My neighbour grows saffron, so I’ve learned two things: don’t grow it yourself if your neighbour does (it’s hard work), and it’s best to soak the saffron overnight to extract the flavour.
- 1 sachet (7 g) dried yeast
- 1 tsp white sugar
- 300 g (2 cups) plain flour
- ¼ tsp saffron threads, soaked in 1 tbsp lukewarm water overnight if possible
- 50 g lard or unsalted butter, chopped, at room temperature
- 100 g currants, soaked in 60ml rum for 1 hour
- 50 g cornflour
- 1 litre milk
- 1 lemon, zested
- 1 vanilla bean, split, or 2 tsp vanilla essence
- 8 egg yolks or 5 whole eggs
- 130 g (⅔ cup) caster sugar
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Soaking time 1 hour
Proving time 1 hour 30 minutes
You need to make a thick custard for these buns; any leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days. The buns are best eaten the same day.
To make custard, dissolve cornflour in 60ml milk in a large bowl. Heat remaining 940 ml milk with zest and vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat until it almost reaches the boil. Remove from heat. Set aside for 15 minutes.
Whisk eggs and sugar into the cornflour mixture until smooth. Reheat milk and whisk it into the cornflour mixture, then strain into a clean pan. Place over low heat and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly, for 10 minutes or until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from heat, pour into a container and cover surface with plastic wrap, ensuring it touches the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Cool, then place in fridge. Makes about 4 cups.
Dissolve yeast and sugar in 185 ml water. Place flour and ½ tsp salt in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Add yeast mixture and saffron with soaking water, and combine. Knead until mixture forms a dough. Place in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, then set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 1 hour or until dough doubles in size.
Turn out dough onto a lightly floured work surface, add lard and knead for 2 minutes or until dough becomes glossy; it will be very sticky at first. Add drained currants, and knead until combined. Using floured hands, roll into 8 balls. Place reasonably close together on an oven tray lined with baking paper, cover with an upturned bowl or something that won’t touch the buns, and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 30 minutes or until nearly doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 220°C. Bake for 12 minutes or until buns sound hollow when tapped.
Once cool, cut two-thirds of the way through the buns, and fill them with the lemon custard to serve.
Photography by Alan Benson.