Each day is an internal battle between myself and whatever little metrics and rubrics I’ve set out for myself to plod through, and still I usually end up more disorganised than if I’d just thrown myself headfirst at the day to navigate by vibes alone. Once you identify the rules of a situation, however, you can work out what’s stupid about them, and then, maybe, you might start getting somewhere. For example: I wasn’t going to blog about these very delicious vegan Chelsea buns, despite them being about as pretty and sweet and delightful as Dolly Parton in Steel Magnolias (guess what I just watched) because the ingredients were a little too specific, and one of my personal rules is to keep the ingredients on this blog within a reasonable realm of what a person could — reasonably — get hold of.
But then, I considered, with a slap of palm to forehead, reasonable is a moving target, and many of the ingredients I currently reach for without thinking might have seemed out of reach only a few years ago. And the Chelsea buns are really delicious! Who am I to say what you can achieve? Why should I mentally undercut your abilities before we’ve even started?
That being said, it would be kind of unreasonable to say that these Chelsea buns can only be made with a ready-prepared batch of Nigella Lawson’s roasted quince fruit mincemeat, appositely named Quincemeat, as I made them. That is quite the roadblock. In the interests of keeping things as accessible as possible, I have offered both the truncated Quincemeat recipe, options for making this with simple dried fruit, and if that’s all too much, you can just sprinkle the dough with cinnamon and sugar a la the Lazy Cat Kitchen cinnamon buns, whose recipe I used as the starting point for mine, and if you want to do even less than that, just go to a bakery and buy your own buns. They’re professionals for a reason, this is no failing on your part.
But if the idea of padding about in the kitchen purposefully appeals, kneading dough into life, and waiting as the sun rolls across the sky and the dough expands and swells and eventually, in the oven, fills your house with the kind of scent you yearn for in bottled form, if all that appeals, then this recipe is for you. Maybe not as popular or cool as their cinnamon bun cousins, Chelsea buns — rolled and stuffed instead with dried fruit — have a lot going for them, especially with — sorry! — the quincemeat as their filling. Its heady, fragrant sweetness is utterly sumptuous, with magnificent contrast between the soft graininess of the quinces and the dried fruit bulging with (in my case) overproof rum. There’s an old-fashioned charm to these buns, and making them gives you the feeling of being a small anthropomorphic animal — a hedgehog perhaps — in a Beatrix Potter story, using a leaf as an umbrella and a spool of thread as a chair, safe and warm, et cetera.
As you can see in my tiktok above, the rolling and slicing is a little dexterous — but not overwhelming, and the results are stunning; feathery soft yeasted dough, glossy sticky fruit, you will not so much eat these as devour them.
(While I’m holding myself accountable, I know I said, literally in my most recent blog post, that I couldn’t face eating a handful of raisins, and yet here I am, espousing buns wrapped around vast quantities of that fruit? I still stand by my statements: they’re a woeful snack on their own, but both delicious and necessary in these buns.)
Finally — and particularly for those of you reading this outside of the quince’s brief and thrilling season — I cannot wait for pink rhubarb to appear so I can make a batch of these with Nigella’s Rhubarb Vanilla Fruit Mince, and I invite you to consider the same.
Vegan Chelsea Buns
Sticky-sweet, tender, and heavy with fruit, these scrolls are almost as easy to make as they are to eat. I’ve included a brief rundown of Nigella Lawson’s quincemeat recipe at the end if you want to go the same route as me; otherwise I’ve given options in recipe for making them simply with dried fruit. I used the Lazy Cat Kitchen cinnamon bun recipe as my starting point for the dough, it’s reliable and comes together in minutes.
- 1 and 1/4 cups oat milk (or similar), lukewarm
- 250g high-grade/bread flour
- 250g plain/all-purpose flour
- 9 grams instant dried yeast
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon pouring/table salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus a little extra for the rise
- 250g-300g ready made fruit mincemeat, or see in recipe for other options
- 1 tablespoon golden syrup, for brushing
1: First, get your milk lukewarm — I zap it for fifteen-second intervals in the microwave till it’s warm, but doesn’t have the slightest sting of heat to it. Place the 250g each of high grade and plain flour into a large mixing bowl, along with the 9 grams of dried yeast, the two tablespoons of brown sugar, and the teaspoon of salt. Stir in the lukewarm milk, followed by the tablespoon of olive oil.
