Saffron is a popular spice with a sweet/sour, sometimes bitter flavor. Powdered saffron is an easy-to-use version of saffron. Powdered saffron often has a dubious reputation, with many purists warning against purchasing it. While it is true that many powdered saffron products may be of poor quality, good-quality powdered saffron has many advantages and is well used among home cooks and chefs. When purchasing powdered saffron, go beyond the supermarket shelf and look for a reputable purveyor.
Saffron is the stigma of the Crocus sativus flower. The stigma is the female part of the flower. Each flower produces three stigmas that are hand picked and dried. Because the stigma are so small, and must be hand picked, saffron is the most expensive spice on the market. Pure saffron can cost $1,000 per pound or more.
Powdered saffron is made by pounding the stigma into a powder. Powdered saffron is more easily used and releases its flavor and aroma more completely.
The best saffron uses only the upper bright-red stigma of the crocus flower. Lower grades will add the yellow style, which has no flavor. The lowest grades may be made of only the style. Good saffron should be bright red in color, never yellow.
Saffron is analyzed and its grade is given in a photospectometry report. The photospectometry report gives the concentration of crocin, picrocrocin and safranal. The crocin value relates to the bright red color. Picrocrocin rates the saffron on flavor and safranal on aroma. Higher values of these three chemicals in saffron mean a higher-quality product.
When buying powdered saffron it is important to buy from a reputable dealer. A less reputable dealer may use styles in his product, which have no flavor or aroma. Since the product is powdered, the styles are less detectable. Look for the bright red color of the stigma, and ask about the photospectometry report or look for the ISO number. A higher ISO number means a higher-quality product.
In order to release the color, flavor and aroma of the saffron stigma it must be steeped for at least 20 minutes. Longer steeping releases more of the desired chemicals. Powdered saffron has the advantage of not needing to be steeped. It can be used as-is in the dish in the last few minutes of cooking, releasing all of its desired color, flavor and aroma immediately.
Powdered saffron can be used any time saffron is called for. Since it requires no steeping, this step can be omitted if called for in the recipe.
Saffron is popular in Iranian, Indian, Arab, Asian, European and Moroccan cuisines. Popular dishes using saffron are Paella Valenciana, Italian Risotto alla Milanese, French Bouillabaisse and Cornish Saffron Buns. Saffron rice is popular in many cultures including India, Iran and Spain.
- Photo Credit Photo by de:Benutzer:Rainer Zenz.
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