October 28, 2010 · 8 comments

Chelsea Buns

in Bread,Cakes & Cookies,Challenges,Fresh From the Oven

My first Fresh From the Oven challenge was hosted by Wendy, and we made Chelsea Buns.

Chelsea Buns

Chelsea buns were created at The Chelsea Bun House, an establishment which was situated on the borders of Chelsea and Pimlico, London.

The Chelsea Bun House was in business for the best part of a century; eventually closing it’s doors in 1839. At the height of its success in the 18th century it was frequented by high society, including Kings George II and III, who apparently would call in for a bun en route to the nearby Ranelagh Pleasure Gardens. The Bun House was also noted for its hot-cross buns. Legend has it that on Good Friday in 1829, 240,000 hot-cross buns were sold, and crowds of over 50,000 thronged outside the shop in anticipation of delicious buns hot from the kitchen’s ovens.

Sources disagree about the exact historic location of the Bun House – either Grovesnor Row or Jew’s Row according to what you read. Neither exist now, but in today’s Pimlico there is a Bunhouse Place, which is within strolling distance of the remains of Ranelagh Pleasure Gardens.

Chelsea buns are made from enriched bread dough, filled with dried fruit, coiled into a distinctive spiral shape, and then smothered with a sticky glaze. Sounds good? Jane Grigson in ‘English Food’says that Chelsea buns are, “the best of all buns, on account of their melting buttery sweetness.”.

Whilst I wouldn’t go so far as Grigson to say they are the best of all buns, they were rather good.  Would I bake them again? Probably not in a great hurry – too many other things would take preference.

I’ve also submitted this post to the fabulous YeastSpotting, an event I’ve missed for far too long.

Chelsea Buns

  • 225g strong white bread flour
  • 25g caster sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 25g softened butter (for the dough)
  • 1 1/2 tsp fast action dried yeast
  • 1 medium egg, beaten
  • 90ml warm semi-skimmed milk
  • 25g butter really softened, but not melted (for the filling)
  • 65g light muscovado sugar
  • 115g (4oz) dried fruit
  1. Combine the flour, sugar, salt and yeast into a mixing bowl (I used my KitchenAid as usual). Make a well in the centre and add the softened butter, egg and milk. Mix to make a soft dough.
  2. Knead until smooth.
  3. Cover and prove until doubled in size.
  4. Generously butter and line a 7″ square tin. Make sure it’s not a loose bottomed one, or you’ll get problems later on and loose your filling.
  5. Flour your work surface, and roll out the dough, (no need to knock it back) to a rectangle measuring about 12 x 9 inches. If you get the edges as square as you can it will help to make your buns look even, but I quite like the squiffy homemade look. Well, that’s my excuse and I’m damn well sticking to it!
  6. Spread the softened butter as evenly as you can over the dough. Sprinkle the sugar and the dried fruit on top, and gently press it into the butter.
  7. Now, roll up the dough along the long edge, as though you were making a Swiss Roll (and don’t tell me you haven’t!) Seal the edge. I find that smoothing it down with the flat side of a paring knife can help here, but don’t get too ocd over this bit.
  8. Turn the roll over so that the seal is underneath and divide the roll into 9 equal buns.
  9. Place the buns, cut side down, into the buttered and lined tin, and leave to prove until the dough has doubled in size, and they have all joined together into one big Chelsea bun muddle.
  10. I baked mine in a 180 degree oven, for about 15 minutes, but I’ve got a particularly hot and fast cooking oven. You know your oven better than I do, and I suspect most of you will need to set the oven slightly higher, and /or cook for a little longer. Some recipes suggest covering the buns with parchment or foil, but the fan is so strong in my oven this has never worked for me.
  11. Once cooked, cool on a wire rack, and eat them as soon as you dare. Or, of course, cover them in icing first.