A traditional Chelsea bun is a currant bun which was first created in the 18th century in the Bun House in Chelsea, London (demolished in 1839). It had a rich yeast dough which was filled with currants, spices and brown sugar.
This version has a light rich yeast dough which is filled with mixed fruit tossed in brown sugar and spices. The top is glazed with honey and sprinkled with sugar. So good!
115g (4 oz) mixed dried fruit (currants, raisins and sultanas) (¾ cup)
55g (2 oz) soft light brown sugar (¼ cup)
1 tsp ground mixed spice (all-spice, cinnamon, cloves and ginger)
28g (1 oz) butter, melted (2 tbsp, or ¼ stick)
For the topping
2 tbsp runny/clear honey
6 sugar cubes, crushed OR
2 tbsp granulated/white sugar
Non-stick baking tin/pan, 28 x 18 x 4cm (11 x 7 x 1½ ins), lightly buttered
Sift the flour, salt and sugar into a mixing bowl. Cube the butter, add to the bowl and rub in until the mixture resembles small breadcrumbs. Sprinkle over the yeast and mix in.
Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture. Pour in the warmed milk and eggs and mix to form a soft, slightly sticky dough. Then turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for around 10 minutes (6 minutes if using a stand mixer with a dough hook) until silky smooth.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a 23cm (9 in) square.
Now for the filling. Mix together the dried fruit and brown sugar. Stir though the mixed spice and melted butter until well mixed in.
Evenly distribute the mixture over the dough to within 5cm (¼ in) of the edge. Now carefully roll the dough up as tightly as possible. Cut the rolled dough into eight equal slices and place in the prepared tin with the cut sides down, spacing evenly apart.
Loosely cover the tin/pan with cling film and leave in a warm place until the buns have risen and almost fill the tin/pan. The dough should retain an indentation when lightly pressed with a finger.
Heat the oven to 200°C (400°F) (gas 6)
Bake the buns for 25 minutes until they are golden brown and feel firm when lightly pressed with a finger.
Remove the buns from the oven. Heat the honey in a small pan until just warm and then brush all over the buns. Now just sprinkle the crushed sugar over the top.
Allow to cool in the tin/pan before removing and then gently separate the buns.
Update My recipe previously included all spice because I couldn’t find the mixed spices used in the U.K. Whilst you can use any spices that you like, I’ve now adapted the recipe to more closely resemble the traditional British flavours.
Tastier than store-bought, we enjoy these traditional hot cross buns at Easter and all year round! I have to thank Paul Hollywood of The Great British Bakeoff for the idea of adding an apple to the recipe. It adds to the flavour and gives them a softer, more moist, texture.
I use a KitchenAid stand mixer with a dough hook but you can knead by hand if you prefer.
Chop the mixed peel and the apple into small cubes, grate the zest of an orange into the mixture, and put to one side.
Weigh out the salt, sugar, and yeast, and add to the flour in the mixer bowl, putting the yeast and the salt on opposite sides of the bowl. Then add the sultanas and the fruit that you chopped up, as well as the spices. Mix all these dry ingredients together. (This allows the flour to coat the fruit and prevent it sticking together.)
Add the butter, egg, and milk, and mix on speed 1 until it is all evenly mixed. This only takes about a minute. Then mix on speed 2 for another 8 minutes. While this is kneading, lightly oil a large bowl for the dough to rise in.
The dough should now be smooth, the sides of the bowl should be clean, and the dough should come off the dough hook without sticking. Tip it out onto a lightly floured (or oiled) surface and shape it into a ball. Put it into the oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel or cling film.
Leave it to rise until it's at least doubled in size.* At room temperature, this should take a minimum of an hour but it's fine to leave it for 2–3 hours. The longer the better – it improves the flavour.
While waiting, prepare a large baking tray – line with baking parchment.
Tip out the risen dough onto a lightly floured surface and knock the air out by folding it in on itself a few times. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions and roll each portion into a smooth ball. (To do this, flatten the dough with your hand flat, then moving your hand in a circular motion, gradually lift the palm while leaving the finger tips on the work surface, forming a cage around the dough. Do this quite quickly.)
Place the dough balls on the baking tray, laid out four by three, about an inch apart. This will give them room to grow so that they’re almost touching after proving. (You want them to join up when baking so that you have to tear them apart when finished.) Cover with a tea towel, or place inside a clean plastic bag, and leave to prove for about an hour. You can tell when they're ready when they've doubled in size again and the dough springs back readily if you poke it gently with your finger.
Before the end of the hour, preheat your oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5
For the crosses
Mix the flour and water into a paste and add to a piping bag with a fine nozzle. Make one half of the crosses by piping across each row of buns in one sweep, starting on the tray and finishing each sweep on the tray at the other side. When all the buns are piped in one direction, turn the tray and repeat, forming the crosses.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until nicely browned.
For the glaze
Warm the apricot jam with a teaspoon of boiling water and brush over the tops of the buns while they’re still warm.
Allow to cool on a wire rack.
Unless you can't wait, freeze the buns and defrost when needed.
It's not easy to accurately divide the dough into 12 equal portions. I weigh the bowl with the risen dough in it, turn out the dough and then weigh the bowl again. The difference is the weight of the dough. Divide that by 12 and then weigh each portion as you cut it, adding or subtracting bits of dough until they're approximately right. With this recipe they worked out to be about 103g (3⅔ oz) each
* Doubled in size means doubled in volume. This means that if the dough is in the shape of a ball, the diameter increases by about 25%.