Dark and glossy, with stunningly bright crosses, this is the chocolate version of everyone's favourite Easter bake: choc cross buns.
What can be nicer to serve for Easter Sunday breakfast than hot cross buns? Soft and pillowy, bursting with raisins and fruit, spiced and glazed, freshly baked or lightly toasted? Piled with cold butter, crumbs breaking off the piped cross, the glaze sticking to everything and the fingers? What can be better?
Better than plain hot cross buns
Here’s what: the chocolate version. Coloured with cocoa, with the spice still working its flavour through the chocolate, speckled with sultanas, apricots and candied citrus, with an occasional gorgeous crunch of cocoa nibs and the cross piped on in softest white chocolate.
I do think it is the most fitting bake for Easter: a marriage of hot cross buns and all-present chocolate. Plus they look so much nicer when dark and chocolatey! And the white crosses stand out both visually and 3-dimensionally raised over the bun crust.
There are a couple of problems with these buns: a/ how to stop yourself from eating the cross first, and b/ how to toast them. The answer to a/, of course, is: you don’t. It’s too tempting and anyway it only gets in the way of buttering the bun. And b/: once you got rid of the chocolate cross, toasting is easy.
How to make the best chocolate hot cross buns?
The base recipe comes, slightly modified from Andrew Whitley’s book Bread Matters. It is my favourite hot cross buns recipe, with a little wholemeal flour added to the dough which vastly improves the texture.
There is just enough fat in the shape of milk, butter and egg to keep the buns wonderfully soft for a good few days; much longer before you reach for the toaster than it happens with ordinary ones.
I replaced some flour with cocoa and also added some melted chocolate for an enhanced flavour but it does weigh the dough down so you can skip it to make the buns fluffier. Don’t skimp on the spice though – that’s the ‘hot’ element in hot cross buns after all, chocolate ones or not!
The fruit ingredient of choice here is apricots, citrus peel and sultanas. I am always torn between wanting to stuff the buns senselessly with raisins and minding the nice round shape of them, without rogue raisins sticking out at odd sides.
With heavy heart I limited the amount here for the sake of aesthetics but added some cocoa nibs, which are an absolutely wondrous thing in baking. They add the crunch and the extra chocolatey touch but are not bitter like you might expect of raw chocolate chips.
Glaze and crosses
Once they’ve been shaped and proofed for the second time, it’s good to brush the buns with milk to soften the crust. But that also dulls it a little, so I recommend glazing them post-baking with a simple sugar glaze. I know: it’s fuss, but there’s nothing like shiny glossy buns for Easter!
And the final, arguably the most important step: the crossing. I melt the white chocolate by adding it to a little hot melted butter in order to soften it. Pure melted chocolate will work, but it may become too brittle and, heavens forbid, crumble off the buns.
And that’s it – my chocolate hot cross buns to welcome Easter and spring!