Step-by-Step Chelsea Buns Recipe
This recipe will make you the most delicious and deluxe Chelsea buns, which are extra spicy, fruity, and finished with apricot jam glaze and lemon drizzle icing.
These scrumptious cakes have always been popular in England, but now in 2018, they are more fashionable than ever. Growing trends in high and afternoon tea, and a baking movement has led to a 'baking fever' spreading across the nation in England and throughout the world!
I've chosen to give you my own adapted recipe for Chelsea buns due to my perception of popular demand. They have been featured as competition bakes in both 'The Great British Bake Off' and 'Britain's Best Bakery' which are currently the two most successful baking shows in the UK.
The Chelsea bun is an enriched dough filled with dried fruits and spices such as cinnamon, which is rolled and cut to give its familiar shape.
It was originally created in the 18th century in the Chelsea Bun House, London, England, where crowds would flock (especially at Easter time) for them and their hot cross buns. It is said that they were also very popular with royalty and aristocrats.
So, even if you have never heard of these, you have to try this recipe at least once. And once you have, I promise it will not be your last time.
Prep Time: 2–3 hours (including proving time)
Total Time: 2–4 hours
Yield: serves 9–12
For the dough:
- 300 millilitres full fat milk
- 40 grams unsalted butter
- 500 grams plain white flour (strong if possible)
- 10 grams salt
- 10 grams dried yeast
- 1 egg
For the filling:
- 30 grams melted butter
- 75 grams soft brown sugar
- 100 grams dried mixed fruit
- Glacier cherries chopped into quarters
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- Generous amount of mixed spice
For the apricot glaze:
- Approximately 100 grams apricot jam
For the lemon drizzle icing:
- 100 grams icing sugar
- Zest of one small lemon
- 1–2 tablespoons water
- First, we have to make the dough. Gently heat the milk and butter in the saucepan until the butter has melted. but avoid boiling and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
- Sift the flour into a large bowl and make a well in the middle. Lightly whisk the egg and pour into the well.
- Put the salt on one side of the bowl and the yeast on the other. It is very important these two raw materials do not come into direct contact with each other, as salt will kill the yeast, halting the rising during proving. This applies to all baking, e.g. when making bread.
- Slowly pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients, mixing well. The mixture will be quite wet.
- Sprinkle flour onto a large, clean, flat surface and lightly flour your hands. Tip the mixture onto the surface.
- Knead the dough for about 10 minutes (minimum 5) until it is no longer wet and is a smooth, soft and silky dough-like texture. For kneading techniques, see my bread baking tips further down this article.
- Take a large bowl and lightly oil, add the dough and cover tightly with cling film. Make sure the bowl is more than double the size of the dough.
- Leave the dough to prove and rise for 1–3 hours until doubled in size.
- Place the now risen dough onto a floured surface again, but don't knock the air out of it like you would do with some bakes. Flour a rolling pin and roll the dough into a large rectangle that is about 5 millimetres thick.
- Now we can add the filling. Melt the butter in a saucepan without burning, then brush it over the dough, covering the whole surface area.
- Sprinkle the brown sugar, dried fruits and glacier cherries over the dough, trying to make sure they are all evenly distributed.
- Now generously cover the whole surface with the mixed spice and cinnamon.
- Tightly roll into a tube along the long side of the rectangle. Try and make your tube as even as possible.
- Cut in half, then half again and repeat until you have approximately 10 buns of the same size. The two ends of the tube may be trimmed and disregarded before doing this, as the filling will not reach the ends evenly.
- It is important to make sure that the slices are of even thickness. They should be about 3 or 4 centimetres thick. This will ensure even cooking. Thinner ones will obviously cook quicker than fatter ones.
- Cover with cling film or a clean tea towel and leave to rest for half an hour.
- During this time, line a large, deep baking tin with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 190°C/370°F.
- Place the buns sliced side down in the tray leaving a gap of a couple of centimetres around each one, as they will expand and rise in the oven.
- Bake for 20–25 minutes.
- Once baked, remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack. At this point, I leave them on the baking paper, as we will make a little mess with the glaze.
- Gently heat the apricot jam, adding a little water whilst doing so to loosen it. Brush over the Chelsea buns.
- Once cooled, you can prepare the lemon drizzle icing glaze. Add the icing to a bowl and finely grate in the lemon zest. Add a tablespoon of water and mix. This will not seem like enough, but it is quite surprising—carry on mixing to find out. Add a little more water if needed until the icing sugar is gooey.
