A delicious enriched yeast dough rolled with a filling of sugar and dried fruits these Traditional Chelsea Buns are heavenly served warm from the oven. They are also pretty darn good the next day served for breakfast with coffee.
Regulars to the blog will know that I like to bake along to the Great British Bake Off on television, so when a recent episode had the contestants making Chelsea Buns for their signature bake on bread week, I knew instantly that I would be making them for the blog, regardless of their other tasks. A good Chelsea bun is a thing of beauty and I had been meaning to share a recipe for them on the blog for a while but had not got round to it. Buns and sweet yeasted breads are probably my favourite kind of bake and while you can easily buy them in the shops they seldom live up to expectations unless you make them yourself or buy them from a quality bakery.
On bake off, of course, there were all kinds of variations as each contestant tried to outshine the other and for a moment I thought about how I would make the recipe my own variation. I was toying with the idea of adding chopped apple, I even got as far as chopping one up but in the end, I decided the traditional classic Chelsea bun is actually hard to beat and so decided against it. Jane Grigson declared in English Food that the Chelsea bun is “the best of all buns, on account of their melting buttery sweetness.” I think that’s about right but by all means, add your own twist to the filling or dough if you wish.
A lot of recipes finish the buns with icing but it is not traditional. Sometimes they are sprinkled with sugar (I seem to recall my dad’s were sprinkled with nibbed sugar) but I think that is rather gilding the lily and just is not necessary. Traditionally they would have been brushed with a simple sugar glaze, I have instead opted for brushing the tops whilst still warm with a little honey instead. It saves making a glaze and this is Recipes Made Easy after all!
A Brief History of The Chelsea Bun
The buns were made famous during the eighteenth century at the Chelsea Bun House, situated on the Chelsea Pimlico borders on a street no longer in existence. Long queues would form outside the shop of people waiting to buy these prized and very popular buns. There’s a Bunhouse Place which runs between Passmore Street and Bourne Street and, close to the remains of the old Ranelagh Gardens, which is believed to be the exact location.
For a more detailed history of the Chelsea buns read this post by The Londonist.
Traditional Chelsea Buns
- 500 g strong plain white bread flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 50 g butter
- 2 tbsp caster sugar
- 7 g sachet easy blend yeast
- 1 large free-range egg
- 225 ml lukewarm milk
- 50 g butter
- 150 g currants or mixed dried fruits
- 50 g light muscovado sugar
- a little honey to glaze
- Place the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumb, stir in the yeast and sugar.
- Beat the egg and milk together and add to the bowl, mix to form a soft slightly wet dough (add a splash more milk if required).
- Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for about 10 minutes. If you have a stand mixer you can let that do the hard work instead. As the gluten develops it will lose some of its stickiness.
- Place in an oiled bowl, cover and leave to rise in a warm place for about 2 hours or until doubled in size
- Melt the butter for the filling and use a little to grease a 23cm (9in) square cake tin. Turn the risen dough out onto a work surface and lightly knead. Roll into a rectangle about 35 x 25cm (14 x10in).
- Brush the butter very liberally allover the surface of the dough, then sprinkle the fruit followed by the sugar evenly over the surface of the dough. Drizzle over most of the remaining butter.
- Roll up like a Swiss roll from the long side, then using a sharp knife cut into 9 equally pieces (I used a serrated knife and a gently sawing action so as not to squash the roll out of shape.)
- Arrange the pieces in the greased tin and brush the surface with a little more of the melted butter. Cover loosely with cling film then leave in a warm place for about 30 minutes to rise.
- Preheat the oven to 200℃ (180℃ fan)/400°F/gas mark 6. remove the cling film and bake for 25 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and brush with a little warm honey.
- Allow to stand in the tin for a few minutes, then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Traditional Chelsea Buns Step by Step
More Sweet Yeasted Breads Made Easy
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