A fishy version of the classic Chelsea bun made with layers of smoked salmon, zesty cream cheese and spinach.
“Give her a Chelsea bun, miss! That’s what most young ladies like best!” The voice was rich and musical, and the speaker dexterously whipped back the snowy cloth that covered his basket, and disclosed a tempting array of the familiar square buns, joined together in rows, richly egged and browned and glistening in the sun.”
Lewis Carroll, A Tangled Tale
Originally I was hoping to cook a bit of fish today but there’s absolutely none around. The poor weather and the holidays mean that nobodies been out fishing. I should have known better than to bother heading down to the fishmongers, It was closed and all you could get in the supermarket was salmon and other farmed fish.
l did spot some smoked salmon that was going cheap (they probably have a lot to get rid of after Christmas) and decided to do a bit of baking instead and that’s where these smoked salmon and cream cheese Chelsea buns come in.
The classic Chelsea bun is a thing of beauty. Made from a dough enriched with butter and eggs then rolled out and spread with currents, butter, and brown sugar before been baked. They are absolutely mouth-watering especially eaten straight from the oven. Slightly crusty on the outside with a warm, sweet, and fruity interior.
There’s a slight chance you might have eaten a Chelsea bun before without even realising it. They look very similar to a cinnamon roll. You know the ones, it’s the Danish pastry you see a version of for sale everywhere from service station forecourts to trendy coffee shops. I like to munch on one in the morning with a strong coffee to get myself going, but they’re not to be confused with a Chelsea bun.
Both are made in a similar way with enriched dough. Cinnamon rolls contain cinnamon (obviously) and raisins while Chelsea buns are layered with butter, brown sugar and currants. That’s not the only difference. Chelsea buns are supposed to be a kind of square shape though mine didn’t quite turn out like that despite my best efforts.
Chelsea buns have been around a long time. First baked in the 1700s, they get their name from the shop where they were first baked, the old Chelsea bun house. It sounds like this bakery was very much the place to be seen back in 18th century London. It was frequented by celebrities of the day as well as royalty, King George was a regular customer.
The Chelsea bun house also did a roaring trade in hot cross buns at Easter time. The shop would open at 4 am on Good Friday morning and it’s reported that a mob of 50000 turned up looking for hot cross buns one year. You couldn’t imagine something like that happening today. Not everybody was a fan. Jonathan Swift (the guy who wrote Gulliver’s travels) bought a bun there while out for a walk in 1711, he was less than impressed calling them stale.
Unfortunately, the original shop was pulled down in 1839 to make way for improvements but luckily the bun that bears its name lives on. Which is great news for us because Chelsea buns are a great vehicle for other ingredients. You don’t have to make the classic sweet version and can go savoury as I’ve done here.
After I’d made these I was already planning my next version. Roast chicken with pesto, blue cheese and walnut, apricot and almond or maybe another fishy version with chunks of fresh salmon, leeks and dill…..the possibilities are endless.
One thing to note about using smoked salmon is that it takes quite a bit to cover the dough in a complete layer. Making these little buns quite expensive. So to save a bit of cash you could just put a layer of the salmon through the centre. They’ll still taste great and 250g of salmon should be enough to give your buns that wonderful smoked flavour.
Another thing I noticed as I made these is that they seemed to take forever to prove even though I was using fast-action dried yeast. If your kitchen’s a bit cold like mine you might run into the same problem this time of year. So what I normally do is use the hot press as a proving cupboard to speed things up. Just be sure you’re not making garlic focaccia if you don’t want everything that’s in there to reek. Either that or take everything out before Mrs. starts giving you stick.
So sweet or savoury….what type of Chelsea bun will you make?Print
- 500g/1lb strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1tsp salt
- 7g/¼oz dried yeast
- 300ml/10fl oz milk
- 40g/1½oz unsalted butter
- 1 beaten egg
- vegetable oil (for greasing)
For the filling
- 200g / 7 oz Cream cheese
- 1 small bunch of chives (finely sliced)
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- a couple of turns of black pepper
- 75g / 3oz spinach
- 350g / 12 oz smoked salmon
- Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl then make a well in the centre and add the yeast.
- Melt the butter gently in a pot then add the milk and heat the mixture till its lukewarm.
- Add the milk and beaten egg to the flour and stir the mixture well until it forms a sticky dough.
- Turn the dough out on to a well floured surface and knead it until its smooth and elastic this should take you about five minutes.
- Place your dough into a well oiled bowl and leave it in a warm place till its doubled in size.
- While the dough is proving you can make the filling for the chelsea buns by combining the cream cheese, chives, black pepper, and the lemon juice / zest.
- When the dough is ready knock it back to its original size and roll it out into a rectangle 5mm / 1/4in thick.
- Spread the rectangle of dough with an even layer of the cream cheese mix, followed by the spinach, and finally the smoked salmon
- Once layered, roll up the dough up tightly into a square cylinder shape and cut it into 12 equal sized buns about an inch and a half (4cm) wide.
- Place your buns on a lightly oiled baking tray allowing a little space between each one. Cover with a damp tea towel and prove them a second time till they’ve doubled in size.
- Bake at 190c for about 25 minutes till golden.