- Now using a spoon or a fork, whip the sugar in the air over the buns. If the buns are still hot, the icing sugar will melt, go transparent and slide off.
- The buns are now ready to serve.
- It may seem like a lot of work from my long list of instructions, but really it isn't.
- Do not let the milk and butter boil. Allow to cool before adding the flour and egg. Otherwise, the heat from the milk can start to cook the egg and it will scramble.
- Notice how I have the salt and the yeast on opposite sides of the bowl before mixing. This is because when salt comes into direct contact with yeast it kills it. This will stop the mix from rising during proving.
Tips for Kneading
Remember, these tips are for following the step-by-step guide above.
- Now the dough has been kneaded for 5 to 10 mins and is silky smooth, so it is no longer wet and sticky. It has been left to prove for one to three hours until doubled in size. When removed from its proving bowl that was covered in cling film, it should look like the image above on the left.
- Make sure that you do not knock the air out of it like you may do with some bread mixes etc.
- When proving, make sure the bowl is oiled so that nothing will stick and that the bowl is at least twice the size of the dough.
- You can lightly oil the underside of the cling film before covering the bowl to make it airtight. This is a precaution in case it rises enough to touch the film so it won't stick to that either.
- Before rolling out, flour the rolling pin to make life easier.
- If you find it is slipping and sliding on the surface when rolling out, press along one edge sticking it to the surface so you have a grip on one side, which will help you roll a nice even layer.
Burning the Butter
- When melting the butter, melt on a gentle heat and be careful not to burn so you keep that sweet flavour. If you burn the butter, it will become sour.
- Take your time to make sure you have painted all of the surfaces with the butter.
- Try to distribute the fruits and spices as evenly as possible, we want them all to turn out as similar as possible, so that everybody eating them will get the same pleasure.
- This will also make it easier when it comes to rolling.
How to Roll the Chelsea Bun Pastry
To get the distinct shape of the Chelsea bun, it must now be rolled and sliced. Roll the dough longwise (along the long half of the rectangle).
A couple of notes:
- Try to make a roll that is quite tight and even from one end to the other, with the same girth all the way along.
- Trim off a little from each end of the tube, as these will probably be uneven and possibly without filling. These end tips can be disregarded.
- If you are really struggling to get an even roll, wrapping in cling film and rolling back and forth will help, using your palms to make it even, working from the middle outwards.
Cut Your Buns Into Equally Shaped Portions
It's obvious when you think about it that different sized things will take different amounts of time to cook. We want an 'even bake' on all our buns. For that reason, it is important to make them all the same thickness.
So start by chopping the roll in half, then each half in half again, then again. As you do this, line up the halves so that they are parallel to one another, and cut them together so that you know they will all be the same size. Each slice should be between 3 and 4 centimetres thick.
Place the slices on a lined deep baking tray, slice side down. Make sure to leave a space around each one, as they will expand. Now cover with a clean tea towel or cling film and leave to rest for half an hour.
Preheat the oven to 190°C/370°F and place the tray in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes.
Make Sure They're Baked All the Way Through
Remove the Chelsea buns from the oven and check that they are baked all the way through. To do this, simply insert and withdraw a skewer. If it comes out clean, they are ready and should have taken on a gorgeous golden colour.
Take them off the baking tray and place on a cooling rack. (You may want to place on baking parchment as well, as the glazing and icing process can be messy.)
Heat your apricot jam with a little water in the saucepan, just enough to loosen it up and turn it into a spreadable glaze. You can use an egg brush or the back of a spoon to cover the tops of each with the glaze.
Things to Remember About This Last Stage
Before adding the lemon drizzle icing, it is important to make sure that the Chelsea buns have cooled down. If they haven't, the icing will melt when it comes into contact with them, making it go transparent and drip down the sides and off of them.
Finely grate the zest of one small lemon into the icing sugar and add a tablespoon of water. I know this seems very little, but stir well for a minute and you may be surprised that it is enough. If not add another. This should give you an icing on a runny and gooey consistency.
Use a spoon or a fork to take some of the icings and, from a slight height, whip it backwards and forwards. This will give a nice effect and pattern over the buns.
The buns are now finished and ready to eat. I love to serve them with tea or coffee as a real treat. I know you are going to love them.
© 2014 Peter Badham