Week 3 of Bread: Saffron Basil

February 18, 2008 at 12:23 pm 8 comments

Saffron infusion 

Everybody ready?  It’s time for SFTF’s third and final Week of Bread.  Actually, I’m hoping I really can rein myself in to keep this to just one last week.  You know me and bread; can’t get enough of the stuff.  Luckily, if only for the sake of my hips, we’re not too far away from the start of the growing season so I can get back to recipes featuring fresh locally grown produce.  The baby bok choy seeds are already pushing up out of the soil in their trays in the greenhouse just four days after we planted them.  Talk about your “go-getters”! 

Saffron Basil Breadsticks

With the promise of a new season, it becomes a little easier to stop rationing the preserves I put aside for winter.  I have just a few cubes of frozen basil puree left, most of which I want to use in soup and pasta dishes. Since fresh basil is still a few months away, it might be brash to throw two more cubes into a second bread recipe (here’s the first recipe).  But I couldn’t help myself as I really wanted to try these Saffron Basil Breadsticks

Saffron strands basil puree
Flour Dough with saffron and basil specks

Saffron is fascinating to me. It’s such a precious commodity, taken from the heart of beautiful crocus blossoms, with what I consider to be an effervescent earthy scent.  I realize not everyone enjoys a smell reminiscent of fresh cut hay as much as I do – I am a farm girl at heart after all.  But taking into account saffron’s history in which kings would send ships half way across the world to get it, paint pictures of it all over their palaces, and offer it to their gods, I’m obviously not a complete loon. 

Pouring saffron infusion into flour mixture

Fortunately for those of us who aren’t kings and thus have no armadas of ships to fetch our spices, there’s the good old internet.  Buying saffron in bulk (and by “bulk” I simply mean getting more than a mere dozen overpriced strands) online makes this princely seasoning quite affordable for even a pauper.  I got mine here and love using it lavishly without a single guilty twinge for my wallet. 

Raw breadsticks

Saffron and basil, with its peppery bright flavor, are happy companions in most any dish.  They elevate these breadsticks from simple pasta accompaniments to an item on the menu worth noting.  The recipe yields more breadsticks than any normal person, save for a party host, would need at one time.  I froze half of mine and look forward to pulling a half dozen out at a time to bake off and serve with a weeknight dinner fit for a king! 

Breadsticks for freezing

Saffron Basil Breadsticks
Taken from The Practical Encyclopedia of Baking

1 t. saffron strands
2 T. hot water
4 c. white bread flour
1 t. salt
2 t. rapid-rise dry yeast
1 ¼ c. lukewarm water
3 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 T. frozen basil puree or 3 T. chopped fresh basil

Infuse the saffron strands in the hot water for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl.  Stir in the yeast and make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. 

Pour in the saffron infusion and the lukewarm water.  Begin to combine just a bit before adding the oil and basil.  Continue mixing until a soft dough forms.  Turn dough out on to a lightly floured counter.  Knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.  Clean out the mixing bowl, spray lightly with oil, and place dough inside.  Cover with a towel and let rise for about an hour or until doubled in size. 

Punch down and knead dough for a minute or two before dividing in half.  Working with one half of dough, divide again in half.  Then divide each half into four equal pieces.  Repeat this process until you have 32 small pieces of dough.  Roll each piece between your hands to form a long snake of dough.  Place on a greased baking sheet, leaving at least two inches between each piece.  Let sit for 15 minutes to become puffy again.

Preheat oven to 425 F.  Lightly spray dough with non-stick cooking spray.  Bake breadsticks for 15 minutes until crispy and golden.  Serve warm.  Store in a ziplock bag for up to a week.  

Since this recipe makes quite a few breadsticks, you can bake them for 10 minutes, let them cool, and then freeze them.  When ready to use, heat the oven to 425 F and bake for 10 more minutes or until golden brown. 

(makes 32)

Saffron Basil Bread Sticks


Entry filed under: Bread, Recipes. Tags: , , , , , , .

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Christine  |  February 18, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    These look really fantastic. But if, say, I didn’t have a stash of saffron in the house and desperately needed breadsticks sooner than a mail-order box could arrive…can you think of something I might substitute?

    Also, what do you know about the difference between “rapid rise” yeast and regular yeast? I always buy the regular yeast packets because the rapid-rise kind sort of scares me…but I notice that in this recipe you specifically call for the rapid-rise variety. What’s the difference?

  • 2. Sue (coffeepot)  |  February 18, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    Those look so good.

    I am out of saffron, but I might do them with some of my frozen basil stash and just see what they taste like less the saffron.

  • 3. Jennie  |  February 18, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    Christine and Sue – Do you have turmeric on hand? That’s a good substitution, if only for the color. If, by some chance, you have either zanzibar/safflowers buds on hand or calendula petals (talk about a long shot), those too can stand in for saffron. Otherwise, I think I would just try out any spice combination that floats your boat…maybe parmesan and basil? Or dill and garlic powder? If either of you make a stab at a new flavor, please let me know! 🙂

  • 4. Jo  |  February 19, 2008 at 10:50 am

    I tried your recipe for Miracle Bread this weekend, my first ever attempt at making bread. And it turned out great! I can’t wait to try some of your other recipes.

  • 5. Jennie  |  February 19, 2008 at 11:25 am

    Jo – Woohoo!!! I love converting newbie breadmakers!! Welcome to the fold! 🙂

  • 6. Jennie  |  February 21, 2008 at 8:06 am

    Christine – Woops, I just now realized I never answered your question about the difference between dry active yeast and rapid rise yeast. I don’t have a scientific explaination but I can tell you how *I* use them differently.

    Dry active yeast: This is the kind I always proof first so it’s what I use for any type of bread that I’m afraid to make without testing the yeast, which usually includes larger loaves and/or a dough with a lot of “stuff” in it. This type of yeast is not nearly as “hungry” as the rapid rise variety so the dough takes substaintial time to rise and usually is more dense once baked.

    Rapid rise yeast: This kind I almost always mix straight into the flour without proofing it. I like to use it for rolls and similar smaller airy dough creations, such as bread sticks. It lives up to its name in that a dough made with rapid rise yeast will double in size in about 30 minutes instead of two hours. Why not always use it, you ask? I personally think the flavor of the resulting bread is not at “deep” (i.e., hinting of sweetness from the yeast’s gas) when it rises so quickly. I’m sure there’s a more scientific reason too that a real artisian bread maker could explain. 🙂

    By the way, there’s also something called easy blend yeast, and I *think* its a combination of the more traditional dry active yeast and the rapid rise. I had a few packs of it once, but don’t really see it all that often in the supermarket.

    All in all, I’ll try to do some research and figure out more factual answers to your question. I’ll put up a yeast primer if I can get enough materials together.

    Really good question, btw!! 🙂

  • 7. N.G.Modak  |  September 12, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    wer can i get the techonology of growing safron in green house

  • 8. Michael Beyer  |  September 26, 2010 at 5:01 am

    If you like saffron, try making this savory rigatoni with braised chicken and saffron cream. It is unbelievable.


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