These Muskoka Chelsea Buns are a popular sweet treat in my part of Canada – the Muskoka region of central Ontario. They are sweet, sticky yeast rolls, with a brown sugar, cinnamon and raisin filling. Delicious!
In a few short days, Canada will be celebrating one of those milestone birthdays – her 150th! I guess as far as countries go, she’s a bit of a youngster still, but regardless, it’s a big deal here and we’re celebrating our great country a little more than usual this year :)
I thought it only fitting that I did a little food celebration of my own. I started thinking about uniquely Canadian food, but I’ve already shared my peanut butter version of our Nanaimo Bar and of course, my homemade Authentic Canadian Poutine.
So I decided to start with something that’s unique to my little part of Canada, here in Muskoka, Ontario. In bakeries all over Muskoka, Chelsea Buns are a standard offering. They are part of the food fabric here and definitely worthy of our celebration.
For the uninitiated, Muskoka Chelsea Buns are probably best described as sticky buns meets British-style chelsea buns. British style chelsea buns feature currants and dried mixed fruit. I imagine somewhere along the way, someone decided to ditch the dried fruit and currants in favour of raisins and maraschino cherries and then, in a moment I highly respect as a sweet-loving baker, decided to bathe the whole thing in a sticky brown sugar coating.
And so, as I imagine the story goes, they popped up in some small bakery and caught on. And others made their own version and before long, these Muskoka Chelsea Buns became a nostalgic part of the “summers in Muskoka” experience that Muskoka has so long been known for.
Cook’s Notes for Muskoka Chelsea Buns
There’s really no definitive way to make a Muskoka Chelsea Bun, so go with what you like. I think maraschino cherries are liked by most and they are a nice and pretty addition. Raisins are great too, but you can certainly omit if you’re not a raisin lover. As for the nuts, I enjoy chelsea buns both with and without nuts. If you’d like to add some, sprinkle chopped walnuts or pecan in to the bottom of the pan with the cherries, so they end up on the top when you invert the buns after baking. You could also use pecan halves and lay them out in a pretty pattern. Your call.
As noted, these buns will end up inverted at the end, so remember that the pretty part is at the bottom as you’re preparing them. So be sure to add the stuff you want on the top to the bottom :) Likewise, when cutting the rolls, be sure to place the cut side down in the pan.
As for pan size, this recipe is best made in a 10-inch springform pan. Since springform pans are not usually very well sealed, parchment lining is not really optional here, as you definitely want to keep the ooey gooey brown sugar sauce with your buns and not have it leak out.
Despite the parchment lining, I like to place the springform pan on a baking sheet while it bakes, just in case!
Muskoka Chelsea Buns
Sticky buns, with a brown sugar, butter filling and raisins. Topped with maraschino cherries and nuts, if you like. The type of Chelsea Buns you'll find in the Muskoka region of central Ontario.
- 3 cups + all-purpose flour
- 6 Tbsp white sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp instant yeast
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp whole milk
- 3 Tbsp butter
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup cold butter
- 1 1/2 cups brown sugar packed
- 3 tsp cinnamon
- 1 cup raisins (if using)
- 6-8 maraschino cherries (if using)
- 1/4-1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (if using)
In a small saucepan, heat the water, milk and butter until too hot touch. Remove from heat and allow to cool to lukewarm (about 120F).
Meanwhile, in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitter with a kneading hook, combine 2 1/2 cups of the flour, the white sugar, salt and the instant yeast. When the milk mixture has cooled enough, add to the flour mixture, along with the egg. Mix until combined. Start adding additional flour in small increments and knead until you have a smooth, moist (but not sticky) dough. Remove dough to a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare a 10-inch springform pan by lightly greasing, then lining completely with one sheet of parchment paper, The parchment should completely cover the bottom and most of the sides. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and cold butter. Cut the cold butter in to the brown sugar using a pastry cutter or two knives until you have pea-sized crumbs.
Remove 1/2 cup of the brown sugar/butter mixture and scatter it on to the bottom of your parchment lined pan. Drizzle 3 Tbsp of hot tap water over-top and stir to combine in to a bit of a sauce. It will have bits of un-dissolved butter, but don't worry about that. I doesn't need to be smooth. If using cherries and/or nuts, scatter them on top of the bit of sauce. Set aside
When dough has risen, remove to a floured surface and roll in to a 11x16 rectangle. Even scatter the remaining brown sugar/butter mixture over the dough, then, starting with the long edge, roll the dough up jelly-roll style. Trim both ends slightly to even up, then slice the dough log in to 11 equal-width slices. Place each slice, cut side down, in to your prepared pan, on top of the sauce and cherries/nuts, if using.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Cover pan with a clean tea towel and set aside to rise until puffy and almost doubled, about 30 minutes.
Place pan with rolls on top of a baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for about 40 minutes, or until deep golden and hollow sounding when tapped. You may want to check at the 30 minute mark and if already well browned, cover loosely with a sheet of foil.
Remove from oven and immediately invert on to a piece of parchment paper. Immediately, loosen the side of the springform pan and remove, then remove the parchment paper and discard. Allow to cool completely before eating (to avoid a gummy dough). If you like you can re-warm. Serve with a bit of butter, if you like.