What do you when your Australian grand-daughter asks you for a recipe for cinnamon buns? You dig out your recipe for chelsea buns of course! Fluffy and light, with a soft rich pastry and a brown sugar and cinnamon filling, packed with sultanas, these homemade chelsea buns taste amazing. For extra sweetness they are covered with a simple icing sugar glaze.
Chelsea buns or cinnamon buns?
I used to make these Chelsea buns at home all the time when my children were younger – they are perfect for packing in lunch boxes, or as an after school snack. And they are especially delicious eaten warm, straight out of the oven. But once my family grew up and left home I stopped making them.
The other day my grand-daughter messaged me on Facebook asking if I had a recipe for cinnamon buns and I remembered this recipe.
I think Chelsea buns and cinnamon buns are both pretty similar, it just depends where in the world you are, as to what you call them. But there are a few subtle differences:
- In a Chelsea bun, the cinnamon is optional
- In a cinnamon bun the sultanas (or other dried fruit like raisins and currents) are optional
- A cinnamon bun has a thick glaze, sometimes made with cream cheese, whereas a Chelsea bun has a much thinner glaze, made with icing sugar, which is poured over while the buns are still hot from the oven, so it sinks into the warm dough and becomes almost invisible.
- Chelsea buns originated from Chelsea in London
- Cinnamon buns originated in Sweden, when they are called ‘kanelbulle’, and the 4th October each year is celebrated as Cinnamon Bun Day.
My recipe calls for both cinnamon and sultanas, go I guess it is a bit of a combination of both. Nevertheless, as Shakespeare so aptly put it in Romeo and Juliet –
What’s in a name? That which we call a roseSpoken by Juliet, Romeo & Juliet, Act 2 Scene 2
By any other name would smell as sweet
So this is my interpretation of a Chelsea bun / cinnamon bun. I hope you enjoy it.
Just look at the texture of the dough. The secret is to add an egg to the mixture. This enriches the dough and helps to form the characteristic soft chewy texture.
The dough for Chelsea buns also contains yeast. But don’t let this put you off making them. The yeast is instant yeast, which comes in pre-weighed 7g packets, and you just sprinkle the granules in with the flour. There’s no need to mix it with water and sugar and wait until it froths before using it. This recipe is instant baking at its best.
What you will need to make Chelsea Buns
You can get the complete list of ingredients and detailed instructions from the printable recipe card at the end of this post.
For the dough
- Plain flour – don’t use self-raising flour, this dough gets its rise from the yeast.
- Milk and butter – these should be warmed together in the microwave or a few seconds. The warmth from the warm ingredients will help to activate the yeast. Don’t let the butter melt completely, it should just be nicely softened.
- Sugar – this is to add a bit of sweetness to the dough.
- Egg – to help form the distinctive texture.
- Yeast – as I mentioned, you need instant yeast, which comes in granule form.
- Salt – just to add a little more flavour. You can leave this out if you wish.
For the filling
- Butter – this is spread on the rolled out dough before the sugar and cinnamon are added. It helps keep the finished buns soft on the inside. If you are using it out of the fridge you can soften it in the microwave for a few seconds to it spreads easily.
- Brown Sugar – you can use white sugar if you don’t have brown, but brown sugar does give a nicer flavour.
- Cinnamon – this is sprinkled onto the dough with the sugar.
- Sultanas – you can use either raisins or currents if you prefer. I like sultanas because they are so plump and juicy in the centre of the buns.
For the glaze
- Icing sugar – that’s what we call it in England. Other parts of the world may reer to it as powdered sugar, or confectioner’s sugar.
- Milk – not too much, just enough to turn the icing sugar into a runny paste.
How to make Chelsea Buns
Make the dough
- Pour the milk into a container and add the butter. Place in the microwave for about 30 seconds to warm. Don’t melt the butter, it should just be soft. Yeast likes a warm environment and if the milk and butter are just out of the fridge they will be too cold and the yeast will take longer to activate and start rising.
- Place the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl, mix lightly to combine then add the egg and the warmed milk and butter.
- Using a flat knife, or wooden spoon, mix the ingredients until they are just combined. There will still be lumps of butter in the dough. This doesn’t matter. They are going to be combined in the next step.
- Tip the contents of the mixing bowl onto a clean work surface and knead lightly with your hands until the mixture forms a ball and all the butter has been incorporated. You should not need to add any extra flour, but if the dough is very sticky you can add a small amount.
- Now knead for about 5 minutes until the dough is soft, smooth and pliable.
- Place the ball of dough back into the mixing bowl, cover with a clean cloth and leave to rise for about an hour until doubled in size.
Add the filling to the buns
- Once the dough has risen, remove it from the mixing bowl and place it on the work surface. Form it into a ball and then roll out into a rectangle, about 12″ x 15″ in size.
- Spread with softened butter then sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon, and then sprinkle with the sultanas.
- Starting at the long end, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Cut away the ends to straighten it up and remove the bits of dough that may not have any filling.
- Slice the cylinder into 9 equal pieces, about 2 to 3 cm wide.
- Arrange the slices of dough in a 9″ baking tin lined with parchment paper. Leave a slight gap between each one. This gap will close up as the buns rise.
- Cover and leave in a warm place for about 30 minutes to rise for a second time.
