Saturday 28 January 2012

Chelsea Buns - Fail

Edited 30/01/12 in response to an anonymous comment. Please see end of post.
I guess there isn't really much to say about these, but I'm going to anyway. I wanted to make a sweet yeasted dough to enter into the Teatime Treats challenge that is run each month by either Kate of What Kate Baked or Karen of Lavender and Lovage. This month's theme was sweet doughs or pastries and I fancied trying my hand at Chelsea Buns. I have in fact made Chelsea buns before to a different recipe, but haven't yet blogged them. In the interests of this blog being a record of the recipes I attempt and how they turn out (good or bad, but happily rather more of the former than the latter) I am including this recipe.

It is from a trusted source, and so I can only imagine that it was a combination of errors on my part and perhaps the recipe that caused the result to be so disappointing. The recipe can be found here, and I think is also available in a published recipe book.

I did follow the recipe, but not to the letter. My dough had rather more time to rise at all stages as I was distracted by various other things and at the final stage the oven was occupied by something else when I needed to bake these. However, I reduced the temperature given in the recipe slightly, and baked for less than the initial time stated. When I tentatively opened the oven door (my oven has a solid, not a glass door, which is a pain in these cases) the buns were already over-browned.

I wish I could say that these were only cosmetic problems. When the buns were baked it was too late to try one, so they had to be left until the next day. By the time I started to split them it was immediately apparent that they were almost stale, and once split into separate buns they staled very, very quickly indeed. Perhaps this is a characteristic of this recipe, but if so, it is not a desirable one to me. I have to confess that I was so disappointed with the appearance of them and the rate at which they staled that I didn't even bother to eat one. So I suppose they may taste fantastic, but this is not a recipe I shall ever repeat.

Just typing this up is making me feel sad and disappointed, disillusioned with baking. They looked so promising before baking. I hate it when things go wrong at the last stage. So much time and effort wasted. But I have other, more successful recipes to share soon, and will move on from this disaster. I would love to know whether simply leaving the dough to proove for too long caused all my problems... any thoughts?

Edited 30/01/12 in response to an anonymous comment.
Anonymous said...
You imply that you didn't in fact follow the recipe, that in fact you left the dough for too long at every stage. Given that it's a yeasted dough, this would mean that the dough was exhausted by the time that it got into the oven, and so the failure, I'm afraid, is yours... the buns were not stale, you'd simply let the dough "die" before it got to the oven. Always unfair when someone does this, then tries to blame the recipe.

I'm glad that you felt able to comment on my blog, I like reading all of the comments I receive and try to respond to them all. I felt that this comment warranted a fuller reply than I could give in the comments section.

Firstly, I do not imply that I have not followed the recipe - I am clear that the dough had too long at all stages, an outright statement is not an implication. Secondly, I understand that over-proofed dough would have no oven spring, this was not a complaint I made of the recipe. I was unaware that overproofed sweet dough, or any dough for that matter, goes stale quickly. I have not experimented and have no evidence to suggest this is either true or false. Having read other people's comments it does in fact seem to be a characteristic of these sweeter doughs to stale more quickly. Finally, I have not blamed the recipe in the slightest. I have been careful to present a balanced view, that it is likely to be a combination of factors that have led to my failure with this recipe. I think you have misunderstood me. Just because I have failed with this recipe does not mean that it is the recipe's fault, and I have accepted that as the baker, I am partly to blame. However, my blog is a record of the things I have baked, successful and not - I like to remember what I don't want to repeat and it makes a change from always successful. My gripe with this recipe is that the temperatures and times given are too hot and too long for a sweet dough baked in my oven. Perhaps a misjudgement on my part to not reduce the temperature further, but if I had I would have strayed even further from the recipe - it seems I cannot win.

I would be happy to correspond with my anonymous commenter if they care to get in touch - my email details are in the side bar.

And a final thought - wouldn't life be boring if everything were to be perfect the first time round!


Karen S Booth said...

OH what a shame, I have to say that the failure does not appear in the, I am so sorry for you! THANKS anyway for making them for Tea Time Treats.....I cannot think why they might have failed...the texture seeming stale may be a fault of liquid, not enough....but other than being there, I cannot say! Shall I list them anyway in my round up? I think your post is excellent, as it highlights what can go wrong with sweet yeast breads! Karen

Suelle said...

What a disappointment - especially as it's one of Dan Lepard's usually reliable recipes. Have you compared the dough to any of the more recent recipes he's published for similar buns? There are at least two in Short and Sweet (and the Guardian series) - toffee apple buns and lemon and almond buns.

I can't get away from the idea that yeast doughs are more dufficult to make well than other types of baking, despite what accomplished bread makers say. If I'm guaranteed a failure, it's going to be a yeast dough!

The cinnamon buns I made for this challenge didn;t stay fresh for very long, either!

Alicia Foodycat said...

Oh no! I can't see how over-prooving would cause all the problems, but that recipe is very different to his marmalade chelsea bun recipe which I've had bookmarked to try. That baking time seems really excessive to me - up to 50 minutes total at quite a high temperature?

Bronya said...

