Saffron threads should not be directly added to the dish but should be infused in a little hot water (you can also use milk, for desserts, or broth, for savoury preparations), preferably in a sealed container, so as to bring out the best of the spice’s properties.
The recommended time for the infusion is at least a couple of hours, if the liquid is hot (40/50° max), although the ideal time would be four hours. If you choose to brew saffron in a cold liquid, it is advisable to soak it the night before. The infusion time is reduced to 20-30 minutes if the stigmas are first crushed in a mortar (preferable to other crushing methods) or placed on a folded sheet of baking paper and gently rubbed with the fingers avoiding to pulverise them.
Here are some examples of how to use saffron in different types of recipes:
- Risottos: add the saffron water in the last 5-8 minutes of cooking.
- Pasta dishes: add saffron to the sauce just before draining the pasta, stir well over the heat and serve.
- Desserts: add the saffron water as the last ingredient, mix well and place in the oven or fridge according to the recipe.
Important: to make sure that the brewed saffron is ready to use, remove one of the stigmas from the liquid and place it on a small plate: if it no longer releases colour, the liquid is ready.
To give the dish a nice look, it is advisable to use the threads whole.