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post #1 of 29
Thread Starter 
Having made a batch of my roasted garlic and pesto bread to photograph, my husband and I played the roll of the bread fairies and took loaves to nearby friends.

Friend number one offered up a plate of the fine dinner she was preparing, we declined as we had another delivery to make.

Friend number two is a co-worker of my husband. We caught him just in time for his spaghetti dinner. He was very grateful and instead of dinner he offered (and I greedily accepted) a jar of saffron he picked up when he was in the Middle East last week. (Husband and friend work at a distance learning institution that has contracts with a number of foreign governments and they are always all over the place. I’m not sure if he was in Bahrain or Saudi when he bought the saffron, but it came from an open air market. He haggled for it and everything.)

I have never cooked anything with saffron, ever. The cost and the fact that I am so unfamiliar with it has kept me from just picking some up to play with. So, all my saffron knowledge is theoretical at best.

I would really appreciate some input here. I’m guessing that there are about three Tablespoons (possibly more of saffron) in the jar so I think I’ve got a fair amount to work with. What should I do with it? Keep in mind that I would like to make something for the friend who gave it to me, something that can be sent to work with my husband and sit around the office all day. Probably a baked good or confection, which is my comfort zone anyway. But, I’m thinking that I have enough to do several things with.

Help. I really want to maximize what I’ve got and figured ya’ll would be the ones to ask.

Thanks in advance.
post #2 of 29
Saffron is really and truly bad for you, Izbnso. You need to quickly package it up and send it to me for proper disposal!:look:

Swedish Saffron Buns might be right up your ally. I haven't made them in years, but I'll see if I can dig up the recipe.

Three tablespoons of saffron is a princely gift indeed. For most uses it is measured in pinches. Typically, a pinch of saffron is pulverized between the fingers into a small amount of warm water, and the saffron water added to the dish.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
post #3 of 29
I rarely cook rice without a pinch of saffron added to the start of the cooking & mixed in well. I also will add a pinch to any beef stew I make.

My brother-in-law always brings me a 1/4 gram or sometimes a 1/2 gram when he makes his trips to the middle east.
Preparing a fine meal with quality ingredients is the most practical way we show our love. How we plate shows the depth of our caring.
Preparing a fine meal with quality ingredients is the most practical way we show our love. How we plate shows the depth of our caring.
post #4 of 29
Just a few thoughts:

There are three major sources for saffron in the world: Spain, Iran and India. Those three regional cuisines offer lots of opportunities to use your wonderful gift.

The "right" way to measure it for most purposes is by the strand. Figure a "pinch" at about 6 strands. This depends to some extent on the quality of the saffron. Each country produces several different grades -- the better the saffron the more powerful and the less needed. So, you adjust as you learn your particular saffron. Speaking of learning, it's important to "bloom" it before you use it. That is, let it soak in some of whatever liquid you'll be using for 20 minutes or so before incorporating it.

Saffron has an interesting flavor profile as a background note. It has more or its own identity than, say, turmeric. Nor does it bring out other spices the way turmeric does. Rather, it marries them. An interesting American saffron alternative is anatto, often sold as achiote is less colorful and more flavorful. But I digress.

Paella is a kind of rice dish from Spain. Most Americans immediately think of Paella Valenciana, a mixed paella with chicken, sausage, and a variety of seafood. I"m not saying no Spaniard would eat it, but let's say it's wildly unlike anything you're likely to find in Spain. Anyway, to make a good paella you'll need a special (inexpensive!) pan which cooks the rice just so. Paella cannot be baked, it cannot be cooked in a big pot. It cannot be made with the lid on. Surprisingly, Paella is not sticky or clumpy, and the meat isn't overcooked. If you haven't had real paella, you just don't know.

To my mind, a summer meal built around sherry and Spanish wine, a few tapas, gazpacho and a good paella, sounds like the perfect thank you. If this is something you want to do, we can get more specific about recipes and where to find a good, cheap paellera. Don't worry too much about the cost of the pan. We're talking in the thirties, including shipping -- and it's a pan that will see a lot of use for things other than arrozes.

Lots of Indian dishes use saffron for color. Because the other seasonings in most Indian dishes are so powerful the saffron flavor can sometimes get lost. One place it doesn't is in an Indian ice cream called kulfi. Wonderful stuff, and not hard to make. A couple of other saffron intensive Indian dishes are butter chicken, and potatoes and cauliflower.

