Pistachio and Chocolate Chelsea Buns
I was so disappointed with the failure of my naan bread, the technical challenge from the Great British Bake Off this week, that I decided to make some Chelsea buns. I’ve had mixed results with enriched dough before now. Some of the things I’ve tried haven’t been very good, especially in the early days of Let’s Bake the Books. I didn’t have a very good time with the hot cross buns for example. I’ve been getting better results more recently though and, the blueberry brioche buns I made when I did the sweet dough series were lovely. Given that my enriched dough has improved, I thought that I may be able to make a decent batch of Chelsea buns that would cheer me up after my half-cooked naan bread.
Here’s what I came up with.
They were the first nice thing I’d baked since the wagon wheels and, what’s more, unlike the wagon wheels, I may be tempted to try these again.
I wanted to find a recipe in my books for the Chelsea buns. The only one I could find was in a book that I don’t use for Let’s Bake the Books very often, but it does tell you how to make just about anything. It’s Leiths Cookery Bible by Prue Leith and Caroline Waldergrave. It’s ironic, perhaps, that I ended up using a Prue Leith recipe for a Bake Off bread week challenge.
The Leiths Cookery Bible recipe is for your traditional Chelsea bun. I decided to go off piste with mine, mainly because I still had a lot of pistachio marzipan left over from the gateau vert that I wanted to use up. I thought it might make a good bun filling.
Step One: The Dough
The first step in the recipe was to prepare fresh yeast. I did try to find fresh yeast at one point but, when one of my favourite bakeries, Bread & Co in Warwick, told me that they used dried yeast, I gave up the search. When you use dried, or easy-bake yeast you need half the amount given for fresh yeast. You do need to activate dried yeast before you use it, but with easy-bake you can just add it to your dry ingredients. I used easy-bake in this recipe, because it’s what was in the cupboard.
To start then, I sifted strong white bread flour, salt and cinnamon into the bowl of the KitchenAid (no hand-kneading for me). I rubbed in butter and some caster sugar, and added my yeast. A mixture of beaten egg and milk came next. I added this slowly so that I wouldn’t end up with a batter rather than a dough.
The recipe then has you covering the bowl with clingfilm and leaving it to proof. This must be a mistake. I think the kneading step is missing. Anyway, I kneaded the mixture in the KitchenAid for a good five minutes, stopping when the dough looked soft and smooth.
Sorry about the soft focus, but my camera’s playing up. It’s on its last legs.
I’ve decided to do my proofing in the oven with the light on. In the summer there was a reason (which I’ve now forgotten) for looking at the instructions to our oven. It said that you could make yogurt in the oven with the light on so I thought it could work just as well for proofing. Otherwise, I don’t really have a warm place to leave the dough if the radiators aren’t on, and I’m determined not to turn them on just yet, although I have been tempted. I left the dough for just over an hour. It had definitely doubled in size by the time I can back to it.
Step Two: Filling and Shaping
To make the Chelsea buns, I rolled the dough out into a square(ish) shape and put my filling onto the top. For the filling, I took some of the pistachio marzipan I made last week for the gateau vert and mixed it with some butter. I half crumbled it half spread it over the dough, and then sprinkled some chocolate chips on top. Since the children claim not to like dark chocolate, I used milk.
Once I had a fairly even spread of filling over the top of the dough, I rolled the whole thing up into a Swiss roll. I had a go at neatening the ends and cut the roll into slices of about 2cm each. The slices were OK, but they did have a tendency to unfurl. To get around this, I put them as close together as possible on my baking sheet. Hopefully, when they expanded in the final proof the buns would stick together so they wouldn’t be able to uncurl. I’m sure that’s not the correct way to get around this problem, but it’s the best idea I had.
I put the slices onto a baking tray and back into the oven with the light on for fifteen minutes.
Step Three: Baking
I baked the buns at 180º fan for twenty minutes. According to the recipe, I was supposed to brush them with apricot glaze when they came out of the oven. I didn’t have any apricot jam though, so I couldn’t. Since they weren’t very shiny, I decided to brush them with a mixture of icing sugar and water. Whether that’s the right thing to do or not, I have no idea, but I didn’t really have time before they cooled to look up an alternative to apricot glaze. I also found a tube of milk chocolate that you can write with in the cupboard. I used it for a bit of extra decoration.
Here are the final pistachio and milk chocolate Chelsea buns. They’re not particularly even, and my glazing and decorating needs work but, all in all, I was pretty pleased with them.
Was It Worth It?
I’m very pleased and relieved to say that I think it was. My Chelsea buns weren’t perfect by any means, but they did taste good, and the dough was lovely. The children ate a whole bun each, which is a rare occurrence with the stuff I make. I didn’t tell them that the buns had pistachios in them since my son, as well as claiming not to like dark chocolate, also says he doesn’t like nuts. If he’d known he would have refused to try one.
I think the oven with the light on technique really worked. My only thought was that, there was no need for the cinnamon in the dough. Fair enough for traditional Chelsea buns, but if you’re filling them with something other than spiced currants and sultanas you don’t really need it. I also nearly broke my tooth on a rogue pistachio shell that had found its way into the marzipan, but that was completely my own fault. At last, a Bake Off challenge that it’s worth making more than once.