I had set my mind to baking these Chelsea buns months ago, and so began the long search for currants. You’d think something ubiquitous in other parts of the world would be easy to track down in this multicultural city, but that turned out not to be the case! All the supermarkets have sultanas and raisins and a plethora of other dried fruits, but it took a visit to the food hall of a department store in town to find currants. It’s funny how some things just seem not to have found their niche.
This classic currant bun has been a favourite in bakeries and tea rooms since its creation in the 18th century. A soft, fluffy bun filled with currants and lemon zest, it is ideal with a cup of tea or in a lunchbox. For this version, I adapted a basic sweet dough with a bit of guidance from the NZ Woman’s Weekly. The glaze is most commonly a simple syrup, but I opted for an apricot jam glaze for extra flavour.
520g (18 1/3oz, 4 cups) all-purpose (plain) flour
1/2 tsp salt
100g (1/2 cup) granulated (white) sugar, divided
100g (7 tbsp) unsalted butter, room temperature
120ml (1/2 cup) milk
80ml (1/3 cup) water
1 x 7g sachet (2 1/4 tsp) instant yeast
2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
45g (3 tbsp) unsalted butter
2 tbsp brown sugar (divided)
1/2 cup currants (a.k.a. Zante currants, Corinthian raisins)
finely grated zest of 1 organic lemon
2 tbsp apricot jam
2 tsp water
Whisk together flour, salt and half of the sugar. Rub butter into flour with your fingertips until it has the texture of soft breadcrumbs, or use a stand mixer with a whisk attachment to combine. Note: if you’re measuring flour in cups, keep half a cup aside because of the variability of measuring, then add it as needed. The dough should be quite soft.
Heat milk and water to lukewarm, whisk in the remaining sugar and the yeast (if using non-instant yeast, allow to activate for 5 minutes, until frothy) and add to the dry mixture along with the beaten eggs.
Either fit the mixer with a dough hook or turn dough out onto a clean work surface and knead until soft and elastic, about 5 minutes with a mixer or 8 minutes by hand.
Transfer dough to a large, buttered bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled in size, about an hour, depending on ambient temperature.
Grease or line a large rimmed baking sheet (mine was about 38 x 38cm or 15 x 15″ square and it was a perfect fit).
Gently push down the dough, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead together until smooth. Roll or press out to a rectangle about 30 x 45cm (12 x 18″).
Melt the butter, brush half of it over the dough then sprinkle with one tablespoon of brown sugar. Fold the dough in half across the short side, then roll or press out to a rectangle again, the same size as before. Spread the rest of the butter over the dough and sprinkle with the remaining brown sugar, the currants and lemon zest.
Roll dough tightly from the long edge into a log. Using a sharp floured knife, cut into 2.5cm (1″) pieces and place, cut side up, on the baking sheet. Leave a bit of space between each piece for them to expand.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 180°C (360°F).
Bake rolls in centre of oven for 20 – 22 minutes, until puffed and golden.
Heat the jam and water and stir until smooth then brush over the hot buns.
Transfer buns to a wire rack to cool before pulling apart.