In Ye Olden Days of Yore the London Borough of Chelsea wasn't known for its overpaid football team, its annual celebration of flowers or its fancy-pants fashion stores.
Back in the Eighteenth Century it was known for The Chelsea Bun House. A House that sold buns of such finesse that author Sir Richard Phillips proclaimed that their 'delicate flavour, lightness and richness have never been successfully imitated'. Owned by the rather fittingly named Captain Bun (I'm not making this up, honest) the Bun House attracted nobility, gentry and even royalty. George II, his son George III and his wife Queen Charlotte were all loyalty-card carrying customers. The modern day equivalent of Her Majesty popping out to Gregg's for an Iced Finger for Prince Philip is now imprinted on my mind.
And it wasn't just the sticky, sweet, currant-filled Chelsea Bun that the Bun House was famed for. Each Good Friday, the Bun House would sell up to twenty five thousand Hot Cross Buns to huge, hungry crowds that would have been gathering since three o clock that morning. By 1793, so 'alarmed and annoyed' were the neighbours by the 'tumultuous assembly' that would gather, the Bun House elected to stop selling Hot Cross Buns. I'm certain they soon realised the financial implications of this decision as by the very next year the Hot Cross Buns were back on sale.
Although the traditional Chelsea Bun contains a combination of currants, sultanas and peel, generously spread with butter and brown sugar, they can make the perfect base for a variety of sweet fillings.
Apple, Sultana and Cinnamon Chelsea Buns
For the dough:
450g strong white bread flour
2 x 7g fast action yeast
50g caster sugar
150ml warm full fat milk
1 beaten egg
50g unsalted melted butter
For the filling:
30g melted butter
2 tsps ground cinnamon
30g soft brown sugar
75g dried apple, roughly chopped
For the topping:
1 tbsp soft, warmed apricot jam
3 tbsps icing sugar mixed with a little water to form a thick icing
1. Put the flour, yeast, sugar with 1 tsp salt into a large mixing bowl and mix well. Pour in the milk with 50ml warm water, the egg and butter and mix to form a dough, initially with a wooden spoon then with your hands.
2. Turn out the dough onto a worksurface, resisting the temptation to add more flour- this is a wet, sticky dough! Knead the dough until smooth and springy. Place in a lightly greased large bowl and cover with clingfilm. Leave to rise until doubled in size in a warm place
3. Grease a 23cm round baking tin. Knock back the dough and turn out onto the work surface. Roll out into a large rectangle and brush with the melted butter. Sprinkle over the cinnamon, sultanas and dried apple.
4. Tightly roll up the dough, longest side first. Cut into 8-10 pinwheels and tightly place, cut side up, in the prepared tin. Set aside to prove in a warm place for a further twenty-thirty minutes or until double in size
5. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas Mark 6. Bake for ten minutes, then reduce the heat to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4 to bake for a further ten minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and brush over a glaze with the warmed jam. Finally sprinkle over the water icing
- Without doubt these are best served warm, fresh from the oven
- This recipe is adapted from a recipe for Apricot and Almond Buns in Good Food Magazine April 2010
- My Chief Tester (my husband) made very certain his point that he'd never, ever usually choose a bun as a sweet treat but these had changed his mind. He received many brownie points.
- Dan Lepard adds a little Vitamin C to his buns for added lightness. How do you make yours?