There’s something very satisfying about home-baked bread. Yeast cookery in general has a faint hint of alchemy about it – bubbling potions, dough that doubles in size all by itself – and there are endless variations, both sweet and savoury. Chelsea buns are among my favourites of the sweet variations. They consist of a sweet bread dough rolled with fruit and brown sugar, and are completely impossible to eat without getting your fingers sticky.
Chelsea buns (makes 6-8)
4 Tablespoons (approx 60 ml) warm water
1 teaspoon (1 x 5 ml spoon) sugar
1 teaspoon (1 x 5 ml spoon) dried yeast
8 oz (approx 250 g) strong white bread flour
2 oz (approx 50 g) butter
1 oz (approx 25 g) sugar, preferably light brown soft sugar or similar
2 oz mixed dried fruit
1 oz brown sugar
1 oz butter
Dissolve the teaspoon of sugar in the warm water, and sprinkle the dried yeast on top. Leave in a warm place for 20 minutes or so until frothy.
Rub the 2 oz of butter into the flour.
Mix in the sugar and make a well in the centre.
Pour in the yeast liquid, followed by the beaten egg.
Mix to a soft dough, adding more water if necessary. If it is too sticky, add a little more flour.
Turn onto a floured work surface and knead for a minute or two until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Return the dough to the mixing bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and leave to rise in a warm place for about an hour. It should roughly double in size.
Knead again, and roll out to about 1 cm (less than 0.5 inch) thick, in a roughly rectangular shape.
Dot the 1 oz of butter evenly over the rectangle of dough, and sprinkle with the brown sugar and dried fruit.
Starting from one of the short sides, roll up the rectangle like a Swiss roll.
Cut the roll into thick slices (about 1 inch, approx 2.5 cm, thick).
Put the slices cut side down onto a greased baking sheet, so they almost touch each other. Cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes. The buns should expand to touch each other.
Bake in a hot oven, about 220 C, for about 20 minutes until firm and golden.
Remove from the tray and cool on a wire rack.
If liked, you can brush them with a sugar glaze, but I prefer them without.
Best eaten within a day or two. I expect they would freeze, but I’ve never tried.