Chocolate-Chip Hot Cross Buns

My favored hot cross buns for Easter.
My favored hot cross buns for Easter.

I have a confession to make: I love hot cross buns.

But the neon red, green and yellow dried fruit inside?

Not so much.

As an avowed carb lover, I always felt painfully left out at Easter, simply because I couldn’t bring myself to buy these holiday buns only to pick out and discard the bits of dried fruit so wastefully.

Now, however, I’ve found a delicious solution to my dilemma: “Chocolate-Chip Hot Cross Buns.”

Because if there’s one thing I love even more than bread, it’s chocolate.

This fabulous recipe is from “Just Desserts: Good Things Come to Those Who Bake” (Running Press), of which I received a review copy. This compact tome of 30 recipes is the first cookbook by Charlotte Ree, an Australia-based recipe developer and avid home baker.

This fun little book full of cheeky quotes will have you running to your kitchen to try your hand at such delights as “Nutella Thumbprint Cookies,” “Tiramisu Swiss Roll,” and “Vanilla Cake with Ricotta Frosting and Roasted Peaches.”

These hot cross buns have not only cocoa powder mixed into the dough, but plenty of chocolate chips, too. The recipe uses 4 teaspoons of dried yeast, which is just about two packets of yeast. The dough rises twice — first in a bowl for an hour, then as individual balls in the baking pan for 30 minutes.

The buns just before going into the oven.
The buns just before going into the oven.

The characteristic cross decorating the top of each bun is made of a simple paste of flour, sugar and water, which you pipe on either with a piping bag or a zip-lock bag with a corner snipped off. Maybe my crosses are on the thicker side and admittedly I’m not the most adept at piping, but I actually ran out of the paste and had to make a second batch to complete the design on every bun. So, just note that you might also have to make more paste. But it’s so quick to stir together, it’s no headache to do so.

Fresh out of the oven and glazed.
Fresh out of the oven and glazed.

Once the buns emerge from the oven, brush them all over the top with a warm sugar syrup flavored with vanilla. You will likely have more glaze than you need. If you like your buns on the sweeter side, brush on multiple coats of glaze. If you prefer them less sweet, just give them a single once-over.

These buns are bready, hearty and incredibly chocolatey. They’re like a chocolate chip cookie transformed into a tender dinner roll.

Best yet, they have no annoying dried fruit in them. (wink, wink)

Just one will fill you up and satisfy that chocolate craving.
Just one will fill you up and satisfy that chocolate craving.

Chocolate-Chip Hot Cross Buns

(Makes 12)

4 teaspoons dried yeast (about two packets)

1 1/3 cups whole milk, warmed

1/3 cup superfine sugar

5 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 3/4 ounces unsalted butter, chopped

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 1/4 cups dark chocolate chips

For the paste:

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons superfine sugar

1/4 cup cold water

For the glaze:

1/2 cup superfine sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

1/3 cup water

Grease and line a 13-by-9-by-2 1/2-inch baking pan with parchment paper.

Whisk the yeast with the milk and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in a small bowl until yeast dissolves. Leave to stand in a warm place for 5 minutes, or until frothy.

Sift the flour, cinnamon, cocoa and salt into a large bowl, then rub the butter in with your fingertips to form a crumb. Stir in the remaining sugar, the frothy yeast mixture, egg, and a little warm water (1 teaspoon at a time, if you feel it needs it) to make a soft dough. Cover the bowl with a dish towel and leave to stand in a warm place for an hour, or until the mixture has doubled in size.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface. Knead for 8 minutes, then add the chocolate chips. Knead for a further 2 minutes, combining the chocolate chips, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Divide into 12 portions and roll each into a smooth ball. Place the balls on the prepared baking pan in four rows of three, leaving a 1/2-inch gap between each to allow room for the dough to expand. Let stand in a warm place for 30 minutes, or until almost doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Make the flour paste for the crosses by sifting the flour and sugar into a small bowl. Gradually stir in enough of the water to make a smooth, thick paste. Transfer the paste to a piping bag fitted with a small plain nozzle (or use a zip-lock bag with the corner snipped off) and pipe crossed onto the buns. (Note: If you find you don’t have enough paste, just make another batch to refill the piping bag.)

Bake the buns for 20 minutes, or until they are golden-brown and sound hollow when tapped.

Meanwhile, to make the glaze, bring the sugar, vanilla and 1/3 cup of water to a boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.

Transfer the pan of hot buns to a cooling rack and brush them with the hot glaze. Repeat once or twice more, if you like them sweeter. The buns are best eaten while still warm; or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days, and toast them to reheat.

Adapted from “Just Desserts” by Charlotte Ree

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