Oh no! Can you save them and make them into bread and butter pudding or something?

Caroline said...

Karen - I don't know what went wrong. Just one of those things I suppose.

Suelle - I haven't compared with other recipes, I suppose I thought that most rich (milk, eggs, sugar) yeasted doughs would be similar. I'll have to have a look. I manage to fail on lots of things in baking, not just bread! I have to admit that I'm really not good at sweet doughs though - they often burn hence baking this at a lower temp and for shorter time than specified, yet it was still burnt when I checked at the part-baked stage. Partly why I'm so disappointed.

Foodycat - the marmalade chelsea buns are the ones I made ages ago and haven't blogged yet. They worked really well, and I keep meaning to make them again. But for this challenge I just fancied trying a different recipe.

Bronya - sadly beyond saving. I think I'd be throwing good ingredients after bad if I tried, although I'm sure a more skilled and/or thrifty person would manage it!

celia said...

C, don't be disappointed, stuff like this happens to me all the time. I've found this sort of bun always goes stale very quickly, so it might not be anything you did wrong! :)

Ann said...

Hi C - I read your blog regularly and was concerned that you had a disaster with a recipe of Dan's. I have his book, The Handmade Loaf, and in that the recipe is much the same but the baking temps are 180C for 25 min then 170C for 15-20 min.
I gather you were using the newspaper version?

Brownieville Girl said...

I hate when this happens ... all that time, effort and money to no avail!

Just remember your normal fantastic sucess rate and get the mixing bowl out again!!!

Ally said...

Learning by trial and error is what makes excellent bakers and cooks and good on you for attempting to make them in the first place. Far more adventurous than I've been in years.

One thing is almost for certain. You probably won't make the same mistake again :)

MissCakeBaker said...

That's such a shame. So frustrating when that happens and it does to everyone!

The Caked Crusader said...

I sympathise with you - to see such lovely looking buns go in the oven and come out disappointing is heartbreaking.

Kate@whatkatebaked said...

I always feel so disappointed and disgruntled when a recipe doesn't work out as planned too C. I've only mada Chelsea Buns once- they were a bit fiddly and very tasty for the first 24 hours but did become very stale very quickly after that.

Janice said...

poor you! I think the birds may be pleased and I would be looking for another recipe, maybe one from Delia!

Rolling Pin Claire said...

Oh no, please don't despair. I think most of us have had more baking disasters than we care to remember. Here's to the next baking success!

Samantha said...

Glad I'm not the only one to have 'fails' on occasion. Chin up - I'm sure you will nail it next time.

Anonymous said...

You imply that you didn't in fact follow the recipe, that in fact you left the dough for too long at every stage. Given that it's a yeasted dough, this would mean that the dough was exhausted by the time that it got into the oven, and so the failure, I'm afraid, is yours... the buns were not stale, you'd simply let the dough "die" before it got to the oven. Always unfair when someone does this, then tries to blame the recipe.

Caroline said...

Celia - thanks! I'll bear in mind that sweet doughs stale quickly in the future!

Ann - thanks for commenting. I must have a different version of THML to you - the times and temps in mine are exactly the same as on the internet version. Perhaps an updated version has been printed?

Dom - oh indeed ;-)

BVG - I'm physically incapable of leaving the mixing bowl in the cupboard. And the failures make the successes all the sweeter!

Alison - thanks for commenting.Yes, I'll go with my instincts and bake at a lower temp for sweet doughs in future :-)

MissCakeBaker - it does indeed, and I feel it's only fair to blog the rough with the smooth!

CC - that's what really got me - they looked so good going in!

Kate - looks like I was expecting them to keep fresh for too long then!

Janice - hadn't thought of a birdy treat! I have another Dan Lepard recipe that works really well for marmalade chelsea buns. I shall stick to that!

Claire - I haven't despaired yet! More baking still to come :-)

Samantha - which is partly why I posted about my experiences with this recipe - not everything is successful all the time!

Anonymous - I have responded in the main body of the text.

Ann said...

My copy of THML was printed in 2008 so maybe the recipe was updated.
I wonder if there was any discussion on Dan's forum?
The temp/time in the online version certainly seems too much to me.

Joanna @ Zeb Bakes said...

I asked B who has a better memory for things I made before the blog and he says that the chelseas we made from the HML recipe staled fairly quickly and that he seems to recall we took them out early but we have a glass door to our oven. It was a while ago. I personally don't like CBs, I don't like the syrup and the hard exterior texture of the buns, they are just way too sweet for me whatever the recipe.

I think your post is honest and clear and you discuss the problem well. It is difficult sometimes to pinpoint why something didn't work. I am assuming you didn't leave these buns for days on end before baking even so!

My comments are set so that you have to leave an email address before you are allowed to comment. Does Blogger not give you that option? best wishes Joanna

Johanna GGG said...

it is disappointing when you spend time on baked goods - even though you don't have to spend all the time hovering over the dough, I find that the time it takes does build up anticipation. Glad chelsea buns have worked for you before and am sure they will again. I think this was an honest account of what happened and agree that anon's comment was not helpful nor even polite


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