What is a Chelsea Bun?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 October 2019
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The Chelsea bun is a type of sweet yeast bread popular in Britain and related to the American cinnamon roll. The flavor of a Chelsea bun is sweet and slightly spicy, with a varied texture created by the addition of chopped dried fruit and nuts. Some British bakers offer Chelsea buns, especially in the morning, and they can also be made at home.

As the name suggests, Chelsea buns were developed in the region of London known as Chelsea, probably at some point during the 17th century. The original Chelsea buns were made at the Chelsea Bun House, a London bakery which is believed to be the site of the invention. The buns quickly grew popular with much of the London populace, and even attracted the attention of royalty. While the Chelsea Bun House closed in 1839, the Chelsea bun has lived on.

To make Chelsea buns, start by dissolving one packet of yeast and one teaspoon sugar in one half cup warm water. While the yeast mixture grows foamy, scald one cup of milk, remove it from the heat, and mix it with one half cup butter, one half cup water, one third cup sugar, and two teaspoons of salt. Add the yeast mixture, and slowly beat in five cups of flour to create a loose, sticky dough. Turn out onto a clean, flour surface and knead until elastic. Leave the dough, covered, in an oiled bowl for approximately one and one half hours.


While the dough rises, prepare a syrup by combining three quarters of a cup sugar with three tablespoons of hot water and three tablespoons butter. Heat until the ingredients combine and melt, and pour the mixture into a large oiled baking dish. Chop dried fruit such as raisins, cherries, and dates, along with nuts, if desired, and sprinkle the mixture on top of the syrup.

After the dough has risen, punch it down, knead if briefly, and allow it to rest for 10 minutes before rolling it out into a long rectangle, or two if the dough is easier to work with in smaller chunks. Spread soft butter on the dough before sprinkling it with brown or white sugar and spices such as cinnamon. Roll the dough up, chop it into segments, and pack them together in the baking dish. Allow the buns to rise for 45 minutes before baking at 375 degrees Fahrenheit (191 degrees Celsius) for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Turn the buns out onto a cooling rack covered in wax paper, keeping them together and allowing the syrup to drip through. Pull apart to serve.


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How can I use a bread making machine to make chelsea buns? Is there a recipe for bread machines?

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