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Similar to this question, but not the same (by the way, I like Hobodave's answer).

What's the correct way to treat saffron to get most of the flavor?

I've seen the following methods:

  • Let the stems soak in a cup of lukewarm water.
  • Warm the stems in oil on a slow flame.
  • Wrap the stems in aluminum paper and put it close to a heat source (so it can warm up).
  • Fry the stems.
  • Soak in white wine for 20' (as per Peter Taylor's comment).

I'm talking about expensive (stem only) saffron. Should the stems be crushed (before or after soaking)?

The method I usually use is the first one.

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I've heard that grinding/crushing the saffron before soaking drastically reduces the required soaking time with no ill effect on the flavor. By the way, the "stem only" saffron is really comprised of stamens, not stems. –  ESultanik Sep 15 '11 at 14:57
    
I've also heard of letting it soak in warm milk ... mainly in Indian dishes. –  Joe Sep 15 '11 at 15:23
    
I think the biggest reason to not crush it is cosmetic- so you get the little red lines in the finished product. –  Sobachatina Sep 15 '11 at 20:51
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3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

one Italian trick to extract as much as possible from saffron for risotto alla milanese is to fill a ladle with hot stock, add the saffron "threads" and then mash them into stock with a spoon. The stock will become a beautiful golden color. Of course stock contains water and fat...

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That's what I've heard, warm, not boiling, stock. –  BaffledCook Oct 3 '11 at 11:14
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The best way is that you blend your saffron by a bit of suger and then in glass cup of warm water solve then by a slow flame(indirect) warm it. I use water steam for warming, after 20 min it would be in the best color and taste.

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Never heard of that, but I'll give it a try. –  BaffledCook Oct 3 '11 at 11:12
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I have seen that some of the flavours/colours in saffron are fat soluble and some water soluble, so soaking in milk should work well. I have also seen recipes that recommend crushing into wine vinegar - I haven't tried this yet but it might be worth testing.

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As Joe commented, that's for Indian dishes, mostly. Very interesting, though. –  BaffledCook Oct 3 '11 at 11:13
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