Cornish Saffron Buns

Saffron with its bright yellow hues and subtle floral and bitter notes is a spice which seems singularly exotic. But it has long been associated with Cornwall. It is said that the Cornish traded with the Phoenicians way back, exchanging tin for saffron and it’s been used here ever since. This may or may not be true, but saffron was a highly popular ingredient in the Middle Ages and saffron crocuses were grown in Bude until the late 19th Century.

To me saffron is associated indelibly with saffron buns, a traditional Cornish bake and whenever the spice is mentioned, that’s what I think of. I grew up with them as a commonplace treat and every Cornish bakery worth its salt (or should I say saffron) will display a pile of tempting yellow buns. In true Cornish style, these are often eaten with clotted cream.

Shockingly, I have never baked saffron cake or buns before and with St Piran’s Day fast approaching, I thought it was about time I did. St Piran’s Day falls on 5 March and sadly I overshot somewhat, so apologies to St Piran who will be getting an unexpected mid lenten feast.

The recipe came courtesy of the Cotehele miller, Sally Newton whose flour I buy regularly. The wheat is grown locally and is stoneground at Cotehele Mill on the Cornish side of the River Tamar. True to form, I adapted the recipe. My saffron was not Cornish grown and was a little ancient, so I upped the quantities. I also substituted some of the dried fruit for chocolate – well why not?

This is how I made:

Cornish Saffron Buns

  • Brought 300ml milk to a near boil and stirred in 1 tsp saffron strands. Left in a warm place to infuse for a few hours.
  • Rubbed 150g unsalted butter into 500g flour (200g wholemeal and 300g strong white) until the mixture resembled breadcrumbs.
  • Stirred in 50g light muscovado sugar, 3 tsp instant yeast and the tepid saffron milk.
  • Kneaded for 10 minutes, then added 60g dried fruit (mix of homemade orange peel, sultanas and cranberries) and 40g mixed dark and milk chocolate chips.
  • Shaped into 12 buns.
  • Placed in a 9″ sq silicone baking mould, covered with a plastic bag and left to rise for three hours until doubled in size. I prefer a slow rise, so I didn’t put them in a particularly warm place, but a warmer place would produce a much faster rise).
  • Baked at 200℃ for 17 minutes, when the tops were brown and the bottoms sounded hollow when tapped.
  • Left to cool on a wire rack

The buns are absolutely scrumptious. I find many of the ones you can buy far too sweet. These were only lightly sweetened making them perfect for ladling on your favourite jam. Having said that, CT and I enjoyed them warm with a liberal helping of butter. Next time it will be clotted cream. Saffron has a distinctive flavour which is hard to describe, but is integral to the taste of these buns. In fact, chocolate and saffron seemed to play off each other very well – at least in this instance.

This post is an entry into the Foodies100/Schwartz Flavour of Together Challenge. In celebration of 125 years, Schwartz has launched Flavour of Together, a place for anyone to share their flavour stories. You can share yours on the site or on the Schwartz Facebook page. For every entry made, $1 will be donated to United Way and their partner organisations. In the UK this is Focus on Food, a charity dedicated to promoting home cooking as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Bloggers Around the World is celebrating all things British this month, so although Cornwall would love to be its very own country, it does at the moment contribute its saffron buns to British cuisine. This is a monthly event from Chris of Cooking Around the World.

Not only did the flour come from Cotehele Mill, but the recipe did too. I am thus submitting it to Shop Local with Elizabeth’s Kitchen.

Made from scratch as these are, I’m sending them off to Javelin Warrior’s  Cookin w/Luv for his Made With Love Mondays.


  1. Leave a Reply

    Johanna GGG
    14th March 2014

    These look so beautifully golden – and I love your intro about cornwall and saffron – I wasn’t aware of the connection

  2. Leave a Reply

    14th March 2014

    The saffron buns look lovely. Your post reminds me of my visit to the Cotehele Mill some time ago. That was a good time. Thank you for joining Bloggers Around the World. Maybe another time we will have Cornwall as our theme. Maybe you could even guest-host it then.

  3. Leave a Reply

    Javelin Warrior
    14th March 2014

    Saffron is one of the favorite spices and it’s just a versatile spice too – perfect for sweet and savory applications. I’ve never had it paired with chocolate before, but it just sounds so good… Love this combo, Choclette!

  4. Leave a Reply

    Emma Julia
    15th March 2014

    These sound delicious, and I have some saffron lurking in my cupboard, crying out to be used…

  5. Leave a Reply

    belleau kitchen
    15th March 2014

    absolutely stunning!… i’m planning to bake tomorrow and had something in mind but now i’m thinking about these, they really do appeal!

  6. Leave a Reply

    Deena Kakaya
    15th March 2014

    Oh what a fabulous idea, I bet the saffron adds wonderful colour, aroma and essence. X

  7. Leave a Reply

    Sylvia F.
    15th March 2014

    Saffron buns? What a brilliant idea! Have to use my saffron finally 😉

  8. Leave a Reply

    Karen S Booth
    16th March 2014

    LOVING your new look layout Choclette and also it’s nice to see you too! As for these buns, they looks amazing and I do love a saffron bun! Karen

  9. Leave a Reply

    16th March 2014

    I had no idea about the saffron/Cornwall connection. What a lovely sounding recipe though, thank you for linking up with #ShopLocal. Loving the new blog look too!

  10. Leave a Reply

    Janice Pattie
    16th March 2014

    I remember those Saffron buns so well from my summer job in St Ives in the late ’70s. Mind you I think sometimes the yellow was achieved with other means than saffron! Love the chocolate substituion and the wholemeal flour, so tasty. Super, fabulous blog make over too 🙂

  11. Leave a Reply

    Jane Sarchet
    17th March 2014

    Way to go girl! They look AWSOME! Chocolate in a saffron bun? Why not 😀
    Janie x
    PS LOVE the new look, very clean bright and user friendly xxx

  12. Leave a Reply

    17th March 2014

    Ooh I love the new blog look and the picture of you too. x

  13. Leave a Reply

    Phil in the Kitchen
    17th March 2014

    I haven’t eaten a saffron bun for far too long. These look lovely and are making me nostalgic for happy times in Cornwall years ago. I haven’t been to Cotehele for far too long either. I remember it as a magical place. I’m liking the new blog look too, by the way.

  14. Leave a Reply

    17th March 2014

    I found some saffron at Costco before Christmas at a great price and purchased it – not knowing what I might use it for. This is a great recipe that I’m going to have to try!

  15. Leave a Reply

    17th March 2014

    These look wonderful, a fabulous yellow and I bet they smell amazing. GG

  16. Leave a Reply

    Nazima Pathan
    20th March 2014

    Love the colour and smell of saffron – made these buns a while back and your post reminds me how lovely they were!

  17. Leave a Reply

    Tina Anand
    24th March 2014

    I enjoy baking and your saffron buns look gloriously good. I will definitely making these one weekend, with your combo of dried fruits and chocolate chips.

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