1 tsp. saffron threads
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 c. boiling water
1 3/4 c. milk
1/3 c. butter
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 pkgs active dry yeast
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 c. lukewarm water
2 eggs, divided
6 1/2 - 7 1/2 c. bread flour, divided
1/2 c. slivered almonds (optional)
1/2 c. mixed candied orange and lemon peel, diced (optional)
2/3 c. golden raisins (optional)
2-4 T. raisins
Place saffron threads on a piece of aluminum foil, and dry in a 200-degree oven for about 5 minutes (be careful not to burn the saffron). Grind dried saffron and 1 tsp. sugar into a powder in a mortar and pestle. Pour mixture into a small bowl; stir in 1/4 boiling water, and set aside.
Combine milk and butter in a saucepan; heat over low heat until very warm. Stir in 1 c. sugar and the salt. Cool to lukewarm.Dissolve yeast and 2 tsp. sugar in 1/2 c. lukewarm water; set aside.
Beat 1 egg in large bowl of electric mixer, add above 3 mixtures, and mix well. Gradually add 3 1/2 c. flour. Beat 5 minutes. Gradually add another 3 c. flour, and mix well.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead for 8-10 minutes (or knead in a mixer with dough hook), adding only as much of the last c. of flour as needed to keep dough from being too sticky. If using nuts and fruit in the dough, add them now (reserve the raisins for later), gently working them into the dough until they’re distributed evenly.
Place dough in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel, and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk (about 2 hours). Punch dough down, turn out onto a floured surface, and divide into 28 equal pieces, each about the size of a large lemon.
Roll each piece of dough into a 10-inch-long strip. Form into S-shapes, or other traditional shapes. Place on greased baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in bulk (about 1 1/2 hour).
Beat remaining egg with 1 tsp. water, and brush on buns. Press a dark raisin into the center of each coil. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 10-15 minutes, or until browned. Wrap buns lightly in a kitchen towel, and cool on wire racks.
From the January 2003 issue.