chocolate hot cross buns
Wed, 24 March, 2021
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!
chocolate hot cross bunsServings: 16 bunsTime: 5 hours
- For the ferment:
- 20g sugar
- 10g fresh or 1½ tsp instant dry yeast
- 280g warm milk
- 140g wholemeal flour
- For the dough:
- 45g mixed peel
- 40g dried apricots
- 45g sultanas
- 290g strong white flour
- 20g cocoa powder
- 7g mixed spice
- 3g cinnamon
- 1g ground cloves
- 5g salt
- 50g butter, softened
- 35g sugar
- 1 medium egg (50g), at room temperature
- 25g cooking dark chocolate, chopped
- 20g raw cocoa nibs (optional)
- For the glazing and crossing:
- 2-3 tbsp. milk
- 20g caster sugar
- 10g water
- 30g unsalted butter
- 90g cooking white chocolate, chopped
1. Prepare the ferment by dissolving the yeast in the warm milk and mixing it well with the flour and sugar. Leave to rise and bubble up for about an hour.
2. In the meantime finely chop the mixed peel and apricots. Place the sultanas in a small bowl and cover with water. Microwave on minimum power for 2 minutes, to warm them up. Leave to soak until needed.
3. Mix the flour, cocoa, spices and salt in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the ferment, butter sugar and egg and start mixing at low speed with a dough hook attachment.
4. Melt the dark chocolate in the microwave, at 3-4 bursts of 30 seconds. Scrape it into the dough and keep mixing at medium-high speed for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic, and bounces off the sides of the bowl. If you knead by hand, it will take 30 minutes of hard work.
5. Let the dough rest in the bowl for 10 minutes. Drain the sultanas and add to the bowl with the peel, apricots and cocoa nibs, if using. Knead it in very gently, taking care not to break up the fruit. If using the standing mixer, mix the fruit in on the lowest speed and finish off by kneading it in with your hands anyway.
6. Leave the dough to prove in a warm place until doubled in size, at least an hour.
7. Turn it out onto lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 16 even pieces (they will weigh about 72g each), mould the pieces into tight balls and place on baking trays lined with parchment, spaced about 3cm apart. Cover the trays with a tea towel or cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise for about an hour, until the buns are almost touching each other.
8. Preheat the oven to 170C fan/180C/350F/gas 4.
9. Brush the risen buns gently with milk to soften the crumb. Immediately put the trays in the oven and bake for 15-18 minutes until risen and browned. Transfer to a wire rack on the parchment and let them cool down a little.
10. Mix the sugar with water in a little bowl and bring to the boil in a microwave. Brush the buns with the glaze all over using a pastry brush. Let them cool down completely.
11. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. When it’s foaming, add the chopped chocolate and take the pan off the heat. Let it stand for a minute, then stir until smooth.
12. Drizzle the crosses over the buns using an icing syringe or a piping bag; dribble it on with a spoon if you have a steady hand. Let to cool and set before serving.
13. The buns can be gently toasted, sliced horizontally and placed on a piece of parchment set over the toaster, or the oven grill rack.