This dessert is my modern take on the well-known Cornish saffron cake, and is best served with good quality local Cornish clotted cream.
I love this dish, and I’m sure you will too. It’s impressive with its ingredients yet simple enough to make at home, the perfect way to celebrate St Piran’s Day with something that bit special.
The sweet, spiced fruit bread incorporates traditional ingredients such as saffron, first grown in Cornwall during Roman times, and is dipped in egg-wash before being shallow fried, creating a moist and flavoursome dessert.
We eat with our eyes before our mouth, and so for me presentation is always key. In this recipe, you can be as decorative or simple as you like. Either way, the vibrant red streaks of the saffron will pair beautifully with the golden cake and smooth white scoop of clotted cream.
As a chef, I’m always re-assessing any new creation, tweaking away until it’s the best it can be. I’ve included my recipe below, but you can make this your own; if you’d rather add a few more reserved reconstituted currants to serve, or try a few pearls of sultana gel instead then go for it, get creative and put your own spin on a posh St. Piran’s dish!
Saffron cake pain perdu, Cornish clotted cream and grue de cocoa
Ingredients for the cake:
1 good pinch of saffron
250g plain flour
A good pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Zest of lemon, about a quarter
1/4tsp dried yeast
Good pinch of salt
125g cold, cubed butter
125g caster sugar
150g currants, reconstituted in boiling water and a little vanilla
3 eggs, beaten
Sunflower oil for frying
Ingredients for serving:
A few tbsp of grue de cocoa nibs
Pieces or shavings of dark chocolate for decoration
Simple sugar syrup with saffron
Cornish clotted cream
Coriander cress or similar, stick with a flavour that works
- Grease a small loaf tin with a little extra butter.
- Heat the saffron and milk in a pan until infused and the milk becomes coloured.
- Meanwhile, sift the flour into a separate bowl, mixing in the yeast, salt, nutmeg and lemon zest until well mixed.
- Add in the butter and sugar and work with your fingers until the mixture resembled the texture of breadcrumbs.
- Drain the reconstituted currants and blot dry with kitchen towel, before adding to the mixture.
- Pour the saffron milk over the mixture and work the mixture until you have a soft dough.
- Using extra flour for dusting, knead the dough until smooth on a floured work surface.
- Put the mixture in the greased tin and cover with a warm damp cloth until it has risen, this will take approximately 30 minutes.
- Whilst the dough is rising, pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius/Gas mark 4.
- Bake the cake for 30-40 minutes until risen and browned.
- Leave to cool slightly, before transferring to a cooling rack.
- Cut the cake into the uniform ‘soldier’ sizes, approximately 10cm by 3cm.
- Soak the French Toast ‘soldiers’ in the beaten egg and fry in a non-stick pan with a little sunflower oil until browned.
Arrange slices on each plate, and garnish with the grue de cocoa, (dark chocolate nibs) shaved chocolate, coriander cress and a drizzle of the saffron syrup. Finally, add a scoop of Cornish clotted cream to each plate, and serve!
Chef’s tip: For a truly professional look when serving, a great tip is to use the one-hand quenelle method for scooping your clotted cream. Now, don’t let the name scare you – it’s a simple trick with a hot dry spoon, which will give you the perfect oval ‘quenelle’ of cream. There are some great videos that talk you through the technique online, so give it a go and get practicing on this one!