- Once the buns have risen they should be tightly packed together. This means when you separate the cooked buns, each side will be nice and soft.
- Pre-heat the oven to 190C / 375F and place the tray of Chelsea buns on the middle shelf in the oven.
- There is no need to brush with milk or eggwash, the buns will brown nicely because of the butter in the dough, and the glaze will soften the top when you pour it over.
- Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes until they are golden brown.
- Remove from oven and pour over the glaze while they are still hot.
Make the glaze
- Make the glaze while the Chelsea buns are in the oven.
- Put the icing sugar into a bowl and add just enough milk to make a pourable paste.
- Mix well to remove any lumps
- Pour over the Chelsea buns while they are still hot from the oven. The glaze will melt and sink into the buns, leaving just a thin coating on top.
I’ve cut one of the Chelsea buns in half so you can see what the texture looks like. It should be soft, moist, chewy and even if I say it myself, absolutely delicious.
How do I serve Chelsea buns?
Chelsea buns can be eaten at any time.
- Try having one for breakfast.
- Pop one into a lunch box for a sweet treat.
- Slice and spread with butter for a tea-time snack.
- You could even pour a helping of custard over and have it for a tasty dessert!
Chelsea buns will stay fresh in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Can I freeze Chelsea buns?
If you want to freeze uncooked Chelsea buns, arrange the slices in a tin-foil container and allow to rise. Cover with clingfilm, then place them in a large plastic bag and freeze until you are ready to bake them.
To bake, remove from the freezer and allow to defrost. Once they are defrosted, discard the wrapping, place in the oven in the tinfoil container and bake as per the recipe instructions. Then make the glaze and pour over the hot buns.
Baked Chelsea buns (with the glaze) can be wrapped in tin-foil and then covered with clingfilm and then frozen for up to six months.
To re-heat, remove from the freezer and allow to defrost then remove from the wrapping. Reheat them either in the microwave, or place in a hot oven for a few minutes.
Convert grams to cups
To help you convert your recipe measurements, I have created a handy Cookery Conversion Calculator which will convert ingredients between grams, ounces, tablespoons, cups and millilitres. I hope you will find it useful.
If you live at a high altitude you may find you need to adjust your baking recipes to compensate for this. You can read about how to do this in this post on baking at high altitudes.
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Recipe – Chelsea Buns
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- Mixing bowl
- Rolling Pin
- Small bowl
- Baking tin
- Baking parchment paper
- 4 cups (560g) Flour 1000 ml
- 1 cup Milk warmed in the microwave with the butter
- 4 oz (125g) butter warmed in the microwave with the milk
- 4 tablespoons (50g) sugar 70 ml
- ¼ oz (7g) instant dry yeast
- 1 large egg at room temperature
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3- 4 tablespoons brown sugar you can use white sugar, but brown gives a better taste
- 3 tablespoons butter softened
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon powder
- 2 oz (60g) sultanas be generous
- 2 oz (60g) icing sugar/conectioner's sugar about 4 heaped tablespoons
- Milk sufficient to mix with icing sugar to form a smooth thin paste
- Place all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl
- Put the butter and milk into a measuring jug and then microwave for about 30 seconds. Do not allow the butter to melt completely, it should just soften.
- Pour the mik and butter into the dry ingredients and add the egg.
- Mix with a wooden spoon until just combined then tip onto a work surface and knead lightly to bring everything together.
- Now knead for about 5 minutes until the dough is soft and pliable.
- Place the dough back into the mixing bowl, cover and leave in a warm place for about 1 hour until doubled in size.
- Form the dough back into a smooth ball and then roll out into a rectangle about 12" x 15" in size.
- Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon, then spread the sultanas over.
- Roll the dough from the long side into a tight sausage shape.
- Cut slices approximately 2 to 3 cm thickand place them on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Leave about 1cm between each slice.
- Cover with a cloth and leave for about 30 minutes in a warm place to let them rise again.
- Pre-heat the oven to 190°C / 375°F
- Place the tray of Chelsea buns in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes until golden brown.
- Mix the icing/confectioner's sugar with sufficient milk to form a thin paste
- Pour over the hot buns when they come out of the oven
- Just mix enough to combine all the ingredients. You will find there are still lumps of butter in the dough. This is perfectly fine – it will incorporate fully as you knead the dough.
- When kneading the dough you should not need any extra flour. If you find the dough is too sticky you can add a small amount, but don’t add too much. As you knead, you will find the dough becomes less sticky.
- I have specified 3 to 4 tablespoons of brown sugar. Use what you need to cover the dough completely in a thin layer.
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon should be sufficient, but you can use more or less depending on your taste.
- Be generous with the sultanas. 50g should be enough to give a nice covering, but you can use more or less depending on your taste.
- If you wish, you can substitute the sultanas with currents or raisins.
- Cut away each end of the roll to trim away any dough that doesn’t have filling.
- Use a serrated knife to cut the rolls neatly
- Do not pack the rolls too tightly – leave a small gap between each roll to allow or expansion as the rolls rise.
- There should be enough room for the rolls to expand and just touch one another when they rise. This way when you separate the cooked rolls, the sides will be nice and soft.
I am not a nutritionist. The nutrition information has been calculated using an on-line calculator, and is intended for information and guidance purposes only. If the nutrition information is important to you, you should consider calculating it yourself, using your preferred tool.
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