Chelsea buns

A well-known and well-loved classic from Flour Station

In an age and a country of widening inequality, it seems rare and precious to find anything that transcends social status—let alone something forged in the 18th century in a Chelsea bakery favoured by royalty.

Nevertheless, that is exactly what the chelsea bun has become. Everyone knows it: everyone loves it, be they an east-ender, Sloane ranger or a sweet-toothed chap on a stroll through Borough Market on a Friday. When the buns first launched from Chelsea Bun Shop, legend has it folk queued in their thousands; 200 years later, their popularity remains almost unchanged.

What has changed is their availability. No longer the preserve of gilded kitchens in west London, today these doughy, curranty rolls are as unique to Chelsea as Danish pastries are to Denmark. Supermarkets sport them, cool cafes craft them and less cool cafes buy them in bulk. Flour Station, however, is in a league of its own.

Pummelled into submission
Not only is each and every bun handmade, baked the morning you buy it, but their ingredients are incomparable, with all-British flour, Lescure butter and plump currants aplenty. The dough ferments for 24 hours (a good thing, where dough’s concerned) and is pulled, pushed, stretched and pummelled into submission by bakers who know their kneading.

“This part is important,” says Beatrice at the stall. “It takes a lot of practice and experience. It’s the kneading and large amounts of quality Lescure butter that makes it so soft and doughy inside. The bun’s tight, sticky whorls, studded with currants, are hand folded and cut to ensure perfection before they’re baked.

Spices, cinnamon and sugar form the syrup which sinks into and surrounds their inimitable shape. The crust—a crisp, St Tropez tan—is deceptive. These buns are “big and decidedly squishy”, says Beatrice, and will give better hugs than anyone you’ll find on the King’s Road. Serve, as you would a hug, with a big mug of afternoon tea.