Friday, 23 August 2013

Bakewell Chelsea Buns

You may be be pleased to know that, in a departure from the norm, today’s bake is about as British as tea and scones at the Dorchester. In fact, they may very well serve these at the Dorchester, but you can bet money on them being nothing like this particular version, which is the brain child of one of last year’s Great British Bake Off contestants (have you seen the new series? Even in the first week they’re putting me to shame!), Danny Bryden. Danny’s idea was to jazz up the traditional Chelsea Bun with the flavours traditionally associated with Bakewell, almond and cherry. And boy, does it work like a dream.
I’ve adapted Danny’s original recipe slightly, reducing the yield by half (if you have a lot of people to feed – or are just very hungry – you can always double it up again) and using less milk, as it’s an incredibly sticky dough that I found too difficult to work by hand. I also didn’t have any Chambord available so simply left that out, although having tried Chambord before I would definitely recommend including it if you can (for those who don’t know, Chambord is a French, berry flavour liqueur, very tasty and not too expensive if you feel like giving it a go). As with all yeast baking, these buns do take a while to make, as you have to factor in time for the dough to prove (rise), but they’re well worth the wait. I must admit I caved in towards the end and iced the buns before they were completely cold, but for once my chronic lack of patience actually turned out to my advantage, as to eat them fresh is an utterly fantabulous experience. That’s not to say they won’t still be good later, or even after freezing, but do make sure you try them at their freshest first, as they’ll never be quite the same.
Recipe makes about 8 buns

250g strong white bread flour
20g caster sugar
5g dried active yeast
5g salt
100ml lukewarm milk
30g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
60g soft butter
60g caster sugar
60g ground almonds
10g plain flour
1 egg
1 tbsp amaretto
½ tsp almond extract
100g sour cherries chopped
1 tbsp Chambord or other berry liqueur (optional)
egg beaten with a pinch of salt for egg wash
100g fondant icing sugar, sieved and mixed with 2-4 tbsp water
a handful of unglazed glacé cherries, halved

  1. Combine the flour, sugar, yeast and salt in a bowl.
  2. Rub in the butter, then add the egg. Gradually add the milk to form a sticky dough (you may not need it all, especially if working by hand, but try to get in as much as you can manage).
  3. Knead on the unfloured counter for 10 minutes until smooth and transparent when pulled and held to the light. Then lightly flour surface and form the dough into a ball.
  4. Return the ball to the bowl, cover with cling film and leave until doubled in size (at least 1 hour).
  5. Make the almond paste by beating the butter with the sugar until pale and fluffy. Then stir in the almonds and flour. Add the egg, then the almond extract and Amaretto. Chill until ready to use if not using immediately.
  6. Chop the sour cherries and leave to absorb the liqueur, if using.
  7. When the dough has risen, turn it out and then roll out to a rectangle (roughly 30cm in length) on a lightly floured surface. Spread half to three quarters of the almond paste thinly over the dough to the edges and then scatter the cherries over the top, leaving one long edge clear for 2cm (you can discard the rest of the paste as this is just leftovers). Roll up the dough from the long edge opposite to this one so that it looks like a Swiss roll and using a pastry brush dipped in water, moisten the opposite edge and press to seal.
  8. Cut off the ends each side to neaten and then cut the roll into 6-8 equal pieces each around 2-3cm thick.
  9. Turn each piece on its end, flatten slightly until no more than 3cm high and then arrange on a baking tray.
  10. Glaze with egg wash.
  11. Set oven to 180 degrees C and leave to prove covered lightly with a towel in a warm place for 30 minutes by which time they should have roughly doubled in size.
  12. Bake for 18-20 minutes until golden brown (if browning too quickly then cover with foil/parchment). The buns should be firm underneath.
  13. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
  14. Mix the fondant icing sugar with the water and then pipe over the cooled buns in irregular zigzag strokes. Decorate with a halved glacé cherry.

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