You can make some very high-end Persian kabab by brining a few chicken breasts, skewering them, and grilling slowly over a low heat grill. (They like slow fires for grilling over there. What can I say?). As the chicken cooks, baste it with butter infused with saffron and sumac. Great stuff.

Saffron works well in baking -- but mostly for color, you won't get much flavor out of it. I do like to bake with it, even though turmeric does nearly as well. I make an egg and butter bread, much like challah, especially for French toast and use a little saffron and a touch of cardamom too.

post #5 of 29
Thread Starter 
KYHeirloomer, I would love the Swedish buns recipe. You know that those of us that reside South of the Mason Dixon don’t see yeast risen treats, what with us being biscuit eaters and all, as often as those who live in other foreign areas like North Dakota :lol:. So, while it may not be the optimal use for flavor it will be something unique that I can send to the office for their weekly cabinet meeting while I try and schedule boar d laze’s Spanish themed summer meal.

Boar d laze, I’m exceedingly interested in the idea of “a summer meal built around sherry and Spanish [FONT='Verdana','sans-serif'][COLOR=#006666! important]wine[/FONT][/COLOR], a few tapas, gazpacho and a good paella” any and all ideas to that effect are welcome, especially wine and sherry selections. I really stink at choosing wines. I know what I like once I’ve had it, however I freely admit to not being overly adventurous in my selections and I am always lost in the face of so many choices. My experience with sherry is limited to the sherry I cook with and my now deceased sainted grandmother’s love of Taylor red sherry. She was 95 when she passed (sharp as a tack to the end) and lived with me and my husband the last years of her life. She would sip sherry after dinner, get giggly and then ask my husband to help her to bed in her Old South drawl that got thicker and thicker the more the sherry flowed.

Indian food overwhelms my palate and I have never really cared for it, but I am interested in the Indian ice cream, too cool (pardon the pun).

Unfortunately, the grill was a casualty of the last move and we haven’t replaced it yet. So nothing grilled for a while.

I’ve got four different chocolate moulds that I picked up on line at Chocolat-Chocolat (they’re in Canada) that I adore. I have a seashell that is really pretty (I haven’t identified the crustacean it is supposed to be but it is similar to a nautilus), a pyramid, a geometric dome and a paisley shaped magnetic mould. I am always looking for something different to do with them. (And pairing the flavor with the shape if possible.) I had great success with herb and spice infused chocolates when I supplied a local coffee shop before we moved last year and I have been experimenting with a dark chocolate infused with a native mint that I recently picked up at a local nursery. Would a saffron infused chocolate or white chocolate be a wise use or a waste? (I have visions of the paisley shape with a multi-colored stenciled top evoking the Indian paisleys that I am partial to in textiles.)
post #6 of 29
If you can find Persian (i.e. Iranian) saffron without a second mortgage, snap it up. There was a drought over there, which seriously impacted the supply. And Persian is actually the best.

A fourth growing area is Morroco. But the saffron there might be coming from a different crocus cultivar, because it has a bitter undertone. Not what we expect saffron to taste like.

I never use saffron in highly spiced foods, like Indian, despite what the recipe may say. In cases where it is overpowered by other flavors there's no point spending that kind of money. Being as it's only adding color, turmeric works just fine.

>An interesting American saffron alternative is anatto, often sold as achiote is less colorful and more flavorful<

It should be noted that annatto comes in the form of seeds, and is bloomed in oil, rather than water or stock. And you will never get the color intensity out of it that you do with saffron and turmeric. But it does have it's own flavor profile.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
post #7 of 29
Yes to best Persian probably being best of the best saffron. But there are several graded levels from each region and qualities overlap. As I understand it the grading is based on the amount of dense woody bits in the stamen. The less the better.

In addition to the drought KYH mentions, the current political situation makes Iranian goods extra-pricey. Just to make the whole thing more fun, the primary growing region in India is the Kashmir which has its own problems. Everyone else just charges what the market will bear. Quite a bit, apparently.

