Saffron cream is a thick sauce made from saffron threads, heavy cream and broth or fish stock. The cream sauce is used to flavor rice, fish and seafood, fruit, chicken, meat or pasta. Some cream sauces also can be made to serve with desserts. Native to Southwest Asia, the saffron threads come from the stigma of saffron crocus (Crocus sativus) flowers. Saffron cream sauce is often expensive because of the high cost of the saffron threads and can be difficult and time consuming for inexperienced cooks.
Saffron powder is sometimes used to make the cream sauce but, more often, dried saffron threads are used. The saffron threads are simmered in chicken broth, white wine or fish stock for 10 to 30 minutes before the cream is added. Other spices or vegetables — such as onion, garlic, spinach and tomatoes — are sometimes added to the sauce. After the cream is added, the sauce thickens and cooks for another minute or two to incorporate the flavors. The saffron cream is then served hot over any number of dishes.
Saffron cream is usually made as a savory sauce for dinner-type dishes, although it is versatile enough also to accompany dessert dishes. One version of a sweet saffron cream uses heavy cream, powdered sugar and saffron powder whipped together and served atop mousse, pudding or cakes. Another version uses coconut milk, sugar, saffron threads, cornstarch and egg yolks. The cream is cooked and cooled and becomes the consistency of pudding, which is then served with cake.
Basic saffron cream made only with sweet wine or milk and cream, omitting the broth or stock, can be made with the addition of egg yolks and honey. This type of saffron cream is then used to make tarts and fruit dips or sauces. Most dessert saffron creams require the saffron threads to be soaked in water for a period of time prior to making the sauce because they are not first steeped in broth. Many saffron sauces also can be made without the addition of heavy cream.
Saffron stigmas, or threads, are often used to decrease appetite and increase positive moods, and they sometimes aide in weight loss. The possible mood-improving effect means they also are used by some people to help alleviate premenstrual symptoms. In addition to the added benefits, the saffron threads add a unique flavor and yellow color to foods. The saffron cream sauce can be used with virtually any dish.