If you’re planning to do some Springtime holiday baking, consider starting with this lovely batter bread. The color is as sunny as a Spring day, and the flavors of lemon, almond, and saffron make for a very delicious bread. It’s as easy as making the batter, turning it into a decorative tube pan, and letting it rise. Then, into the oven it goes, to emerge, a light and tender tea bread. The bread has an airy crumb, and a tender crust. Lemon zest and juice, almond flour, and extract add flavor and texture. Saffron is the most magical ingredient here. The delicate threads are harvested from the stigmas of a type of crocus. It lends a subtle grassy, sometimes slightly bitter flavor. The color that saffron imparts is lovely. It brings a sunshine-like hue to this tasty bread that really suits the season.
The batter is rich with butter, whole eggs, sugar, and milk, like many other Spring holiday baked favorites. The bread can be served with butter, or cream cheese, or sliced like a cake and topped with seasonal fruit (berries are good). It makes great toast on the second day.
You can bake it now, then stash it in the freezer, and you’ll have a lovely brunch or dessert bread to share with your family and friends. Set this tea bread on your favorite cake stand, add a few fresh flowers, and get ready for the compliments.
Lemon, Almond, and Saffron Tea Bread
- 1/8 teaspoon saffron threads , crumbled
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- A scant 1/2 cup almond flour
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature
- 4 large eggs
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon (I used a Meyer lemon)
- 1/3 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- 1 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
Measure the milk into a Pyrex measuring cup, and sprinkle in the saffron threads. Heat in the microwave for a minute or so, until very warm. Stir well, and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the yeast, a pinch of sugar, and the 1/2 cup warm water. Whisk in a 1/2 cup of flour and blend well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside until bubbly, about 30 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and remaining sugar until smooth and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition. Beat in the almond extract, lemon juice and zest, salt, and 1/2 cup of flour. Mix thoroughly, scraping down the sides of the bowl, as necessary. Add the yeast mixture, the saffron-milk mixture, the almond flour, and another 1/2 cup all-purpose flour. Beat until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the remaining all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a thick, fluffy batter is formed, about 2 minutes.
Thoroughly spray a 10-inch fluted tube pan with non-stick spray. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Cover with greased plastic wrap and allow to rise until even with the top of the pan. This will take about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. About 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350°F.
Gently remove the plastic wrap and set the tea bread in the preheated oven. Bake until golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean, about 40 to 47 minutes. Remove the bread and cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Invert the bread onto the rack and allow it to cool completely. Wrap tightly and store for several days at room temperature, or freeze for longer storage.