Saffron is an ancient culinary spice, derived from the flower of a fall blooming crocus (crocus sativus). It ranks as the most expensive spice in the world, often selling for over $20 per gram. It is commonly grown in western Asia, including Iran, but also in Spain and Italy. It is now being successfully grown in Vermont, as an agricultural benefit where solar is now producing clean electricity to the electric grid.
Saffron has a unique aroma, which imparts food with a special taste. It also gives food a distinctive yellow color. It is widely used in Persian, Indian, European, Arab, and Turkish cuisines. For example, it is commonly used in Milanese risotto of Italy, the paella of Spain, the bouillabaisse of France, and the biryani with various meat accompaniments in South Asia. Candy and liquors also often include saffron.
Saffron can be purchased at most health food stores and various co-ops. You may even find it in your local supermarket.
While there are many ways to use saffron, here is one for cookies that can be eaten with a hot beverage during these winter months.
2 tablespoons milk, slightly warmed
1⁄4 teaspoon of saffron threads, slightly crushed
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 cup butter, softened (1 stick)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1⁄4 cup brown sugar, packed
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg, slightly beaten
In a small bowl warm, pour 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 beforehand. The saffron will turn the milk yellow.
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.
Add flour mixture to butter mixture gradually, stirring until flour is incorporated. Stir in chips or nuts if desired. Chill until firm (30-45 minutes up to overnight) or place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Use two teaspoons to drop cookie dough on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and bake 12-14 minutes. Let rest on baking sheet for a few minutes then transfer to wire racks to cool.
Recipe adapted from www.food.com; created by Jen T.