Here at LaDomestique.com, I’m wrapping up a week spent on saffron with Saffron Rolls from one of my favorite baking books- Dough: Simple Contemporary Bread. I have been a huge fan of Richard Bertinet, who wrote this book, for years. He’s a French born baker/chef now living in England. Richard Bertinet currently teaches bread and cooking classes to students of all abilities at the Bertinet Kitchen Cookery School in Bath. When I bought his cookbook, Dough, it came with a DVD that shows Richard demonstrating techniques from the book. I found him endearing on video and liked his writing style because it was relaxed and so real life. In the book, Richard Bertinet writes about getting to a place where baking bread is a natural part of the rhythm of family life. I love this quote, “To me baking bread is part of making a meal . . . and I can’t imagine dinner without bread.” It’s this idea that with practice, you can arrive home from work and throw a loaf of bread in the oven in time for supper. This may sound impossible, but I’ve found it’s true. One day, when I had enough of soul-less store bought bread, I announced to the husband that “we are not buying another loaf of bread.” It was like throwing down a challenge, an ultimatum. From that moment on I’ve begun baking all the bread we eat. Now it’s a habit, and making bread dough has become second nature to me.
Richard doesn’t bog the reader down in too much science or technique. His instructions are simple and straightforward so you can stop reading about baking bread and just get to the baking part. I like how he cultivates intuitive cooking by keeping the instruction minimal. Learn the feel of the dough. Know how the dough should be at each stage. Adjust things if you need to. Trust yourself, and learn from your mistakes. These are the things I’ve taken from Dough.
Richard Bertinet encourages his students to be creative and come up with interesting breads on their own. Almost like a father encouraging his child to give it a try and see, not demanding you follow his way. Dough is a collection of recipes organized by dough type: white, brown, olive, rye and sweet. Each chapter provides variations on the dough type. I found Saffron Rolls in the White dough chapter.
In reference to the saffron in this white bread roll he writes, “used in bread as a background flavor, it gives a lovely warm and delicate note.” You might expect more pizazz from saffron bread, but don’t let that lead you into using too much of the spice. A little goes a long way, and too much saffron is bitter and medicinal. I absolutely love this recipe. The rolls are soft and airy in the center. The saffron flavor is mild but lingers on the palate long after the bread is gone. Cumin seeds sprinkled atop the rolls add a bit of Middle Eastern exotic flair. Richard Bertinet suggests using these rolls for crab or shrimp salad sandwiches.
Here I give an overview of the process. For the recipe, you’ll have to pick up his book.
The ingredients list for making Saffron Rolls is short: active dry yeast, white bread flour, fine-grain salt, water, cumin seeds and a pinch of saffron threads. I always like to bake with my hands, so I follow Richard’s instructions for combining it all in a bowl. The dough is pretty wet, and his method for working the dough is unique. It involves slapping the dough on the counter, stretching it, and trapping air by folding the dough over on itself. The video that comes with his book demonstrates this technique. Once the dough is elastic and no longer sticks to the counter it is well worked and ready to rise. The dough is placed back in the bowl, covered with a towel and allowed to rise for 1 hour.
After an hour has passed the dough has grown quite a bit. It smells sweet and yeasty and air bubbles stretch the surface of the dough. It’s time to turn the dough out onto the counter and shape it. I begin by flattening the dough into a rectangle. The the sides are folded over like a letter to be put in an envelope. Take the log and slice off 9-10 pieces, each weighing 3-4 oz. These are the rolls and it’s time to shape them into little balls.
Once the rolls are shaped a rolling pin is pressed into the center to create a seam in the dough. This is just for looks. As you’ll see, my rolls didn’t keep that coffee bean shape, but the were still round and rose perfectly, so I didn’t worry about it too much.
After being shaped the rolls are placed on a baking tray lined with a lint free towel and allowed to rise for 45 minutes.
The oven is preheated and the rolls are sprinkled with cumin. Richard Bertinet instructs us to slide the rolls from a baking peel onto a hot stone or upturned sheet pan in the oven.
I hope you enjoyed saffron week at La Domestique. Have a wonderful weekend!
Note: I am baking bread at an altitude of 5,000 feet. The only adjustments I make are to pay close attention to my bread as is rises, because everything happens more quickly at altitude. Better to under-proof your bread than over do it, because the bread will continue to rise in the oven. Over-proofed bread looks sweaty, saggy, and sad. Get that bread into the oven while the yeast is still doing good work.
Also, the book Dough: Simple Contemporary Bread is translated from English metrics to our measuring system of ounces in America. I have noticed at least one mistake in this book where the author calls for 2 tablespoons salt rather than 2 teaspoons- big difference. Pay attention when using this book and use your common sense.