There are two kinds of chelsea buns. There’s the traditional British style, which are sweet rolls with a sticky glaze and studded with currants. I’m sure they’re very good, but these aren’t those kind of chelsea buns.
These are the kind of chelsea buns that you’ll find in small bakeries and Farmer’s Markets all over cottage country in the central Ontario regions of Muskoka, Haliburton and Kawartha Lakes (and probably beyond, but I can only speak with confidence about this area).
For some reason, they’re almost always made loaf shaped. I’m not sure why, but I suspect it may be for practical reasons as bakeries have a lot of loaf pans and loaf-sized plastic bags. You could make them round. Don’s Bakery in Bala does it that way. The only thing you really need is a pan with high sides. Your regular square or round cake pan just isn’t high enough to handle these. Cottage country style chelsea buns need to be high.
This recipe comes from a friend of my Mom. It’s makes one 9×5-inch loaf pan of 8 buns. The filling of brown sugar, cinnamon and butter is rolled inside the sweet dough, together with the raisins. On top is the same filling, mixed with a bit of water to make a sauce, and is sprinkled with maraschino cherries and pecans.
The best part of chelsea buns for me, is to eat them by unrolling them!
Cottage Country Style Chelsea Buns
Summary: These are the chelsea buns that are a staple in cottage areas of central Ontario. You can use as much or as little cherry/pecan topping as you like. Like all breads, these freeze well.
- 2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided
- 1/4 cup white granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 1/4 tsp. quick rise yeast (*see note below about using instant or active dry yeast)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup butter, divided
- 1 egg
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
- 2/3 cup raisins
- Few pecan halves (6-8)
- Maraschino cherries halves (about 6 whole cherries, halved)
- Combine 2 1/4 cups of the flour, the white sugar, salt and yeast in a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer. In a small saucepan, heat the water, milk and 2 Tbsp. of the butter until too hot to touch. Stir into dry ingredients, then add egg. Mix in enough of the remaining flour to make it soft dough. Knead on a floured surface until smooth and elastic. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes.
- In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and remaining butter. (I just cut the butter into the sugar with a pastry blender. You could also mix it together in a food processor). Place 1/3 cup of brown sugar mixture into the bottom of a greased 9-inch x 5-inch loaf pan. Add 2 Tbsp. water and stir together to make a sauce (may be a bit lumpy, but not to worry. The lumps are butter and that will melt). Place the halved cherries and pecans (good side down) on top of the sauce.
- Roll the dough into a 9 x 14-inch rectangle. Spread the remaining brown sugar/cinnamon mixture evenly on the dough, then sprinkle raisins on top. From the long side, roll up jelly roll style, trying not to pull or stretch the dough too much as you roll (aim for a gentle push This prevents the dough spirals from exploding upwards when they cook). Pinch the seam together and place on a cutting board, seam side down. Cut into 8 even slices (*I like to cut 1/2-inch off each end and then measure the remaining, divide by 8 and then pre-mark the dough lightly with the edge of the knife. You could wing it, but that never works out well for me well when I do that). Place the slices cut side up in the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 40 minutes (for quick rise yeast) or 60-70 minutes (for instant or active dry yeast) or until the dough has doubled.
- Preheat oven to 350° F.
- Bake for about 35 minutes. Check at the 30 minute mark and cover loosely with foil if it is getting too brown on top. Remove from oven. Allow to rest for 5 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a cooling rack with a piece of parchment on top, to cool. To avoid a gummy dough, allow to cool almost completely before pulling off that first piece (I know it’s hard to resist, but remember you can always warm it back up a bit with a few seconds in the microwave later).
Prep time: 15 min | Cook time: 35 min | Total time: 2 hours
Number of servings (yield): 8 rolls/1 9×5-inch pan
Note about yeast: I actually made these buns with instant yeast, so I know it works. Quick rise yeast is best suited for this recipe, as this is a single rise recipe. Both instant and active dry yeast work best with a double rise. That said, I only had instant yeast on hand, so that’s what I used, without problem. The only thing I had to change is the second rise time. It is slower, so the dough will need to rise about 60-70 minutes, instead of the 40 minutes.