Herbal Recipes for a Holiday Feast: Saffron Baguettes

Make this crusty, flavorful bread to accompany a stew.

| December/January 1994

Makes 5 small or 2 large long loaves 

There’s something especially festive about saffron. It lends these tender loaves a rich golden color with flecks of crimson and a tantalizing, earthy flavor. I like to slice and toast the baguettes so they contrast in color and texture with the creamy, pale stew. This recipe was developed by my wife, Gay.

• 1 1/2 cups water
• 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
• 2 packets dry yeast
• 1/2 teaspoon sugar
• 1 cup warm water (105–115 degrees)
• 6 cups unbleached flour
• 1 tablespoon salt
• 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
• 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water

1. In a small saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil, stir in the saffron, and remove the pan from the heat. In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast and sugar into 1 cup warm water, stir, and let stand.

2. When the saffron mixture is just warm and the yeast is foamy, place the flour, salt, and chives in the bowl of an electric mixer equipped with a dough hook, and add the saffron and yeast mixtures. On slow speed, combine ingredients until just moistened. Increase the speed to medium and mix 5 minutes longer, adding more flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to the bowl. If you don’t have an electric mixer with a dough hook, place the dry ingredients in a large bowl, make a well in the center, and pour the liquids into the well. Mix with a wooden spoon, starting at the center and working outward. When the dough becomes too stiff to stir, turn it out onto a floured board and knead it until smooth, adding more flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to the board.

3. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover, and set the bowl in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in bulk. Punch it down, turn it out onto a board, and cut it into five small or two large pieces. Shape each one into a long, tapered roll. Place the baguettes on baking sheets sprinkled with cornmeal, cover them loosely with a moist towel, and let them stand about 1 hour, or until doubled.

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