The most famous Chelsea buns were purveyed at the The Chelsea Bun House somewhere in either Chelsea or Pimlico, in London, in the 1800s. The Kings of England popped in for their favourite treats, which is rather like finding yourself behind Justin Bieber in the coffee queue in Starbucks! While nobody knows where the original Chelsea Bun House was, in modern day Pimlico there is a Bunhouse Place which may be the location, although nobody is certain.
Chelsea buns are a yeast dough, which means you need to allow adequate time for rising when planning to cook them. The first rising time is one hour, the second thirty minutes, and the first stage of preparation takes around twenty minutes, the second around ten, so in total the time required from start to finish is two hours. The salt is an essential ingredient which adds softness to the dough, so don’t be tempted to change the quantities or leave it out, however, if you have unsalted butter you can substitute by using that with a quarter teaspoon of salt rather than a pinch.
- 75 grams dried pears, finely sliced
- 2 tablespoons pear or apple juice
- 225 grams strong plain flour
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch salt
- 50 grams salted butter
- 1.5 teaspoons dried yeast
- 125 ml warm milk
- 1 medium egg, lightly whisked
- 75 grams plain chocolate chopped
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
Heat the pear or apple juice in a small bowl microwave until warm but not boiling, then add the dried pears and stir. Leave them to soak.
Sift together the flour, salt and dried cinnamon into a large bowl, lifting the sieve high to incorporate air. Then rub 30 grams of the butter into the flour, stir in the yeast, and then make a well in the middle of the ingredients into which you pour the milk.
Begin to mix the milk and flour blend together, adding the egg as you go along, until it forms a soft dough. Knead the dough on a well-floured service for ten minutes. The dough becomes smooth and elastic and springs back when worked. Replace the dough in the bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place to rise for an hour.
Lightly oil an 18 cm tin, which can be square or round – if it is square you get three rows of four and if it is round you need to organise the buns so that they circle around a central bun.
Once the dough has doubled in size, melt the remaining butter and set aside while you turn the back out onto a floured service and knead it lightly (this is called knocking back) before rolling it out into a rectangle around 30 by 23 centimetres. Brush the melted butter over the dough and spoon the pears over the top, leaving a 2.5 cm border all the way round, before strewing the chocolate too, so that it is interspersed with the fruit.
Lightly flour your hands and begin to roll the dough, starting at a long edge. Once it is rolled, turn it over so that the join is underneath and cut into 12 equal slices. Arrange them in the prepared tin, cut side upwards, and leave to rise for 25 minutes – they should double again in size.
15 minutes into the 25 minutes rising time, preheat the oven to 190ºC, 375ºF or Gas Mark 5. Bake the buns on a middle shelf of the oven for thirty minutes, until well risen and golden brown. If the buns look as if they are already browning after 20 minutes, cover the top of the dish with tinfoil for the final 10 minutes baking time.
Leave to stand for five minutes and then drizzle with the maple syrup so that it soaks into the buns and leave for a further ten minutes in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool somewhat before separating them. Chelsea buns are best eaten warm.
Storage And Serving Tips
Can be frozen in a rigid container before the maple syrup glaze is added.
Can also be cooked up to five days in advance and stored in an airtight container – for maximum taste, if you’ve made them more than 12 hours ahead, it’s best to warm them for five minutes in a medium oven before serving.
If you have a star shaped baking tin or silicone dish that you use for Christmas baking, you can arrange your Chocolate Chelsea Buns in it, and serve them undivided as a superlative Boxing Day breakfast treat when they are really good with hot drinking chocolate. Dot the ‘big star’ with white chocolate stars for a really pretty presentation.