Saffron Cake

Saffron Cake, a traditional British sweet bread, was once believed to have medicinal qualities. Now, hozoever, it is eaten purely for pleasure, thickly sliced and spread with butter.

2 oz. plus

1 teaspoon butter

2 oz. fresh yeast

2 oz. plus

½ teaspoon soft brown sugar

2 tablespoons lukewarm water

5 fl. oz. milk

1 lb. flour

2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon ground saffron

½ teaspoon ground mace

2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 egg yolks, at room temperature

3 oz. chopped candied citron peel

3 oz. currants

Using the teaspoon of butter, grease a deep 9-inch cake tin and set aside.

Crumble the yeast into a small bowl and mash in the 1 teaspoon of sugar with a kitchen fork. Add the water and cream the water and yeast together to make a smooth paste. Set the bowl aside in a warm, draught-free place for 15 to 20 minutes or until the yeast mixture is puffed up and frothy.

Meanwhile, place the remaining butter and the milk in a small saucepan set over moderate heat. Scald the mixture (bring to just below boiling point) and remove the pan from the heat. Set the mixture aside to cool to lukewarm.

Sift the flour, salt, saffron, mace and cinnamon into a warmed, large mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast, the milk and butter mixture and the egg yolks. Using your fingers or a spatula, gradually draw the flour mixture into the liquids. Continue mixing until all the flour is incorporated and the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured board or marble slab and knead it for 10 minutes, reflouring the surface if the dough becomes sticky. The dough should be elastic and smooth.

Rinse, thoroughly dry and lightly grease the large mixing bowl. Shape the dough into a ball and return it to the bowl.

Cover the bowl with a clean, damp cloth and set it in a warm, draught-free place. Leave it for 1 to 1 ½ hours or until the dough has risen and has almost doubled in bulk.

Turn the risen dough out of the bowl on to a floured surface and knead it for about 8 minutes. Roll the dough out into a large oblong. Sprinkle the remaining sugar, the citron peel and currants over the surface and knead them into the dough.

Shape the dough into a ball and place the ball in the prepared tin. Return the tin to a warm, draught-free place for 30 to 45 minutes or until the dough has risen to the top of the tin.

Preheat the oven to hot 425 °F (Gas Mark 7, 220 °C).

Place the tin in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Then lower the oven temperature to fairly hot 375 °F (Gas Mark 5, 190CC) and continue baking for a further 25 to 30 minutes.

Remove the tin from the oven. Tip the cake out of the tin and rap the underside with your knuckles. If the cake sounds hollow, like a drum, it is cooked. If it does not sound hollow, lower the oven temperature to warm 325 °F (Gas Mark 3, 170°C), return the cake, upside-down, to the oven and bake for a further 5 minutes.

Cool the cake on a wire rack.

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