Another area we didn't mention is Greece. Greece is actually one of the largest producers, third to Iran and India, IIRC. The reason I mentioned Iran, India and Spain is because of the quality and the prevalence of the spice in their typical cuisines. Also, I've never knowingly tried or used Moroccan or other middle-eastern saffrons. Color me clueless. Greek saffron I've used (Trader Joe's) was mediocre.

Total agreement!

Let's start with some terminology. The plant is called achiote. The seeds are called annatto or achiote. The most popular seasoning is called achiote paste or recado rojo.

The color and flavor chemicals can be extracted from annatto seeds with water, quite easily. In fact, that's the most common method for most non-culinary purposes. Almost any liquid can be used to bloom annatto seeds, including water, oil, stock or vinegar. Vinegar is very popular.

Achiote is a powerful dye, is used commercially as a "natural dye," and will produce as much color as saffron or turmeric when used appropriately whether for food or other purposes. There's a lot of overlapping range in the colors you get in foods. I find turmeric brighter and paler, saffron deeper and shading towards orange, and annatto in between on depth, but tending still more towards orange in color. As a commercial dye, for textiles for instance, achiote is used more for oranges and reds than yellows.

Out here, most of us buy annatto in the form of achiote paste which can be bloomed in water or stock or anything liquid. Achiote paste is a sort of dampish powder, made from annatto and a few (okay, many) other seasonings. The annatto in achiote paste is somehow partly "pre-bloomed" (maybe just by grinding?). In any case, it doesn't require much additional blooming to make it work. The flavor profile of achiote paste is a lot like saffron -- lots of bitter, lots of bouquet. For savory purposes (remember the other spices), it's more like saffron than turmeric. I've never heard of achiote used for sweets other than in the Yucatan.

Annatto oil is it's own thing. It's extremely popular in Caribbean cooking, which is probably why KYH, as a (more or less) Easterner thinks it's the primary (or only) method for using achiote. A Puerto Riqueno or Cubano would use annatto oil to make arroz con pollo, but most Mexicans would use recado rojo ("El Yucateco" and "La Perla Mayab" are the most popular brands in California -- I like La Perla).

I sense we're getting away from saffron. Okay. I'll shut up.

post #8 of 29
Just to be basic....Saffron is VERY strong. In reading the responses I didn't notice (if I missed it I'm sorry) BUT again it is a very strong flavor. You can ruin a meal by adding more than a little bit. You are truly lucky to have gotten your hands on this as the first time I bought saffron for a fish recipe, I paid almost $10 and it was a typical grocery store herb bottle, but it had a paper bag in it with just a small amount of saffron in it. Again, we all know it is outrageously expensive, and if I missed it in a response I apologize, but it is very strong and you only need a tiny bit to flavor anything.
post #9 of 29
Must be a regional thing, as you suggest, cuz I've never even seen achiote paste.

And, while I may be eastern to you guys out there (isn't everybody), it's still another 800 miles to the ocean. I can't even get annato seeds around here, and have to order them---like so much else---off the net.

The only saffron I can buy locally is Spanish, and, likely, not the highest quality. But even it's become price happy. Previous tube I bought (1 gram in what looks like a plastic pill bottle), maybe a month ago, was right at eight bucks. Last week the same container was $9.59.

True, saffron is the second most expensive spice in the world. But it's starting to get a little ridiculous.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
post #10 of 29
Although I'm very much looking forward to seeing my husband againafter he's been in Dubai for 2 months, I'll be uber-keen to see my prezzies. I know i'm getting a jam jar size of Saffron 100 dirhams= £30 $60 ithink and 3 dozen vanilla pods. Its so exciting isn't it - getting spices as presents. He asked me in his last email what else i would like and i just went blank.
Any ideas what I should ask for?

My only rules for saffron (and i use it often) is dont waste it on strongly spiced food ie curries, save it for the rice

And dont use too much... It can be horrible in excess
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
post #11 of 29
An Iranian friend game me some almond brittle (like peanut brittle but with almonds) flavored with saffron, which I really liked. He also made beef kebabs marinated in a yogurt-based marinade, with saffron butter brushed on as they were cooking, then served wrapped in a thin whole wheat flat bread--delicious. (The marinade was made of yogurt, grated onions, lemon juice and S&P).
post #12 of 29
It's been a while since this thread was going. Tonight I looked up saffron here and found this. Deja Vu.