2: Start kneading this shaggy dough — you’re welcome to tip it out onto your work surface, but to save on mess I just do it inside the bowl, either way, push the dough away from you with the heel of your palm or your knuckles, fold it back towards you, and repeat for a few more minutes until it’s gone from shaggy and floury to springy and smooth. If you’ve been kneading for a while and it’s still really sticky, dust over just a little flour and knead that in — this almost always work for me. Once the dough is a smooth ball, drizzle over a small amount of olive oil, then cover your bowl with a tea towel and leave the dough to rise for one hour.
3: Once your hour is up, punch down your dough — which is just how it sounds, you plunge your fist, happily, into the swollen dough, releasing the air from it. Tip the dough out onto a baking tray lined with baking paper, and press or roll it into a large rectangle, folding over any wobbly bits to make the sides fairly straight. You’re looking for a size of about 40x20cm, but as long as two sides are shorter and two sides are longer you don’t need to worry about getting out your ruler.
4: If you’re using ready-made fruit mince, spoon it evenly over the surface of the dough rectangle, in a fairly thin layer — too much and it will all fall out — and press it very gently into the dough. Otherwise, brush the surface of the dough with olive oil — about two tablespoons — and sprinkle evenly with brown sugar (about four tablespoons), then scatter over about 75g currants and 150g sultanas. I’d also sprinkle over plenty of cinnamon. If you want to make your own quincemeat, see the notes at the end of the recipe.
5: Starting with the long side closest to you, carefully and slowly roll the rectangle of dough into a long tube. Slice the tube at roughly 3cm intervals — again, just follow your heart here, this is home cooking, not a production line — and arrange the slices near each other on the same baking tray. If any of the “tails” of the scrolls look like they’re about to get away on you, pinch them gently into the rest of the dough, and if any fruit has fallen out in the cutting and lifting process, just prod it back into the nearest coil of dough. Cover these buns with the same teatowel from before, and let them rise for one more hour.
6: About forty minutes into this hour’s rising, set your oven to 180C/350F. Once the hour’s up, remove the towel, to behold your now-puffy and expanded Chelsea buns, and bake them for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Don’t worry if some of the fruit catches a little, it still tastes delicious. Finally, brush them with a little golden syrup while they’re still warm.
Makes 10 to 12 Chelsea buns, depending on how you slice them (both times I’ve made these they all ended up different sizes, which I liked: something for every mood.) Eat them fresh, or store them in an airtight container once they’ve cooled. They’ll be good for a day or so, after that, they’ll want a little warming up in the microwave first.
Some recipes call for an icing drizzle, you’re welcome to mix icing sugar and water together and do so, but — and it’s not often I say this — I don’t think they need it.
Here is a fairly brisk rundown of the quincemeat recipe if you want to make it for yourself; you can usually find quinces in baskets at op shops very cheaply this time of year, from someone or other’s tree. The quincemeat is from Nigella Lawson’s book How To Be A Domestic Goddess, along with many other beautiful recipes.
Roast 1kg quinces, peeled and (carefully) cut into rough chunks and tossed with a tablespoon of coconut oil, at 150C/300F for forty minutes. Once cooled, roughly chop the quince and mix together with 250g each sultanas, raisins, chopped dried apricots, brown sugar, shredded vegetable suet (I used the Atora brand, it’s in a brightly coloured box and should be available in most supermarkets); one teaspoon each of cinnamon, ground cardamom, and ground cloves, a good pinch of nutmeg, 100g crystallised peel, and 100ml quince brandy, regular brandy, or — as I used — dark rum. Store in an airtight container or in clean jars in the fridge; this makes, give or take, around 2kg. Also: I didn’t have any mixed peel, so I just used the finely chopped peel of a couple of oranges, and added a bit more sugar.
Obsession by Animotion, fittingly, I am VERY obsessed with this song. Wait till 28 seconds in, then it will all make sense (I also recommend watching the video, which gives the impression of an automated bot having been fed 1000 hours of 80s music videos and spitting out results based on the learned algorithm.)
Tell Me (I’ll Be Around) by Shades, for all that winter is my favourite season this song always made me long for an endless summer where I could drive around in a convertible and Be Summery (in this fantasy, not only do I enjoy hot weather, I can also drive.) Anyway, this song is lush and should’ve been a bigger hit!
I Dreamt I Dwelt In Marble Halls by Michael William Balfe, sung by Sumi Jo. She was recommended to me when I asked for opera suggestions, and — oh my! Every time I hear this song I’m always taken aback by its fake-out chorus, climbing higher and higher before finally resolving, Sumi Jo’s watered silk voice is a stunning vessel for it.
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