I used to work opposite an amazing bakery. Rarely was there a work-related stress that could not be cured by a trip to Huffkins. I say that they were a wonderful bakery but really I’m basing this claim on the one thing that I would buy time and again. Chelsea buns. I would consider the slabs of lardy cake, the flaky apricot croissants, the gooey brownies and the Bakewell tarts, but it was always the Chelsea buns that would win me over.
Spicy, sweet, fruity, soft and sticky all at the same time, there is something that I find very comforting about a Chelsea bun. No doubt this has a lot to do with my mum making them when I was little, when they were always served thickly spread with butter. What’s not to love?
I’ve tried to make do with the cinnamon rolls that are so popular over here but for me they just aren’t in the same league. The ones that I’ve tried lean towards sickly and stodgy, the frosting on top seems like overkill rather than adornment.
Ideally the classic sweet buns should be made with candied peel in the filling. I haven’t found anywhere here that stocks it and I have yet to get around to making my own so I made do with orange zest here.
I’ve made savoury Chelseas before, using sage and Gruyère cheese as the filling but for a bit of a change I thought that I would give roasted garlic and rosemary a whirl, if you’ll pardon the pun. These are delicious served warm with squidgy, creamy brie and maybe a slice or two of salami or prosciutto, making for an indulgent continental breakfast or a fancy lunch for friends when a cheese toastie just isn’t going to cut it.
Makes 9 buns
230g strong white bread flour
7g easy-blend dried yeast
1 tsp sugar
125 ml milk
Sweet filling (for 9 buns)
50g soft brown sugar
80g raisins/sultanas & 20g mixed candied peel or 100g raisins & zest of 1 orange
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp clear honey
1 tbsp icing sugar
Savoury filling (for 9 buns)
1 bulb garlic
1 tbs chopped fresh rosemary
Sift the flour into a large bowl and mix through the salt, sugar and yeast. Rub the butter into this mix. Heat the milk until lukewarm and use a fork to beat the egg into it. Gradually pour the egg/milk mixture into the dry ingredients and bring the two together to make a soft dough. I find it easiest to use a butter knife for this. Remember to add the wet ingredients a little at a time as the flour may not be able to absorb all of the liquid.
Once you have your ball of dough turn it out onto a very lightly floured surface and knead it for a few minutes until if feels nice and smooth. You’ll know when you’ve worked it enough because when you poke your finger into it the dimple you make should pop back out.
Wash and dry the bowl you mixed the dough in so that it’s nice and warm and lightly oil it. Pop the dough in the bowl, cover with cling film and put it somewhere cosy for an hour or so, until it has doubled in volume.
If you have opted to make the savoury version then this is a good time to roast the garlic. Pre-heat the oven to 180°c and pop the whole bulb in, on a tray, for about 30 minutes until the cloves have become sweet and gooey. Set aside to cool.
Grease a square baking tin (mine is 7 inches) with butter.
Once the dough has risen tip it back out onto your floured surface and knead it again for a minute or two. This means that all the air bubbles will be evenly distributed throughout it. Roll or press it out into a rectangle, a little bigger than a piece of A4 paper. Spread with butter so that the whole surface is covered.
If you are making the sweet version then top this with the sugar, then the fruit and finally the spices, making sure that everything is evenly distributed.
For the savory version squeeze the garlic cloves from their papery casings and mash lightly. Spread this across the surface of the dough. Sprinkle over the chopped rosemary.
Roll the dough up tightly, starting at the long edge. Cut into nine even-sized pieces and place these, cut-side down into the prepared tin. Re-cover with cling film and return the tin to its cosy place for another hour or thereabouts until the buns have risen and are snuggling together nicely.
Whilst the buns are getting on with this you can pre-heat your oven to 190°c.
Bake the buns for about 30 minutes. The savoury ones can simply be turned out onto a cooling rack but the sweet ones still need a final flourish.
Remove them from the tin to cool, so that the steam doesn’t make the bottom soggy but don’t break them apart just yet.
Melt the butter with the honey in a small saucepan and whisk in the icing sugar. Return the buns to the tin and brush the tops with the sticky glaze. I always do it this way so that any stray dribbles of glaze can’t escape and will collect in the base of the tin.
Give the glaze a couple of minutes to cool and then enjoy with a big comforting cup of tea.