The lineage of London’s most famous baked, sticky sweet treat can be traced back to the early 18th century. The Old Original Chelsea Bun House, located on Jew’s Row at the border of Chelsea and Pimlico, was a favourite of Georges II and III and Queens Caroline and Charlotte, and its popularity was such that it spawned a number of copycat businesses in the area. This delightful combination of lightly spiced, enriched dough and sweet dried fruit still endures today.
Serves 4 to 6
FOR THE DOUGH
- 500g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
- 45g light brown soft sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons dried yeast or
- 35g fresh yeast
- 275ml full-fat milk (add more if necessary)
- 45g unsalted butter, plus extra for brushing the dough
- 1 free-range egg, lightly beaten vegetable oil for greasing the tin
FOR THE FILLING
- 25g unsalted butter, melted
- 75g light brown soft sugar
- 100g chopped pistachio nuts and/or crumbled walnuts
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 orange, zest only, grated
FOR THE SYRUP
- about 200ml water
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar
- 100g dried cranberries
- 100g raisins or sultanas
- about 80g icing sugar (optional)
Place the flour and sugar in a food processor bowl, add the salt and yeast, and use a kneading hook to give it a good mix.
Now warm up the milk and butter (either on the stove or pop in the microwave for a couple of minutes) until they are warm and havecome together.
Add the warm milk mix to the flour, while mixing, which will activate the yeast. It’s important the milk mix isn’t too hot so that everything blends as it should. Next add the lightly beaten egg and give it a good mix so the gluten starts to stretch and doesn’t break when you pull the dough. The dough should be smooth.
TIP – To test if the dough is ready, see whether it comes away from the dough hook easily and cleanly.
Next take a 46 x 30cm baking tray with a decent lip, grease it and set aside.
Take your dough out of the mixer, knead it very slightly, and fold it around itself. Place it back into the lightly floured mixing bowl, cover with a kitchen cloth and prove it somewhere warmish for 30–45 minutes.
30–45 minutes later – the filling
The dough should be proved and ready to roll out on a floured surface. Take a rolling pin and roll it out to about 2.5 cm thick in a rectangular shape. Now prepare for the filling by brushing melted butter all over the surface of the dough.
Sprinkle evenly with the sugar, along with the nuts and cinnamon and orange zest, making sure they’re also spread evenly. Roll up the dough into a sausage (like a Swiss roll) and cut roughly into 5cm pieces, laying them on the greased baking tray and making sure they are nice and compact.
Once the tray is full, cover with clingfilm or a damp kitchen cloth and prove somewhere warm for a further 30 minutes. They should double in size.
Now they’re ready to bake. Preheat the oven to 185ºC (165ºC for a fan oven), remove the clingfilm and put the tray in the oven. Keep an eye on the buns – they need to be rotated. Once they come out of the oven, make a quick stock syrup while they cool slightly.
Pour 200ml water into a small saucepan, add the caster sugar, let it dissolve and bring to a boil. Brush over the hot buns and sprinkle with cranberries and raisins or sultanas.
Then, optionally take some icing sugar, mix with just enough cold water to form the desired consistency and coat the buns with the icing sugar mix.
The Art of Cooking: A Contemporary Twist on Georgian Fare is out now and available to purchase from Hatchards Piccadilly and Sotheby’s Restaurant (020 7293 5000; 34-35 New Bond Street, London, W1A 2AA) RRP. £40