Jean’s Store [Chelsea Buns]

Jean’s Store at the cottage.

I remember the last time I went in there — behind the cash to the kitchen.

A sink full of rotten tomatoes. A stench. A squirrel. A pile of blackened loaf pans. Donnie explained to me that the black on the pans was the key to golden brown crust.

Nobody had bothered to pick up where Jean had left off when she died.

Jean’s store is a derelict tar-papered bush building on Pine Ridge Point, Lake Wah Wash Kesh. This year, it’s completely abandoned.

But it wasn’t always that way.

Yes, there were always the heavily splintered docks that bowed dangerously underfoot.

And yes, there was always the ascent of the rocky hill lined with rusty old boat motors and geraniums.

The paper bag was always waiting, stuffed with a dozen or a half dozen buns — whatever you had ordered for pickup that morning. The sticky swirls were kept separate with wax paper. The brown paper and caramelized sugar smell was enticing.

But, most importantly, there were always the very good people who ran this store — a team of siblings, Jean, Donnie and Ken Hayward of Ardbeg, Ont.

Jean and Donnie ran the kitchen. Ken was a handyman and mechanic.

The store was warm and yeasty. The kitchen busy filling orders for chelsea buns, butter tarts, whole wheat and white bread and the occasional birthday cake.

Sometimes an order had to be waited out in a split green vinyl chair or perched atop the buzzing lowboy Coca Cola freezer.

A few times, I headed to the kitchen to peak around. This was my first encounter with a commercial kitchen.

I mostly remember the giant iron mixer, riveted to the wide board floor. It’s spinning green and black hook kneaded enough dough to feed breakfast to everyone on the lake with second helpings.

These are a souped-up version of Jean and Donnie’s chelsea buns.

Chelsea Buns

For the dough:

1/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cups whole milk
1 egg
1/8 cup melted butter, cooled
1/8 cup walnut oil
1 tsp salt
neutral oil, for greasing

***STOP RIGHT THERE! Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature, or they will interfere with the yeast.

In the bowl a stand mixer, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes.

By hand, whisk in brown sugar, egg, milk, walnut oil, melted butter, salt, vanilla seeds and half of the flour.

Switch to a dough hook attachment. At medium-low speed, slowly incorporate the remaining flour until a stiff dough forms.

Increase speed to medium-high until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.

Grease a large bowl with oil. Place the dough in the bowl. Wrap the bowl tightly in plastic wrap and tightly wrap the perimeter of the bowl with kitchen twine or another piece of plastic wrap to further seal the bowl. Set the dough aside at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

For the filling and topping:

1 1/3 cup raisins
1 1/3 cup dark rum
2/3 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
2/3 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
6 tbsp corn syrup
1/4 cup melted butter
salt, to taste

Warm the rum. Soak the raisins in the rum until plump. Drain.

Combine all ingredients except for the corn syrup. Season with salt.

Set aside one third of the mixture.

Combine the melted butter and corn syrup. Season with salt. Set aside.

For the assembly:

Arrange a rack in the centre of the oven. Preheat oven to 350F.

Grease and flour a 9 x 13- inch cake pan.

Turn the dough out onto lightly floured surface. Roll into a 1/4-inch thick, 14 x 10-inch rectangle. Spread filling on rectangle, leaving a 1/2-inch edge bare along one of the long sides.

Roll the rectangle into a log, towards the bare edge. Tightly pinch the bare edge to seal. Cut into 14 slices.

Stand the slices on a baking sheet at room temperature. Cover with a kitchen towel. Let stand until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Sprinkle reserved one third of the filling mixture into the bottom of the pan. Pour half of the butter and corn syrup mixture into the bottom of the pan. Tilt the pan to coat the whole bottom of the pan.

Arrange buns in the pan. Pour remaining corn syrup and butter mixture evenly over the buns.

Bake 25 minutes, or until firm to the touch. Cover with foil if getting too brown. Let cool on rack for 5 minutes. Invert onto rack.

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8 thoughts on “Jean’s Store [Chelsea Buns]

  1. I will be trying this recipe as soon as I can. My grandmother’s cottage was right around the bay from the store and I greatly miss Jean’s Chelsea buns. Hoping these will be just as good.

  2. OMG… I was 8 when my grandfather (Ed Langlois) died and the family sold the cottage – I missed it so much and was mad at my parents for YEARs afterwards…it was a great place to spend the summers, and I loved heading to Hayward’s to pick up the bread, the chelsea buns and the pies!

    Can you post a link to the newsletter with the recipe? I can’t seem to find it… Thanks so much for posting!

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