gotta pop in and visit with you guys one of these days. =P