Saffron Earl Grey Tea Loaf

Happy Good Friday all! Andrés and I are lazing about the house today, preserving quince, roasting lamb (yes, I know this is usually saved for Sunday but today is the only day we are off together so we’re feasting early) and this morning I have been shaping and baking this loaf. In case you are all hot cross bunned out, this is equally satisfying and moreish. The texture of this loaf is akin to brioche, it is a pretty yellow colour from the saffron, and it works incredibly well as a vehicle for butter and marmalade.

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The original recipe comes from this month’s Delicious magazine. I can’t decide exactly when but at some point this last week I started dreaming about saffron and earl grey tea together in a brioche-type dough. I read loads about hot cross buns made with fruit steeped in earl grey tea and decided I could adapt a recipe to suit my needs. The tea doesn’t add flavour so much as plumps out the fruit in a rather glorious way. Take note, this is a two day affair. You proof the dough three times so it is easiest to make the dough the night before and proof it in the fridge overnight. Then you only have two proofs to do on the day you’d like to eat it. I took the dough from the fridge at 8.30am and we ate the loaf for brunch at 1pm. If you’re a dried fruit hater (I have been known to be one in the past), simply remove it. You can add in some candied peel if you like too.

Saffron Earl Grey Tea Loaf

Adapted from Delicious Magazine

For the dough:

1 tsp saffron

220ml full fat milk

zest of two clementines

500g strong white flour

1/2 tsp salt

100g golden caster sugar

8g quick yeast

1/2 tsp each ground cinnamon, ground ginger and mixed spice

2 eggs

75g unsalted butter, soft

60g sultanas

60g currants

2 tea bags earl grey tea

Heat the saffron in a small saucepan until the colour darkens (this literally takes like 2 minutes). Remove from the heat and grind into a fine powder. (You do not want any threads of saffron in your final loaf – I did this by using my pestle to grind the saffron directly in the pan but this is mostly because the mortar part is still in South Africa.) Add the milk to the saucepan (and put the saffron back if you have ground it in another pan/in a mortar or coffee grinder) along with the zest of the clementines and heat until scalding. Leave to infuse for about an hour – the mixture should be cooler than body temperature when you use it.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, place the flour, salt, sugar, spices and yeast. Make sure the salt and sugar are kept separate from the yeast. You don’t want to kill the yeast by accident. When your milk mixture is cool, mix the dry ingredients briefly using a dough hook. Whisk the eggs into the milk mixture and add in the butter in pieces. With the dough hook on low speed, pour the milk/egg/butter mixture slowly into the dry ingredients. Mix until everything is incorporated. Once the dough has come together, increase the speed to medium and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic – approximately 8-10 minutes. Take the bowl from the standing mixer, cover with clingfilm and leave in your fridge overnight.

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Place the currants and sultanas in a bowl with the tea bags. Pour over boiling water until the currants/sultanas are covered and leave to steep overnight.

The next morning, drain the currants and sultanas and remove the tea bags. Set aside.

Take the dough from the fridge and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knock it back lightly. Take handfuls of the raisins/currants and knead them into the dough. This is a messy procedure and you won’t incorporate the currants/sultanas entirely but try. Some will escape but don’t worry too much, so long as most of them are incorporated into the dough. Form the dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl. Cover with clingfilm and proof for an hour and a half in a warm spot (I always use the oven with the light switched on).

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Grease a large loaf tin and line the base with baking paper. When your dough has doubled in size, knock it back and weigh it. My dough weighed 1100g. Divide the dough into 10 equal portions and shape the portions into elongated buns. I found this easiest to do with wet hands as the dough is quite sticky. Fit these together into the loaf tin. Cover the tin with a clean shower cap or a plastic bag torn and secured with an elastic band. You do not want your loaf to rise and touch the plastic so make sure there is enough space between the top of the tin and the plastic. Proof again for approximately one hour – until the loaf is peeking up over the top of the tin.

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Preheat the oven to 180C. Make a paste with 25g flour, 1 tsp sunflower oil and 2 tbsp water. Pour this into a piping bag and pipe crosses (or any pattern of your choice) onto the tops of your buns.

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Bake for 40-45 minutes. After about half an hour, make a glaze for your loaf. You can either use apricot jam heated with a little water until smooth or you can make a glaze (as directed in Delicious) by heating 2 tbsp caster sugar and 75ml clementine juice (approximately both the clementines you zested earlier plus one more) for five minutes. When your loaf is baked through, remove it from the oven and glaze whilst it is warm. Allow it to cool before slicing.

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