So I have some exciting news that I have been busting to share for the last week or so - I have been nominated as a finalist in the "best baking and sweets" category for the Saveur Blog Awards! I've been the worst excited person ever to be around for the last week - this morning I could hardly wait and ended up so excited that I got stressed and lost it at Rich over literally nothing, and ended up standing in the kitchen in tears holding an egg. Everything still seems a little surreal at the moment - I never once imagined that after starting a little corner of the internet where I share my food just over a year ago, I would be nominated for something like this! I am insanely grateful - thank you so, so much to everyone who nominated, follows along, and provides support! I don't have enough words to express how thankful I am! The awards are taking place in Charleston at the start of October - and you can vote for your favourites. You can vote as many times as you like over on Saveur's website, so I would be extremely grateful if you told your friends / family / coworkers / everyone you've ever met in the world that they can vote too!
I created this little space as a way for me to have somewhere to express me. I needed something that was just mine, that I could work on as my own little project as somewhat of a coping mechanism for negotiating this crazy city that we live in, which is polar opposite to little old New Zealand that I was so comfortable and used to. Making food has always provided me with comfort, but there is something about making it to share with others that really hits home for me - it draws on how I grew up, in a household full of friends and family, and if I can replicate that wherever I go, I can bring a little bit of home with me always. What I didn't expect was for it to grow into this amazing thing, which I am so, so excited to work on every day. Not only that, but the incredible people of the food community that I have met along the way are the biggest bonus ever - I can honestly say I have met some lifelong friends.
And what better way to celebrate than with something that is a nod to where it all came from - a recipe from home. We call these "chelsea buns" and for us they were the ultimate bribe for making it through a supermarket trip with mum without standing up in the trolley. Essentially they are a brioche dough, spread with a custard/pastry cream, then sprinkled with some brown sugar and raisins, before being rolled up tightly and cut into slices - just like cinnamon buns. Once out of the oven they are glazed with a super icing, and they are ready to go. The combination of custard and raisins mixed with the fluffy bread dough is enough to transport me straight back to childhood - sitting in the back of the car with my arms straight out, forbidden to touch anything with my sticky fingers. From memory there were also another variation of chelsea buns which were more similar to a cinnamon bun but with raisins, but I always far preferred the custard version.
These aren't your standard Cinnamon rolls. These are something that will make you never look at cinnamon rolls the same way again. Getting this recipe right was a little tricky - it took five tries and one oven filled with overflowed brioche dough before I finally came up with something I was happy with. Because the custard adds moisture, the sugar in the filling can't be added the regular way mixed with butter and spread on, because it creates too much moisture and the buns collapse. Sprinkling the sugar on with the raisins seemed to work best! These are amazing straight out of the oven, and the leftovers are also lovely zapped in the microwave to warm them up slightly. Good luck with them lasting longer than a day though.
This is also the second recipe in a wee mini series I am doing of recipe variations on one brioche dough recipe - the first, black bean burgers, is here!
A few wee notes:
After five batches of custard, I ended up using custard powder in the pastry cream / custard. If you don't have any custard powder you can substitute corn starch, although I recommend getting custard powder if you can! The flavour it gives was exactly what I was looking for - just the way that custard tasted growing up. You want to cook the custard until it is very thick, so that it spreads nicely on the dough.
I use a brioche dough that can be made and baked on the same day, but if you wanted to prepare this ahead of time, you could make the dough and custard the day before, and do the first rise in the fridge overnight, then assemble the buns the next day just before baking. Chilled dough is actually much easier to roll out!
Sometimes it is a little hard to tell with buns etc when they are cooked, because the filling can cause the tops to go golden before they are done. I like to check the internal temperature using a thermometer - it should be around 200˚f / 95˚c for enriched dough. I have a thermometer with a cord on it and a little probe, and it's the best thing ever (plus it has an alarm which is super handy for people like me who walk away while things are cooking)
Chelsea Buns (Custard and Raisin Brioche Buns)
- Makes 12 large buns -
Pastry cream recipe adapted from Bouchon Bakery
1 envelope (2 ¼ tsp) active dry yeast
1 cup (240ml) whole milk, lukewarm
4 Tbsp sugar
3 ¾ cups (565g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
90g (6 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Custard / Pastry Cream filling
132g (½ cup plus 1 Tbsp) egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
110g (½ cup plus 1 Tbsp) sugar
50 grams (6 tbsp) custard powder
550g (2 cups plus 3 Tbsp) whole milk
¾ cup (150g) soft brown sugar
½ cup (85g) raisins
Egg wash - 1 egg whisked with 1 Tbsp water
2 ½ cups (315g) powdered sugar
3-4 Tbsp whole milk
- PROCESS -
In a small bowl, combine the yeast, milk and 2 Tbsp of the sugar. Mix well, and leave to sit for 10-15 minutes, or until foamy.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, salt, and remaining 2 Tbsp sugar. Mix briefly to combine. Add the eggs, vanilla, and foamy yeast mixture to the bowl. Mix on low for 2-3 minutes, until the dough is starting to come together. It may look slightly dry but do not worry - it will mix together nicely in the next steps. Increase the mixer speed to medium, and mix for another 10 minutes, until the dough is soft and smooth.
Reduce the mixer speed to low, and add the butter a little at a time, waiting until it is fully incorporated into the dough before adding the next piece. This process should take 3-4 minutes. Once the butter is fully incorporated, increase the mixer speed to medium, and mix for a further 5 minutes, until the dough is very soft and smooth.
Transfer to an oiled bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place in a warm spot until doubled in size, approximately 1 - 1 ½ hours.
In a large bowl, whisk together the yolks, sugar and custard powder in a bowl.
In a medium pot, warm the milk and vanilla paste until there is movement just around the edges of the milk - do not bring it to the boil.
Remove the milk from the heat, and, whisking constantly, add half of the milk mixture into the egg and cornflour mixture to temper the egg yolks. Whisk briskly for 30 seconds. Transfer the milk-yolk mixture back to the pot, and return to a medium heat. Whisk constantly until very thick.
Strain the custard through a mesh sieve, and into a bowl. Cool to room temperature then place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the pastry cream to prevent a skin. Place in the fridge until completely cooled. If you are in a rush, place the bowl of water in an ice bath to speed up the cooling process
ASSEMBLY AND BAKING
Preheat the oven to 350˚f / 180˚c. Lightly grease a 9" x 13" baking dish.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Roll out to a 24" x 18" (60cm x 45cm) rectangle. If you find your dough is resisting being rolled out, stop and let it relax for about 15 minutes before continuing to roll.
Using an offset spatula, spread the cooled custard evenly over the surface of the dough. Sprinkle with the brown sugar and raisins. Starting with the long edge, carefully roll up the dough tightly. Cut into 12 equally sized slices, and arrange in the baking dish. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and allow to sit in a warm place until they have risen slightly, and have gone a little puffy.
Brush the tops of the rolls with the egg wash. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the bread is cooked through and the top is golden. (internal temp 200˚f) Tent with foil after 20 minutes if the buns seem to be browning too quickly. Check for doneness after 35 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes. While they are cooling, mix the sifted powdered sugar and 3 Tbsp of the milk in a medium bowl, adding extra milk a teaspoon at a time until you reach your desired consistency. Spread over the buns using an offset spatula while they are still warm.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Leftovers are best eaten the day of, or the day after baking.