Today’s post is about ‘all things nice’- sugar & spice! Beautiful, sticky Chelsea buns with sweet apricot glaze and sharp citrus fruit filling. This combination of spices and sugar will guarantee a delight on everyone’s face. And the gorgeous, festive smell of oranges, cranberries and marzipan will for sure set your house in the festive spirit, perhaps you will even sing a quiet ‘Fa-la-la’ to yourself…
When I was growing up, you knew Christmas was coming because mum will turn the whole house upside down and then start re-organizing and re-arranging every single item in the house (she still does that, to be honest). From the window curtains to sets of cutlery, everything will be scrubbed, polished, hoovered or dusted.
After all the cleaning, all the seasonal doilies and napkins will start appearing all around the house. And oranges with satsumas. Two of the most christmassy fruits. And two of the most wanted ones, as back then, they were really tricky to get hold of (yup, early post- communism sucks people!). But that’s what makes them so special to me. They were our ‘annual treat’ along with chocolate- like bar. Until this day, the ingredients of this mysterious bar have not been revealed. Probably for the best.
Let’s just say that we didn’t have many ‘fancy’ things in the shops back then, but during this time of the year, they would magically start appearing. Just like creepy looking Santa’s. Yup, you read that right. Creepy Santa. Because we didn’t have the jolly looking, shiny and happy looking Santa. Instead, there was just some dude dressed up in the old, dusty and stinky costume, with beard attached on a piece of an elastic band, looking miserable as hell.
Perhaps you don’t believe me that Father Christmas can be creepy…So I found some examples here. Sadly, all of my pictures are at my parents house, but I may surprise you next year 😉
So, apart from cleaning the house on a massive scale, oranges, satsumas and chocolate that never even sat next to the real chocolate, I knew Christmas was coming up, because of my auntie’s sweet raisin buns. She was (and still is) a huge baking fan, and these are her specialty. Some of my first baking attempts took place in her kitchen, sadly, we will not be discussing the results of these bakes on this occasion 🙂 So many of my best childhood memories are from that kitchen! And the taste of fresh, still warm, sweet buns. Full of so many really exciting and fulfilling flavors.
And these Chelsea buns reminded me of all these moments and flavors. These buns are perfect for sharing, and go great with a cup of tea or coffee. I also like to munch on them with a glass of warm vanilla almond milk, especially through the cute snowman straw 😉 They are similar to cinnamon rolls, but with more personality (because of all that fruit!). Also, they look super festive when you shape them into a Christmas tree and it will impress your audience for sure! Plus there is something strangely satisfying, when tearing this sweet tree apart.
Perhaps you’re baking skills are not up to scratch. Perhaps you think that this Christmas tree is too much of an effort. I beg you to reconsider! This is actually relatively easy, you just need to be patient with the dough, and make sure you roll it tight once the filling is in. Also, sharp knife is a must, otherwise buns will look like a mess and get the unwanted look of being stood on. Nobody needs that in their life.
Shaping them into a Christmas tree is not as tricky as it may seems. And I must admit, I was quite surprised to see how nicely they came out (and looked like an actual Christmas tree!). I’ve made Chelsea buns before, but this was my first time shaping them into tree 🙂 Just remember to leave the space between the buns (approximately width of your thumb) as they will expand in the oven. Also use the largest baking tray you have available, as they do take a bit of space.
Chelsea buns will look really festive on your table (even if you don’t shape them into tree!) and they could be a great alternative to traditional mince pies. Or, if you really want to spoil your guests, put them both on the table 😉
Enjoy all of your festive baking peeps, I will be back next week with another festive recipe!!!
Orange and cranberry Chelsea bun tree
- 275 ml dairy- free milk I've used almond milk for this recipe
- 50 g butter softened, dairy- free if vegan
- 450 g strong bread flour
- 7 g sachet fast- action yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 50 g golden caster sugar + 3 tbsp
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- oil for greasing
- 200 g marzipan chilled
- 1 orange zested and juiced
- 100 g dried cranberries
- 40 g pistachios chopped (can be substituted for almonds)
- 3 tbsp apricot jam sieved
- 150 g icing sugar
- In a large bowl, mix the flour, yeast, 50g sugar, cinnamon and salt.
- Using a small saucepan, warm up the milk until steaming hot (make sure it doesn't reach the boiling point).
- Remove milk from the heat and add butter, stirring gently to help it melt, then set aside to cool a bit.
- When the milk is warm, add it to the dry ingredients and combine to make a sticky dough. Tip it onto your work surface and knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and stretchy. Return to the clean bowl. cover with cling film and leave in a warm place to rise for 1-2 hours, until it doubled in size.
- Line large baking sheet with baking parchment. Tip the dough into floured surface and roll to rectangle about 30 x 40cm. Grate the marzipan over the surface and scatter over the orange zest, half of cranberries, half of pistachios and 3 tbsp caster sugar. From one of the longest sides, tightly roll up the dough into a sausage, pinching the dough together at the other end to seal the open edge.
- Using large, sharp knife, divide the dough into 12 equal pieces (see tip 1). Turn them all cut side up and arrange on a baking sheet in a tree shape, using one piece for a trunk and leaving space between each bun for them to expand (see tip 2). You should have one bun left over (bonus bun for your efforts!), bake it along side. Cover the sheet with cling film and leave to prove for 30- 40 minutes, or until doubled in size and just touching.
- Heat the oven to 180C. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 20 minutes until golden brown.
- While the buns cook, heat the apricot jam with 2 tsp of water until runny, then set aside to cool a little.
- Mix the icing sugar with enough orange juice to make thick icing and transfer it to a small disposable piping bag or a plastic sandwich bag.
- When buns are cooked, cool them for about 5 minutes then brush over with the apricot glaze. Snip the corner of piping bag and drizzle over the buns. Scatter over the remaining pistachios and cranberries, and leave the icing to set for about 10 minutes.
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