Saffron is a spice from the Crocus genus of flower. The flowers grow 20-30cm and each bear up to four flowers. Each flower has three vivid crimson stigmas (strands). These ‘strands’ are collected and dried to be used mainly as a seasoning and a colouring in foods. Saffron is generally sold by weight, which as you can clearly imagine, it takes an awful lot of those stigma strands to produce a single gramme of the saffron we use in the culinary world. This makes it the most expensive spice in the world. Currently Iran produces approximately 90% of the world’s production of the saffron that is in use today. It takes approximately 80,000 saffron flowers to produce just 500 grammes of finished saffron.
Saffron has a hay like fragrance and contains a pigment which gives a golden yellow colour to dishes. It has also been used to dye fabrics and textiles as far back as the 7th Century and has been traded and used for over 4,000 years.
I was recently sent a sample of saffron to try from the Premier Saffron company who import their hand picked saffron from Iran.
225g Plain flour
25g Caster sugar
30ml (approx.) cold water
5-6 strands Saffron
125g Caster sugar
150g Ground almonds
75g Ground Rice
2.5ml Almond essence
45ml Raspberry jam
Flaked almonds to decorate
1. To make the pastry, cut the lard and butter into small cubes and add them to a large bowl containing the flour and sugar. (I use half lard and half butter to give a ‘short’ crisp pastry, as taught to me by my nan and my mum).
2. Rub them together with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs (it helps to keep the pastry cool and the butter and lard not to melt if you only use your finger tips).
3. Add the cold water, a little at a time, until the mixture comes together to form a dough.
4. Wrap in cling film and leave to chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.
5. Heat the oven to 190℃, and place an upturned rectangular baking tin in to heat up (this will help prevent your tart from getting a ‘soggy bottom’.
6. Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out to an even thickness to line a 20cm square tin.
7. Retain the pastry trimmings for decoration.
8. Return the pastry lined tin to the fridge to chill whilst you prepare the filling.
9. Place the saffron strands onto an oven proof plate and heat in the oven for 4-5 minutes until warmed (this helps the flavour and colour release from the strands).
10. Warm the milk gently then add the warm saffron strands. Stir and leave to infuse for a few minutes. The milk will turn a summery pale yellow colour.
11. In a large bowl, place the butter, caster sugar, ground almonds, ground rice, eggs and almond essence.
12. Add the milk and saffron mixture and beat until well incorporated.
13. Remove the pastry case from the fridge and spread the jam evenly over the base.
14. Pour the filling mixture into the pastry case, over the top of the jam.
15. Re-roll the pastry trimmings and use to decorate the top of the Bakewell Tart.
16. Sprinkle with flaked almonds to decorate.
17. Place in the oven on top of the upturned baking tin and bake for 35-40 minutes until the top is golden brown and the pastry is cooked.
18. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then remove the tart from the tin on to a wire cooling rack and leave until cold.
19. Slice and serve with custard or simply on its own with a cup of tea.
The saffron adds a very subtle flavour to the Bakewell Tart and marries perfectly with the almonds.
I was sent a pack of the saffron strands from Premier Saffron to try. I was under no obligation to create a recipe or to link to their website as a result of receiving the sample.