Saffron Tea Cake and Memories

Saffron Tea Cake and Memories
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Saffron......world's most expensive and exotic spice....Here is a fact I found:
If you have to buy it, this spice truly is as expensive as its reputation suggests. Producing saffron commercially is hugely labor intensive. It takes 75,000 blossoms to produce just a pound of dried saffron threads that wholesale for $70 per ounce.

For many visiting food lovers, it comes as a great surprise, then, to discover that Pennsylvania Dutch cooks use this spice.But any dish using poultry or egg noodles is fair game for saffron in Lancaster County. In fact they had special boxes made from wood to hold saffron. They are hard to find now and such a treasure you pay a high price for one!!

Grandma and Saffron

Now that we got that said let me tell you about my Grandma and saffron........she treasured this. But she used it! She did grow some but bought most of it.

She would always put the threads of saffron in a small saucepan with a bit of water and heat it to boiling and that set it aside...she was a frugal cook and did this so that the flavor would be robost with as little used as possible.

The yellow it adds to noodles and chicken gravy and stuffing is just so pretty! She made breads with it to. That was really good with soup. One of my favorites was when she would set the saffron aside in water and than slice potatoes very thin and boil them. She would than add the saffron water that was prepared and bring it to almost a boil and let it set a few minutes and the potatoes were a pretty yellow and tasted so good!

I have had lots of Chicken corn soup but hers always had saffron in it and it was always just a bit better than the rest. That recipe follow the tea cake.

Saffron for Christmas

When I was living in Florida I called her one November to ask her what she really wanted for Christmas. You see buying for her was almost impossible...she made her clothes and they always looked neat but she had them for 20 years. She believed in sewing with the best cloth so that they would last. She would tell me that her time was far too valuable to make a dress that only was good for 5 years.

She made her aprons and so that was out of the question. She still used a wringer wash machine when she was moved to a retirement home at 80 and so you knew that new kitchen stuff was out too. She loved to read but she usually got those books herself. She was friends with several Christian authors and so they sent them to her when they were published....I need to chase a rabbit here....she hated the word kids when it was used instead of children. She would firmly tell you she was "no goat and so she did not have baby goats....kids" She felt so strongly about this that when she listened to Christian Radio and they dared use the word kids, she would write to them and tell her what she believed...She loved "Back to the Bible" but when that word came along she quickly wrote to them and received a thank you back and from than on she received the "Danny Orlis" books free.....

Anyway back to what she wanted for Christmas......saffron. She said it was just too expensive to buy and she needed it to cook for the shut-ins. Now at 80 she was still cooking for the "old people" and a neighbor would come by and pick it up and deliver these treasured meals. And so that is what she got! I found a place to buy it bulk and she loved having it!

This is a recipe she used often and it is very special in flavor and is moist. Now I just wish I could be in her kitchen with a cup of her own "mint tea" hot and this tea cake............

Tea Cake with Saffron and Anise

Twenty-five 2-in. by 2-in. pieces

1 tsp. dry breadcrumbs

1/2 tsp. anise seed

4 Tbs. unsalted butter at room temperature

1 cup honey

1/2 cup sour cream

4 eggs, yolks and whites separated

2 cups sifted pastry flour

1/2 tsp. saffron, ground to powder in a mortar

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 Tbs. cream of tartar

2 to 3 tsp. poppy seeds

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 2 in. x 10 in. x 10 in. cake pan and scatter the breadcrumbs over this. Shake the pan gently so the crumbs adhere evenly to the bottom and sides. Pour off any excess crumbs. Scatter the anise evenly over the bottom and set aside.

Cream the butter and honey until smooth, then add the sour cream. Beat well. Whisk the egg yolks until frothy, and combine with the honey mixture.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, saffron, soda, and cream of tartar three times to ensure even distribution of the leavening. Then sift this into the batter, folding gently to avoid over-activating the soda.

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, then fold them into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and spread it evenly with a paddle or spatula. Scatter the poppy seed over the top and bake for 30 min. or until done in the center. Cool on a rack.

Chicken Corn Soup With Saffron

1 chicken, cut up

water to cook the chicken

3 tablespoons butter

2 cups chopped onions

1 cup diced peeled carrots

3/4 cup diced celery

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1/4 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads

2 ounces dried wide egg noodles

2 cups frozen corn kernels

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

2 tablespoons minced celery leaves

Combine water, chicken pieces, neck, gizzard and heart in large pot. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover partially and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Using tongs, remove chicken pieces and giblets from broth. Cool slightly. Remove skin from breasts and leg-thigh pieces. Take off the bones.. Chill broth until fat solidifies on surface, about 6 hours. (Broth can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.) Scrape fat from surface of broth and discard.Often you have to add broth to this so that you have about 6 cups of broth.

Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium-low heat. Add onions, carrots, celery, garlic and thyme. Cover; cook until vegetables soften, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer until vegetables are almost tender, about 15 minutes. Add saffron. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to boil before continuing.) Add noodles; simmer 5 minutes. Add 1 cup chicken and corn; simmer until noodles are tender, about 5 minutes. Add parsley and celery. Season with salt and pepper.Serves 8.We used to make large amounts of this and freeze it.

Click here for Donna's Tea Time recipes!

 

About The Author

Donna had the privilege of growing up in a Mennonite family in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She is married and lives in Georgia. Donna has 3 children and 3 grandchildren. She also writes a Column called Cooking with Don, which you can sign up for here and another list called Sites for Learning
 
 

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