I enjoy the medicinal, iodine-like quality of saffron. Neal used some last week to flavor his delicious home-made version of that famous boxed rice and vermicelli side dish, slick with butter and full of tender onion bits. (I could eat buckets of that stuff!) And one of my favorite perfumes is L'Artisan Parfumeur's Safran Troublant, a concoction of saffron, rose, and vanilla that is just glorious.
The very talented Jennifer Tallapeneni of Pieknits recently posted about her new recipe for saffron cookies, and I just had to try it. I followed the recipe exactly as written, apart from using a teaspoon to form the cookies rather than a tablespoon (they were quite comfortably large, and I got 3 1/2 dozen instead of just 2). The first batch went in for exactly 12 minutes and formed light golden cookies with a bit of chew. In fact, they were almost the texture that I'm searching for in a homemade snickerdoodle. The second batch was left in for 14 minutes and produced much darker cookies that were very crisp. The flavor was different as well between the two batches, as the lighter-colored cookies were more saffron-y. I topped some of the second batch with sesame seeds, but not really enough to make much impact on the flavor.
While I like this recipe a great deal and will definitely use the base of it again, I think that the homestyle-chewy texture and high sweetness level robs the saffron from being all it can be. I'm thinking that a crumbly shortbread-style cookie might be better suited. I also think that a more over-the-top approach could be taken by creating saffron thumbprints filled with rose petal jam and topped with a sprinkling of crushed pistachios might be nice, too. Don't get me wrong, saffron does make a tasty addition to a quick drop cookie, too.
Here's Jennifer's original recipe. If you make them, be sure to tell her how they turned out!
Pieknits' Saffron Cookies
2 tablespoons milk, slightly warmed
Scant 1/4 teaspoon (a pinch) saffron strands, slightly crushed
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup white chocolate chips or slivered almonds or chopped cashews (optional)
In a little bowl warm the milk and add the saffron strands, slightly crushing them. Set aside and let steep, the longer the better. This can be done several hours before-hand. The saffron will turn the milk a lovely sunny yellow like this.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Sift or whisk flour, baking soda and salt together; set aside.
Beat butter until softened. Slowly add sugars and beat well until mixture slightly increases in volume.
In a small bowl mix together saffron mixture, egg and vanilla. Add egg mixture to butter mixture and beat, scraping down bowl as needed.
Add flour mixture to butter mixture gradually, stirring until flour is incorporated. Stir in optional mix-ins if using. Chill for at least an hour to overnight (or be lazy and stick in the freezer for 15 min. like me).
Drop by mounded tablespoonfuls onto baking sheet and bake 12-14 minutes. Let rest on baking sheet for a couple of minutes then transfer to wire racks to cool. Makes 2 dozen.