In order to get me in the mood for this I started last week by making Chelsea Buns on Friday. These were a Saturday coffee morning treat after I had completed a 10km run in Greenwich Park to raise money for the charity Women for Congo Women. And in light of the herculean effort I put in I didn't feel at all guilty about devouring two of these sugary treats before heading out to lunch.
Chelsea Buns are made with an enriched dough, giving them a sweet, doughnutty taste. Traditionally the buns are then rolled with sugar, cinnamon and currants like a Swiss roll before baking and then glazing. I had plenty of fruit left over from my Christmas cakes (blog to follow) so I included cranberries and dates to the mix. I also upped the spice and sugar content as these buns were my own special treat after running and also because the taste of the filling should be stronger than the dough. Previous ones I'd made in class the week before hadn't packed a big enough punch.
Makes 8 large or 12 small
- 225ml milk
- 15g fresh yeast
- 45g caster sugar
- 450g plain flour
- pinch salt
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 45g soft butter
- 1 egg
- 70g caster sugar
- 70g soft butter
- 1/2 tsp ground allspice
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 150g dried fruit - I used currants, sultanas, finely chopped dates and cranberries
- 1 egg (for egg wash)
- 75g caster sugar
- 75g water
- half a small sheet of gelatine (optional - omit for vegetarian version)
- Heat milk and leave to cool until lukewarm before creaming 1tbsp of it with the yeast and 1tsp sugar
- Sift flour and 1/2 tsp cinnamon into a mixing bowl and rub in butter like a crumble and then stir in the sugar and pinch of salt
- Beat the egg and mix with the flour and yeast mixture
- Mix in the lukewarm milk until a dough forms (add incrementally to avoid dough becoming too sticky)
- Knead for 5-10 mins as you would for normal bread dough. Once elastic and smooth place in a lightly oiled bowl, covered with cling film and leave to rise for approximately an hour (or until dough has doubled in size)
- Knock back the dough by kneading gently for a couple of minutes before rolling into a rectangle of approximately 40cm x 20cm. Try to ensure this is as even as possible so the resulting buns are a consistent size
- Now take the soft (room temp) butter, spices and sugar from the mix ingredients and beat them together to make a paste
- Spread (like butter) over the dough, right to the edges. Remember any part of the dough not covered will result in the full flavour not reaching every mouthful
- Sprinkle the fruit over the dough, once again making sure that you don't neglect the edges
- Now roll the dough up tight like a Swiss roll
- Use a sharp knife (the sharper the better so as not to squash your roll) tp cut the dough down the middle to create 2 halves
- With each half repeat the process by halving again giving you 4 pieces in total
- Depending on whether you want large or small buns now either cut each quarter into 3 equal pieces (12 small in total) or 2 equal pieces (8 large in total)
- Carefully place the buns flat on a greased oven tray (a large flat palette knife or a flat spatula may help here)
- Leave buns to prove again in a warm place for 15 mins then brush with egg wash and bake at 200C for 20-25 mins. You need to bake the dough through so if it looks like they are browning too quickly just lower the temperature slightly or move to a lower shelf.
- Leave to cool on a wire rack before separating and removing from the tray. When you move them support them underneath with the palette or spatula and remember that until they cool completely the fruit will easily fall out, so handle with care
- Once they have cooled, boil up the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat until a syrup is formed. Gelatine will make the glaze set a little harder and if you decide to use it you need to soften the sheet in cold water for 10 minutes before squeezing out excess the water and stirring into your syrup until if has completely dissolved. Brush the glaze onto the buns swiftly (before the glaze in the pan cools down) and leave to set.
Serve with a cold frosty morning, a newspaper and a vat of coffee.