If you have some saffron and are wondering what to do with it, sprinkle a tiny bit on a non-spicy pizza or on a special batch of mac 'n' cheese. I've had both lately with saffron, and I'll just say yummm
post #13 of 29
May I add (since no one touched on it) Saffron has a very VERY short shelf life. You should keep it in air tight container in darkness; most restaurant suppliers sell Saffron in metal tins. By comparison most whole seed spices will last around a year, most ground spices last around six months, and Saffron lasts about three... although if not properly handled, it'll go bad even quicker.

Do not fear though if you feel your batch of Saffron has lost some of it's punch. Like many foods Saffron goes through stages, when it becomes tamer in flavor it opens up applications that aim more towards the sweet side such as cakes and cookies.

If the stuff you have is relatively new, then use it in a dish that shows it off. Paella and rice dishes (such as risotto) are a good start, however when you go shopping for all the ingredients for a Paella your going to blow a gasket (lobster, shrimp, clams, mussels, squid, etc). For my money I like using it when I confit tomatoes, and then I save the tomatoes for a whole variety of things from sauce making to going straight on some bruchetta. I can almost guarantee that you'll never see saffron in a $8-10 appetizer in a restaurant.
post #14 of 29
Chef, I'm afraid you've got some bad information at least as it applies to threads. If properly stored, saffron threads stay pretty close to their peak potency for well over a year. A good thing too, because the worldwide, commercial harvest is only once a year.

You may buy saffron more often, but assuming you're even buying this year crop -- which you may not be unless you're sure of your supplier -- it was all picked during the same four or five week period. That is, in mid/late autumn. So, you might as wel buy a year's supply as soon as the crop is thoroughly dried and on the market -- mid Decemberish. .

Of course if the saffron comes from the southern hemisphere, their autumn is six months different from ours -- and so is their crocus harvest. But there aren't any commercial sources from down under so we don't have to worry about it.

I'm not sure if powder is more delicate than threads. I don't use it, and just don't know. But my instinct says it isn't much different. In any case, same once a year story -- although I suppose it could be ground from stored threads as needed -- the same as you do at home.

Air and light are saffron's enemies. It should be stored in airtight and in the dark. It's fairly resistant to heat.

My experience is that it's worth buying the best saffron, with the highest numbers -- which are usually from India or Iran. They end up being most cost effective because you use less, and you aren't paying for tasteless, yellow bits (the good saffron styles are red).

Current prices for the good stuff are around $120 an ounce (great deal) for sargol Iranian. This would put the cost of a per person "serving" in a dish of paella or Indian style ice cream at about 50 cents. YA 1/2 ounce would get most adventuresome cooks through a year.

I strongly recommend this importer for vanilla as well as saffron. Their service is very good, their products are excellent, and their prices are stupid. Saffron Order Page

post #15 of 29
Woody bits? What do you mean? I've never had any as far as I know.
post #16 of 29
The tops of the stamens are red. That's where all the saffron goodness is. The bottom of the stamens are yellow. They're pretty much odorless, tasteless, and consequently useless. Might as well be wood.

Ji, I thought that might be confusing. You'll notice I'd already edited that out before reading and answering your post.

post #17 of 29
Differentiating the diamond from the sapphire.
post #18 of 29
I order my saffron from either Penzey's or Spice House. Does anyone have a favorite source that you would like to share?

I already got my spring order of saffron in. But I've declared (to my wife) that I aim to become fluent in all that is paella this year. So I may need some more:look:

post #19 of 29
Everything else being equal, Baby brand Iranian saffron is probably the best saffron you can get. However, it's very expensive. Just a heartbeat behind or maybe equal is the Sargol sold at Golden Gate. Golden Gate saffron sooooooooo much better than Penzeys or Spice House for price AND quality, it's ridiculous. Saffron Order Page

Penzey's "Mogra" saffron is great stuff, but the particular saffron they get has styles attached to the stigmas. You want stigma only. Golden Gate's Iranian Sargol is better. And Golden Gate sells for less than half the price.

The Spanish "Coupe" saffron sold at Penzey's and Spice House is a step below either the Iranian or the Kashmiri.

For the price you pay at Spice House or Penzey's you could get Baby. But if you're spending your own money, it doesn't make sense not to buy from Golden Gate.

