Red fruit Chelsea Buns (inspired by the Great British Bake Off, episode 7)

I made sure that I really appreciated watching this week’s episode of the Great British Bake Off (GBBO), even more than I normally do, because it cost us quite a bit of money to download, as we’d got to the limit on our monthly broadband package and ended up paying a pay as you go mobile 3G rate, which soon adds up when you’re talking about hour-long downloads. Oops! It is a bit ridiculous that we even have to have mobile broadband in such a built up area, but we just couldn’t get a decent speed through the phone line, and Virgin won’t dig up our road (I know, hard to believe, but they won’t, we’ve asked more than once!)

So I was determined to make time this weekend, despite being out for most of the day on Saturday, to bake Tom something nice, to try and make up for my expensive downloading. This week’s bakes were all about sweet dough. The first was on the theme of regional buns (for example, Bath buns, Lardy cakes, Saffron cakes, and of course Chelsea buns); the second bake was jam doughnuts (which looked very hard to make, and we don’t have a deep fat fryer); the third bake was a celebration loaf (for example, Brioche or Stollen). I made a Stollen at Christmas, and the contestants mostly seemed to be proving their doughs for the third bake overnight, so I thought that a celebration loaf wasn’t a great option for my limited time this weekend. Instead I went for a regional bun that I’ve thought about making a few times, but never got round to it – the Chelsea bun.

In Cambridge there is a famous cake shop called Fitzbillies that makes the most amazing Chelsea buns – they are their own secret recipe. When the original Fitzbillies shop had to close down in the bad economic climate, many people, including comedian Stephen Fry who tweeted about it, were gutted to lose the place to buy these lovely buns. I can’t say that I bought them that often, because they were pretty expensive, but I did on a few occasions as a treat, and was sad to hear about this independent cake shop closing down. However, I was then very happy to learn, actually again through twitter, that new owners had bought the Fitzbillies shop and were doing it up in order to re-open under the same name. The icing on the cake (pun intended) was that they had even managed to gain the secret recipe for Chelsea buns along with their purchase, so the famous buns would be back in town in no time! Hooray! And I went and bought one or two not long after they first opened.

Not that I’m aiming to make anything quite as special as theirs (I don’t know what it is about them specifically that makes them so yummy, it’s a secret, clearly), but I’d often thought about having a go at baking some Chelsea buns that were at least good enough to eat. Whilst looking through our dried fruit container, to see how much we had and whether I needed to buy any more to make the buns, I remembered that I had recently bought some more unusual dried fruit for Andrew to eat as a snack as a change from his raisins, which included raspberries and cherries. These made me think that baking Chelsea buns with a bit of a twist from the usual fruits would go down well, so I went for them instead of raisins/sultanas/currants.

The recipe I used for the dough was from the BBC Food website, and it turns out that it’s actually from another series of the GBBO. Here’s a link to the recipe. I adapted it (as always!) to include red fruits (raspberries and cherries) instead of the usual dried fruits, and I decided to bake the buns close together (see picture below) rather than spread apart on a baking sheet because I like the squarer, more compacted together shape for Chelsea buns than perfectly round and crusted all the way round, I guess because they remind me of Ftizbillies’ famous ones – they have a square-ish shape to them. I found there wasn’t a lot of glaze for the amount of ingredients that the recipe said to put in, so if you like them sticky and extra sweet, I’d probably double or treble it. I quite like the fact that they’re not as sickly sweet as the Fitzbillies ones, because my sweet tooth has definitely been affected by pregnancy.

I wouldn’t win any prizes for the most consistent baker, who makes buns all perfectly the same size and shape, but the main thing is that the taste and texture are good. It’s quite handy actually that some are smaller than others (due to the shape of the rolled out dough, which ended up creating a roll that was thinner at both ends than in the middle), because the smaller ones are a perfect snack size for Andrew. He had one more or less straight from the oven, once they’d cooled down enough to eat – ‘hot’ is one of his favourite words, and he knows to wait until food is no longer too ‘HOT, HOT’! My other boy approved too, so I feel less bad about the fact that it cost us more than a few pennies to watch the episode of the GBBO that inspired this bake.