Buns, glorious buns...I can think of no other baked good to better represent this particular food group than the mighty Chelsea Bun - a sticky soft dough riddled with mixed spice, sweet currants and sultanas and zesty candied peel. Shop-bought versions are delicious but homemade ones are heavenly as, still warm from the oven, they yield sumptuously to the bite and deliver wave after wave of texture and flavour that I find goes particularly well with a cuppa.
As for the history of the Chelsea Bun, it is a contested one that goes back at the very least to the 18th century. Laying claim to the invention of the Chelsea Bun are two bakers called the Bun House and the Real Old Original Chelsea Bun-house. Both were located on Grosenvor Row, Pimlico which, confusingly, doesn't happen to be in Chelsea.
Here's the bread-machine recipe I use to make my Chelsea Buns (ingredient's list taken from the 'Bread and Bread Machine Bible' by Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter):
1lb 2oz strong white flour
3oz caster sugar
1 medium-sized egg
8fl oz/225ml semi-skimmed milk
1oz butter, melted
1oz candied peel
1tsp [I use 1.5tsp or more] mixed spice
1oz light brown sugar
2oz caster sugar
1) To make the dough, in this order add yeast, flour, sugar, salt, butter, egg and milk to the breadmachine. Put the machine on 'dough cycle' and remove the dough after the allotted time.
2) Pre-heat the oven to 60-70 degrees C and grease the base of a square tin.
3) Make the filling by washing and drying the dried fruit and combining them with the sugar and spice.
4) Roll out the dough into a rough 30cm x 30cm square and cover one side with the melted butter.
5) Spread the fruit filling over the butter dough surface leaving a 1cm gap along one side - I usually leave the right side free.
6) In Swiss Roll style, start to roll up the dough beginning at the side that is opposite the one that has the 1cm gap.
7) Gently press along the length of the roll to seal before taking a knife and cutting in to rounds - the size of which will depend on how big you like your buns.
8) Place the rounds in the tin with their layered profiles facing upwards and put in the oven to prove for 20-30 mins or until they have roughly doubled in size - all ovens are different so the trick here is to keep on checking the buns progress.
9) Remove the buns after proving and turn up the oven temperature to 200 degrees C. Place the buns back in to the oven and bake for 10-15 mins or until golden brown - again, the trick here is to keep on checking.
10) Make the sugar glaze by first melting all the sugar in the water with a gentle heat and then boiling for 1-2 mins without stirring until a syrupy consistency is reached.
11) When the buns are done, take them out of the oven and cover their golden brown tops with the sugar syrup.