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Cornish Saffron Cake

Servings: Makes 2 (1 pound) loaves or 16 buns
From Cornwall England, comes the Saffron cake, once made only at Easter time but now available from many Cornish bakers throughout the year. Saffron was once grown in England, in Saffron Walden in Essex, but there is a story that it first arrived in the country with the Phoenicians who traded it for Cornish tin. It was certainly grown in Cornwall until the eighteenth century.

Large pinch saffron strands
4 tablespoons boiling water
1 oz. (25g) fresh yeast
6 fl. oz. (175ml) milk, warmed
1 lb. (450g) all-purpose flour
pinch salt
1/4 nutmeg, freshly grated
5 oz. (150g) butter
8 oz. (225g) currants
2 oz. (50g) candied peel, chopped
2 eggs, beaten

Put the saffron into a bowl and pour on the boiling water. Leave it to infuse overnight.

In a small bowl sprinkle the yeast into the milk. Put the flour into a mixing bowl and add the salt and nutmeg. Rub in the butter. Toss in the currants and peel. Make a well in the centre. Pour in the saffron and saffron water, yeast mixture and eggs. Mix everything to a dough. Knead the dough in the bowl. Cover it and leave it in a warm place for 1 hour or until it has doubled in size.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C/Gas Mark 4. Knead the dough again. Either divide it into two and put it into two greased 9 x 5-inch (450g/1 lb) loaf tins, or divide it into sixteen buns and put them onto a floured baking sheet. Cover the loaves or buns with a cloth again and leave them in a warm place for 10 minutes, or until the loaves have risen about 1/2-inch (1.5cm) above the top of the tin and the buns have almost doubled in size.

Bake the loaves for 1 hour and the buns for 30 minutes. Cool them on wire racks. Eat them plain or buttered.

Makes 2 (1 pound) loaves or 16 buns.

Source: The Complete Bread Book by Gail Duff
Date: November 28, 2004