Sunday, July 01, 2007

Chelsea buns and a lemon curd epiphany


These Chelsea buns are cooling in the kitchen, the glaze hasn't even hardened yet but I've already eaten two and the girlfriend has helped herself to one. The flat has been awash with the smell of baking all afternoon, first the sharp yeasty tang of dough rising and then the sweet spice of cinnamon and nutmeg. Outside, it's been pretty miserable, the same rain clouds that have sat over the city all week are lingering and the rain hasn't stopped all day, so the smell of baking has brought a little sunshine into an otherwise grey week. Inevitably, as I type the sun is breaking through the clouds, as if to prove a point.

The Chelsea bun has a proud history in the city, made famous by the Bun House in Pimlico, where various Hanovarian royalty would stroll in for a bun on their way to Ranelagh Pleasure Gardens and the crowds would gather for Hot Cross Buns of a Good Friday and probably head off to a public hanging, tucking into the sweet bread and currents whilst complaining about their rickets, or something. You can tell my sense of empathy with Londoners of the early 1800's is nothing if not a little shaky.

Anyway, I had fun making the sweet bread dough; the anticipation of waiting for the dough to rise, like waiting for a child to come home from an exam, slightly fraught but forever hopeful. It's the fun of bringing something to life, like sea monkeys but better looking and without the tendency to terrify small children as they eat each other, leaving one enormous scary bastard in the little plastic tank that you have to flush down the loo. Way better than than. However, like with most children, I was proud but a little disappointed. The Chelsea buns were pretty good, but not the cinnamon sweet explosion of flavour that I had hankered. Your children never turn out the way you hope.

The lemon curd epiphany referred to in the title was more a rediscovery. Lemon curd to me had fond memories from my own childhood but I had always put them in the "memory better than reality" school of foodstuffs. Like Sherbet Dib-Dabs, Blackjacks and Slush Puppies. I was in A.Gold (fine purveyors of English foodstuffs) and saw a jar of Mrs Darlingtons Lemon Curd. It was a pale honey colour, vivid but elegant, not the radioactive coloured stuff I remembered from Lemon Meringue at school. I bought it on a whim and was blown away. This was serious lemon curd, lemon curd for grown ups. Like being seduced by a sultry lemony temptress. Subtle, evocative and adult. The texture was silken and the flavour strong but satisfying, not the violent tooth decaying sweetness I remembered. I can't stop myself now, I'm smitten.


Barbara said...

I had a craving for lemon last night. I wish I'd thought to use the words silken texture - that describes perfectly the result of my efforts.

Anonymous said...

beautiful. what did you do with the other ten (i am assuming you made a baker's dozen...)?

Trig said...

I've got fond memories of making Chelsea buns in bakers' dozens at college. Lemon curd is something I've always had yearnings for every so often, and making it myself the one time I did was a very satisfying experience. Ever tried lime or orange curd? Sooo good!

Jerry said...

Your cinnamon buns are making me crave them MORE because I already had a craving!

Elle said...

Food memory is perverse. Glad you have discovered a worthy lemon curd and sorry that the chelsea buns disappointed a bit. Perhaps when they have cooled the cinnamon flavor will come through...oh they are already eaten? Good then.