“Does progress mean that we dissolve our ancient myths? If we forget our legends, I fear that we shall close an important door to the imagination.” James Christensen
As legend and history has it, the original Chelsea bun has a distinctively clear origin, being associated with just one traditional source, the Bun House in Chelsea. This establishment, in the Pimlico Road near Sloane Square, gained fame in the early years of the 18th century, to such an extent that it was patronised by the royal family. The Chelsea Bun baked and consumed on the premises of the Bun House was it is said renowned for its lightness, however, the Chelsea bun of today is rather a substantial, filling and overly sweet. Its dough is enriched with eggs, a hint of lemon zest and spices. The rolled out sheets of dough have a rich filling. The filled sheets are rolled up Swiss roll style, and then cut into slices about 50mm wide. These slices are placed cut side down on a baking sheet and left to prove. The secret of the characteristic square shape of the bun is in the spacing as they should nearly touch when reaching the end of their proving. In the oven the last few millimeters of expansion occurs, causing the buns restricting further movement, hence the square shape. When baking is complete the squares are brushed with a glaze left to cool a little, then torn apart. The Bun House was famous for selling its buns hot from the oven, when of course their aroma would be at its most enticing, and making them at home easily provides the same sensational experience.
“…Myths aren’t fairy tales or legends—they’re an honest attempt to explain mysteries…” John Geddes
The savoury version is indulgent, perfect alternative for a stay-at-home breakfast.
500 g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
25 g fresh yeast
300 ml runny yogurt
40 g goose fat
For the filling
25 g butter, melted
2 tsp ground ginger
150 g grated cheese
5 tbsp chutney
A handful of fresh herbs, chopped finely
100 g finely chopped nuts
Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and add the yeast. Meanwhile, warm the yogurt and fat in a saucepan until the butter melts and the mixture is lukewarm. Add the mixture and egg to the flour mixture and stir until the contents of the bowl come together as a soft dough. Tip the dough onto a generously floured work surface. Knead for five minutes, adding more flour if necessary, until the dough is smooth and elastic and no longer feels sticky. Lightly oil a bowl with a little of the vegetable oil. Place the dough into the bowl and turn until it is covered in the oil. Cover the bowl with cling film and set aside in a warm place for one hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
Lightly grease a baking tray.For the filling, knock the dough back to its original size and turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll the dough out into a rectangle 0.5 cm thick. Brush all over with the melted butter and then with the chutney, then sprinkle over the cheese, ginger, herbs and nuts. Roll the dough up into a tight cylinder , cut ten 4 cm slices and place them onto a lightly greased baking sheet, leaving a little space between each slice. Cover with a tea towel and set aside to rise for 30 minutes, then sprinkle them with sesame seeds.
Preheat oven to 190 degrees C. Bake the buns in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until risen and golden-brown. Remove the buns from the oven and brush with the little olive oil, then set aside to cool on a wire rack.
“History has its truth, and so has legend. Legendary truth is of another nature than historical truth. Legendary truth is invention whose result is reality. Furthermore, history and legend have the same goal; to depict eternal man beneath momentary man.” Victor Hugo