Are Chelsea Buns and Cinnamon Rolls the same thing? A Chelsea bun is very similar to cinnamon rolls, except the filling also contains raisins, currants or sultanas and sometimes even mixed peel. Chelsea buns are usually topped with a simple icing glaze and not cream cheese frosting. But I thought - what the heck - let's get crazy! Let's make a Chelsea bun and top it with sour cream frosting (mostly because I had sour cream in the fridge).
Chelsea buns are rather popular in South Africa, they can be found in pretty much every supermarket and in many bakeries. I've noticed they are fairly popular here in New Zealand as well! This makes sense since the Chelsea bun originated in Chelsea, London in the 18th century and thus spread through the commonwealth.
When I think of Chelsea buns I'm immediately transported back to my high school self, wearing my terrible school uniform while popping into the shops with my mom and sister after school. Sometimes we lucked out with a Chelsea bun treat, although I'm sure my sister picked something else because cooked fruit is not her jam. But these buns were usually overbaked and dry, only the centre of the bun was worth eating. But not these buns below! They are delicious from the outmost coil right into the centre.
Ingredients for Chelsea Buns
Chelsea Bun Dough
High Grade/Strong/Bread Flour is a must when making any sort of bread. The higher protein content is essential in building gluten strands that hold the bread together and allow it to rise.
Sugar - sugar is used both in the dough as well as in the filling. I've used caster sugar in the dough and brown sugar for the filling.
Active yeast - 4 teaspoons of active yeast may seem like a lot, but this is an enriched dough. The added butter, milk, and egg make it more difficult for the dough to rise when proofing. The additional yeast gives that little extra oomph required for soft pillowy goodness.
Butter, milk and egg for the dough are what give the Chelsea bun (cinnamon roll) dough its rich flavour.
Chelsea Bun Filling
Butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg are the traditional ingredients in a Chelsea Bun and Cinnamon Roll Filling. You can also spice it up (pun intended) with mixed spice, ginger, pumpkin spice or a speculoos/biscoff spice mix.
Raisins are the traditional fruit used in a Chelsea bun, particularly in South Africa. However, I had some mixed peel leftover from my hot cross bun pound cake and decided to toss it in. If you have mixed peel - toss it in, you won't regret it. But, if it's a cinnamon roll you are after, just leave the fruit out.
Sour Cream Frosting
A sour cream frosting – if you like cream cheese frosting, sour cream frosting is a must-try. Just a little less tangy, but oh so delicious. Sour cream frosting is made from sour cream, butter, icing sugar and lemon juice.
Tips for making Chelsea Buns
Weighing ingredients is more accurate than using measuring cups overall, and this is my recommendation for my recipes as they are all developed and tested using grams only. However, I have activated the US customary conversions on the recipe card, these are based on generally accepted conversions. Cups are equal to 236mL/ 8 fluid ounces, tablespoons are 15mL and teaspoons are 5mL.
Measuring cups and spoons are an essential addition to every kitchen! Especially if you don't use a kitchen scale. For accurate measuring invest in a set to make sure you are adding the correct amount of ingredients. When in doubt - always use a level spoon or cup measure.
Autolyse – this recipe calls for a resting stage before adding the final flour and kneading. This allows the flour to absorb all the water, which stimulates gluten development. Leaving the dough to rest for 15 to 30 minutes cuts down the kneading time.
Fan-forced or fan assisted oven temperature must be decreased by 20°C/25F. Use an oven thermometer to determine the accuracy of your oven dial.
Trust the recipe. You may be tempted to add more flour than the recipe calls for because the dough feels sticky and it's just a plain mess. But keep kneading, work that gluten and before you know it you will have a beautiful cohesive smooth ball of dough. Adding too much flour to this recipe may result in dry buns, nobody wants a dry bun.
Kneading can be done by hand or by using a stand mixer. I recommend using a stand mixer for enriched doughs. But if like me, you don't have one, some elbow grease will get you there.
Salt is crucial in bread, even in sweeter bread. Many people will be tempted to decrease the salt within the recipe, but the bread just won’t taste as good. Also, keep in mind to NOT mix the salt directly with the yeast. It will kill the yeast. Keep them socially distanced, only being allowed to meet up in the dough.
The poke-proof test is a simple test to determine whether your dough is finished proofing.
- You poke and the dough pops back immediately: under proofed
- You poke and the dough doesn’t pop back at all: over-proofed
- You poke and the dough pops back but still leaves an indentation: perfectly proofed
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Chelsea Buns (Cinnamon Rolls)
Chelsea Bun Dough
- 250 grams water
- 90 grams butter
- 4 teaspoon active yeast
- 125 grams milk
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 750 grams high-grade flour (bread or strong flour)
- 80 grams sugar
Chelsea Bun Filling
- 60 grams butter
- 100 grams brown sugar
- 2 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¾ cup raisins
- ¼ cup mixed peel
Sour Cream Frosting
- 300 grams icing sugar
- 40 grams butter
- 60 grams sour cream
- 2 teaspoon lemon juice
- Place the water, butter and milk in a heat-proof bowl or jug and heat until the butter is melted. Allow the mixture to cool until it is lukewarm.250 grams water, 4 teaspoon active yeast, 125 grams milk, 90 grams butter
- Add the egg, sugar and salt to the butter mixture and whisk to combine.1 egg, 80 grams sugar, 1 teaspoon salt
- Add the liquids to 600 grams (4 cups) of the flour and yeast. Mix through using a fork or spoon to cover the flour with the liquids. Let this mixture rest for about 15 minutes to allow the flour to become hydrated.750 grams high-grade flour
- Using your additional cup of flour, flour the surface you are going to knead your dough on. Place the dough on the counter and toss the rest of the flour over your dough. Knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is soft, pliable, and forms a smooth ball.
- Place the dough in an oiled or greased bowl, cover with a tea towel and allow to proof for about an hour.
- For the filling, combine the brown sugar, spices and butter in a heat-proof bowl and microwave until the butter has melted. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved the mixture is smooth and shiny. Set aside and allow to cool.100 grams brown sugar, 2 teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, 60 grams butter
- When the dough has almost doubled in size, roll it out on a lightly floured surface in a rectangle about 40cm long and 25 cm wide. Spread the filling over the dough using a spatula or the back of a spoon. Sprinkle the filling with the raisins and mixed peel.¼ cup mixed peel, ¾ cup raisins
- Beginning on the long side of the dough, roll the dough up tightly. Pinch the seams together to seal in the filling along the length of the dough. Cut the roll into 12 equal portions using a sharp knife, or bench scraper.
- Place the rolls cut side down into your baking dish (about 30cm by 30cm) leaving about 2 - 3 cm of space between the rolls to allow them to rise.
- Cover the rolls with a tea towel and allow to proof for about an hour.
- Bake the Chelsea buns at 180°C/355F for approximately 25 minutes.
- While the buns are baking, let the butter and sour cream come to room temperature, you may need to pop them into the microwave for 10 seconds if they are too cold for creaming.
- Add the icing sugar and lemon juice to the butter and sour cream and whip until well combined using either a stand mixer, electric mixer or whisk.300 grams icing sugar, 40 grams butter, 60 grams sour cream, 2 teaspoon lemon juice
- You can frost the buns as soon as they come out of the oven, or you can allow them to cool a bit first.
- Chelsea buns can be served warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!
Nutrition information is an estimate. If scaling the recipe remember to scale your cook and bakeware accordingly.