SAFFRON BUNS // The Kitchy Kitchen

“Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”

The opening line to my favorite ghost story is a good one, isn’t it? Rebecca, the Hitchcock film based on Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 gothic novel, is a sweeping, psychological thriller about how the past never really leaves you. And I know it sounds cliche – because it is – but Manderley, the estate that provides the backdrop for our story, is as much a character as the unnamed protagonist, her brooding (aka jerk) aristocratic husband Maxim, and the specter of Rebecca, his deceased wife.  It’s not until the country estate is devoured by flames that the truth about Rebecca can be revealed. I love this movie so, so hard. It’s atmospheric to the extreme, and plays with your perception as the story unfolds; so if you enjoyed Gone Girl, you’ll love the twists and turns this thriller takes.

Most of du Maurier’s stories take place in Cornwall, along the striking southern cliffs, and Manderley is believed to be set there as well. Not surprising, given the high drama of the cliffs, fog, and sea. So for my recipe inspiration today, I’m making a Cornish classic with a commonwealth spin, and twisting it up more times than even du Maurier would be comfortable doing to her plot: Pumpkin Saffron Rolls with Chai Cream Cheese Glaze.

Saffron buns are a classic Cornish treat, served on religious holidays and sundays.  I love how golden the saffron makes the rolls, and by adding pumpkin, it puts an exclamation point on the bright hue. Saffron has a very unique flavor – sort of earthy? dusty almost? but very nice. It blends beautifully with the chai spices and raisins, making this a unique but delicious post Halloween brunch treat. I know what I’m doing on November 1st: curling up with a saffron roll and watching Rebecca, dreaming if I’ll go to Manderley again.




1/2 cup milk (preferably whole)

1/2 teaspoon saffron (you can use less if you like, it’s expensive)

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

4 ounces unsalted butter (1 stick)

1/2 cup warm water

2 packages yeast

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup pumpkin puree (canned is fine)

4 cups all purpose flour (possibly up to 4 1/2)

1/4 cup raisins, seedless

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 cup brown sugar


In a small pan over medium heat, heat the milk (just until it bubbles at the edge), then stir in the saffron, sugar, salt and butter. Take off heat and cool to lukewarm.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of a standing mixer with a dough hook attachment (or a large bowl if you’re kneading by hand), combine the warm water with the yeast.  Let is stand for 5 minutes, until the yeast bubbles and wakes up a bit.  Combine the yeast mixture with the lukewarm milk mixture, add the eggs, pumpkin puree, and 2 cups flour and beat until smooth. Keep adding flour until it makes a stiff dough (this could be 3 1/2 cups to 4 1/2 cups). Turn up speed to medium high and kneed for 5 minutes, of until the dough slaps the side of bowl. Place the dough in greased bowl, cover it and let it rise until doubled, about an hour.

Pre heat the oven to 375 F. Punch down the dough, cover, and let it rise for 10 more minutes. In a small bowl, combine the raisins, cardamom, and brown sugar.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to about a 1/2 inch thick and shaped into a 12 x 16 inch rectangle (or thereabouts). Sprinkle with raisin mixture and roll the rectangle lengthwise.  Slice out a roll every 2 inches. Pop into a lightly greased baking dish or cast iron skillet (I used a 9 1/2″ oval baking dish), don’t worry if there are gaps, the rolls will rise and fill everything in.  Cover with a tea towel and let rise for 30 minutes.

Bake in oven for 40 minutes, until the rolls bounce back when lightly pressed, and let the rolls cool for about 5 minutes. Cover with chai glaze and serve.


1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamom

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

2 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter

2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 cup white sugar


Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan with 2 tablespoons water over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is fully dissolved and the cream cheese is fully incorporated. Let the glaze cool until thick but still pourable.