We agreed we could make this a tradition. However, recently two of the younger members of our vegetarian family have changed to a vegan diet, so there was only one way forward - the recipe would need to be adapted. First problem was to find (or make) suitable marzipan, as traditional recipes seem to require egg white. Luckily Dr Oetken's and Sainsbury's ready-made marzipan are both suitable for vegans. Milk and butter were less challenging to replace. I have made my adapted version twice now, and it seems to be about right. Alternative layouts are mentioned at the end, and can be used at Christmas or at other times.
This quantity makes 12 modest sized buns. Allow 5 hours or so from the start until they are to be served. This includes two sessions of proving (leaving to rise); I use our airing cupboard, but at room temperature it may need a little longer. A food mixer is very helpful to make the dough, but of course not essential.
The original recipe, complete with a great photograph, can be found on BBC Good Food Magazine's website. They agreed to my adapting and using it on this blog, and this is the link to their recipe:
Vegan Cranberry & Orange Chelsea Bun Christmas Tree
(Oven will need to be at 160C fan, or 175C otherwise.
A very large baking sheet is required, lined with baking parchment.)
140ml soya milk (or almond)
20ml olive oil
225g strong white bread flour
4g dried yeast (about half a sachet)
25g caster sugar (+2tbsp for later)
level tsp ground cinnamon
half tsp fine sea salt
100g vegan marzipan, chilled and coarsely grated
finely grated zest of 1 large orange
50g fresh cranberries (* see below if not available)
50g dried cranberries
20g roughly chopped pistachios
2 tbsp marmalade or apricot jam
1 Warm the soya milk gently in a small pan until steaming but not boiling.
Stir in the oil and set aside to cool a little.
2 Put the flour, yeast, 25g of caster sugar, cinnamon and salt in the mixer bowl
(or any good-sized bowl). Add the milk and work into a smooth but stretchy
dough. Takes about 5m in the mixer, a little longer if kneading by hand on a
floured board. Be prepared to add, very carefully, a little more flour or water
if necessary - depends on the flour used.
3 Lift the dough from the mixer bowl and oil the bowl lightly (I use One-Cal spray).
Cover with clingfilm and leave to prove until doubled in size (about 2h).
4 Tip the dough onto a floured board and roll out to 36cm x 20cm, forming a
neat rectangle. Sprinkle the marzipan evenly over it, together with the orange
zest and fresh cranberries.
5 Scatter over about two-thirds of the dried cranberries and same with pistachios,
topping with the extra 2 tbsp of caster sugar. Starting with the long side of
the dough, roll up fairly tightly. Neaten the ends of necessary. Using a sharp
knife, cut the roll in half, then quarters, then cut each quarter into three.
6 Lift the buns very carefully onto the lined baking sheet, placing them flat and a
little apart, one for the top, then a row of two, then three, then four. Of the other
two, place one under the four to make the trunk of the tree, and put the last on
a corner (for the cook - not shown above as I ate it.)
7 Cover with the clingfilm and leave to prove for an hour or so until about doubled
in size and just touching one another.
8 Bake in the centre of the oven for 16-18m until golden brown, then leave to cool
for 10m or so. If your oven, like mine, cooks a little unevenly, quickly turn the
baking sheet around 180 degrees half-way through. (I forgot this with the above
batch, hence the bark-coloured bark.)
9 During the cooling time, put the marmalade or jam in a pot and stir in a teaspoon
of warm water. When the buns are cool, brush the mix all over the buns to glaze
them. Scatter over the remaining pistachios and dried cranberries.
The icing, if you fancy adding it, is made with a mixture of sieved icing sugar and juice from the orange, drizzled artistically over the whole shebang.
* If fresh cranberries aren't around, use another 40g of dried berries soaked in water
for a while then drained well. I have made the recipe with half and half, also with
all dried. The fresh cranberries make the buns a little more luscious, but using only
dried works well too.
Fewer but larger buns can be arranged in a flower shape:
Or cut the rolled-up dough into eight and make them into a ring shape. When they're baked, cooled and dressed, a sprig of holly or twigs from a cupressus can be placed in the centre for a Christmas wreath, or even at Easter with a pile of tiny chocolate eggs in the centre.
A rather longer recipe than my usual, but good fun to do, and the buns have had very appreciative audiences. For us it's a keeper. Happy baking.