It might surprise you to find out that saffron is a very popular spice at Christmas and Easter in Sweden, especially in baked goods. With a glorious splash of honey yellow and a delicious subtle floral yet earthy flavour, it adds a wonderful warmth to these Swedish Saffron and Vanilla Buns.
A sweet, enriched yeasted dough, flavoured with saffron and peppery-sweet cardamom, laminated with vanilla sugar, makes up the buns. In addition they’re topped with a delicious swirl of creme patisserie and then lightly showered with sugar nibs.
This recipe may seem long winded however each step is easily accomplished and can be prepared well in advance of baking. I often prepare the dough the day before and then pop it straight in the fridge in a covered bowl, to prove slowly overnight. Proceed from stage 3 the next morning. The second proving takes a little longer but this can be overcome. Place the prepared buns on a lined baking tray in the oven SWITCHED OFF with a bowl of boiling water, no need to cover them. This warm steamy environment is perfect for proving.
I’ve introduced the tanghzong method to this enriched dough, a Japanese technique which makes bread softer and lighter. If you’d like to read a little more about this method used in a different vanilla bun recipe then click here
Pack these Saffron and Vanilla Buns in a rucksack or in a picnic basket for the perfect indulgent treat this Easter.
Swedish Saffron and Vanilla Buns
- 35 ml water
- 35 ml milk
- 12 g strong flour
- 15 g fresh yeast or 8g fast action dried yeast
- 125 ml milk
- ½ tsp saffron stamens
- a good pinch fine sea salt
- 300 g white bread flour
- 1 tsp freshly ground cardamom
- 20 g caster sugar
- 40 g butter room temperature
- 1 egg 1/2 for the dough and the remaining for glazing
- 45 g unsalted butter
- 20 g caster sugar
- ¼ tsp vanilla bean paste
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 200 g whole milk
- 50 g caster sugar
- 2 egg yolks large
- 22 g cornflour
- 10 g unsalted butter room temperature
- Begin with the creme patisserie. Pour the milk into a saucepan and set to a medium-low heat. In a bowl beat the egg yolks, sugar, vanilla bean paste and cornflour until pale and fluffy.
- When the milk has come to a simmer, pour over the egg mixture, whisking as you pour.
- Now pour the mixture back into the saucepan and heat, whisking continuously. The mixture will thicken substantially. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter. Pour into a clean bowl and place a parchment disc directly on the surface of the custard to stop a skin forming. Cool completely before using.
- Place all three ingredients in a small saucepan. Whisk together with a balloon whisk, on a medium until it thickens and bubbles. Remove from the heat and pour into a bowl and cover. Once it’s cooled to room temperature, it’s ready to use.
- Place the saffron stamens in a very small bowl. Crush with the end f a wooden spoon. Pour the milk into a small saucepan and add the saffron and heat to 38°C, remove from the heat and add the fresh yeast, whisk to incorporate (if using fast action yeast add it to the flour). Place the flour, tangzhong, cardamom, sugar and salt in the bowl of a free standing mixer with the dough hook attached. Add the milk mixture and egg with the motor running. Mix until a dough forms on a slow speed. Once the dough has come together add the butter, increase the pace to medium/high and work the dough for another 5-8 minutes or until it feels shiny and smooth. You mat need to add a tablespoon of flour if the dough is sticking to the sides of the bowl. Cover and rest for 20-30 minutes.
- Mix the butter, sugar, and vanilla bean paste together until smooth. Set to one side.
- Lightly dust the work surface with flour. Knock back the dough and then rolling out into a rectangle measuring 70 x 20cm. Spread the butter-sugar mixture onto half of the surface. Fold the dough in half, then roll again gently to make an approximate rectangle measuring 50 x1 8cm, approximately.
- Cut the dough into 10 even strips, I find a pizza wheel good for this job. Twist each strip , slightly stretching it as you do so. Coil into a round bun, tucking the end underneath. Continue with the rest of the strips.
- Arrange the buns on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (if they’re too crowded, use 2 sheets), keeping as much space between them as possible or coil the dough into muffin cases in a muffin tin. Cover and prove for 30–45 minutes or until almost double in size.
- Meanwhile, set the oven shelf to the middle position and pre-heat to 200°C fan.
- Brush the buns with an egg wash, then spoon or pipe the creme patisserie in the centre of each bun, sprinkle with sugar nibs or a combination of freshly ground cardamom and caster sugar. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Place the buns on a wire rack to cool completely.
- The buns are best eaten on the day they are made. They cannot be frozen.