Golden Gate is also aces for vanilla.

post #20 of 29
Man, so much stigma involved in ordering certain brands of saffron.
post #21 of 29
Be careful....

I remember when I first saw the spices on sale in many of the markets in Portugal and on a few of the Greek islands. Smalll plastic packets of 'saffron - powdered' at very reasonable prices. When I asked why, I was told it was locally grown stuff - a 'secret' that only natives knew about.

YEAH, right... I knew I was being stiffed, but still bought the stuff. It turned out to be turmeric!
post #22 of 29
I use threads by making an infustion ("tea") before I cook. It's kind of old fashioned and fun (for the weird, anyway). But powdered is more convenient for sure. If you're unsure of your supplier it's not hard to make your own powder (dry the threads out under a light bulb, not on the stove top).

Golden Gate is extremely reliable, and a big deal commercial supplier (they probably do a bigger commercial business than private). I've been using them for saffron since the Iranian saffron embargo (over for years), when they were one of the few good sources for Macedonian. You don't have to worry about authenticity or purity.

post #23 of 29
dang boar u really know ur stuff......

iran india and spain is spot on.

i was also gonna add that the caribbean counterpart is anatto in the latin world as well as trinidad which has adopted many latin techniques even though it is considered west indian.

i think they use saffron to make the jamaican patty yellow

anyway iran spain and india
have fun

i like a dish called keshmesh pollo from iran

its chicken in a stew served over safroned rice with almond slivers and currants.

i cant remember whats in the sauce

and i tihnk i am spelling it wrong, its how an iranian friend and restaraunteer spells it, but i hcant find it online!
post #24 of 29
Khoresht polo.

There are a lot of different khoreshts. It's sort of generic for "stew." Not all khoreshsts have saffron or chicken, but a great many have one or the other and a substantial number have both. Polo means rice. Which gets us to khoresth polo as stew over white rice.

I like annato too, especially in its achiote form for a lot of things. Achiote is annato mixed with adobo -- sort of. It's a big deal in Caribbean food kind of splitting the difference between being a saffron substitute and its own thing. Arroz con pollo with achiote is better than arroz con pollo than saffron.

post #25 of 29
Iranians also make a ''Green Stew from Beef Shin loads of parsley, scallion and leek. It is served with sour cherry rice which is a form of basmatti cooked then taken out and held in a pan lined with foil so as the bottom of the rice slightly crust and browns. They consider this bottom part of the rice a true gourmet delight.????
post #26 of 29
I know what you're talking about, had the stew and the rice with my Iranian friends. That stew is delicious! The rice was cooked with quite a bit of butter, which I think helped the browning, and yes the crispy stuff was their favorite part. They didn't use foil, though, for the rice. Just rice, water, salt and butter, in a SS pan I think it was.
post #27 of 29
yes the brown rice great in different cooked rice dishes as long as it is not burnt

maybe it is gormeh sabzi? (the parsley and leek dish)
post #28 of 29
Hi, i'm from Greece, we hardly use it, it's expensive, it has DETONATING iodium taste, and gives a metal after-taste if u use large quantity, so you must be carefull.

if u want to find the taste of saffron, u should try to cook chicken breast, and make a sauce with saffron and fresh creme, a bit of lime juice,fresh creme, and saffron. ( the sauce must be light orange colour ), so you can have the full taste.

We also use it to give colour like spinach.

you have it on stems, or it's powder?

i use like 500 ml creme, with 12 stems.. so it's like 10 grams per 500ml creme

how much u guys buys for? we buy at hotel 1 KG stems for 260 euro.
post #29 of 29
Most U.S. saffron merchants take a very healthy profit. But like everywhere else cost is dependent on quality and size of purchase. Quality costs more, larger quantities receive discounts.

Examples of US prices:

Best quality Iranian saffron (red part of thread only, no yellow), color index above 250, "retail," best price online: 1 oz (25.4g) = 120 USD.

Very good quality Spanish saffron (categorie I, ISO), color index above 190, "wholesale," best price online: 500gm = 1,300 USD.

Are you sure you mean 10g to color 500ml cream? I would use less than 1g for the same amount, probably 0.5gm. 12 threads, as you said, seems about right.

I figure somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 to 15 servings per gram, for the Iranian, and 8- 10 for Spanish.

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