There’s only four sleeps until the most chocolatey day of the year is upon us, and so I thought I’d turn the one remaining non-chocolatey Easter treat into something a lot more… well… chocolatey. Introducing Cherry Chocolate Hot Cross Buns. Or maybe Choc Cross Buns?
I don’t even know if Hot Cross Buns are a ‘thing’ outside of Britain, so if not, let me give you the run down on how they are supposed to be. A sweet bun of bread-like deliciousness, filled with loads of spices, sultanas, and mixed peel. Plus, they have a white cross on the top (I expect that has something to do with Jesus) made from flour and water. They are yummy as.
But I like to be a bit experimental around here, so I decided to banish the sultanas and the mixed peel, and replace them with dark chocolate chips and dried cherries. Cherry and chocolate is my go-to flavour combination, after all.
But that wasn’t enough chocolate for me. I also threw some cocoa into the dough mix, and finished the buns off with a cocoa and flour cross. It just felt right, you know?
The spice is still there, and then Easter tradition lives on, but it has given new life to an old classic. Kind of what Easter is all about, I guess?
I tried one cut in half and smothered with cherry jam, and it was divine. Katie toasted one for breakfast, covered with butter, and she absolutely loved it. How ever you want to eat it is fine with me, but I promise you that you are going to love these super soft and spicy cherry and chocolate hot cross buns.
In the spirit of full disclosure – these guys are a bit of a time commitment to make. The dough
kneads needs to be left to rise twice (the perfect time to go on tumblr or actually do some housework) and also needs a five minutes kneading spree (a good arm workout). But if you follow the steps below to the letter, you will end up with gorgeously soft and light little buns that will impress whoever you have over for the Easter weekend.
Pro tip – don’t put chicks on your buns when the marmalade glaze is still wet. No one wants hair in their buns.
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- 300ml (1¼ cups) whole milk
- 50g (¼ cup) unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 500g (4 cups) strong white bread flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 75g (1/3 cup) white or golden caster sugar (US granulated sugar)
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons (one 7g sachet) fast action yeast
- 150g (1 cup) dried cherries, chopped
- 100g (2/3 cup or 4oz) dark chocolate chips (bittersweet)
- Grated zest of 1 large orange
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
- 1 teaspoon mixed spice (US Pumpkin Pie Spice - see notes)
- ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 50g (1/3 cup) plain or all-purpose flour
- 3 teaspoons cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons orange marmalade (no bits)
- Bring the milk to the boil in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter until melted. Add the vanilla extract and set aside to cool slightly.
- Put the flour, salt, sugar, cocoa powder and yeast into a large bowl, and mix with a wooden spoon. Add the orange zest, cinnamon, mixed spice, and nutmeg, and then make a well in the centre of the bowl.
- Before adding the milk and butter, make sure that it has reached the correct temperature. The milk should feel only slightly warm to the touch, not hot. Once the milk has reached this temperature, pour it into the well in the centre of the flour mixture, along with the beaten egg. Using a wooden spoon, mix together well, and then form into a dough with your hands. The dough will be quite wet, but it will stiffen up once kneaded.
- Lightly flour a table or board, and knead the dough for five minutes. If any cherries pop out of the dough during the kneading process, just knead the back in again. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, and cover with lightly oiled clingfilm (plastic wrap). Place the bowl somewhere warm (the airing cupboard or near a radiator are great for this) and leave to rise for 1 hour, after which it should have roughly doubled in size.
- Divide the dough into 16 evenly sized pieces. This is easiest to do with a sharp knife. Roll the dough pieces into balls on a lightly floured surface. Do not worry about knocking the air out of the dough balls, as they will have time to rise again later. Make sure the balls are as round and smooth as possible, because any imperfections or cracks will be amplified once the dough rises again. Place the balls on a lined baking sheet, leaving 1 inch gaps between them. Return the dough balls to the warm spot from earlier, this time covering with a clean tea-towel, and leave them to rise for 1 hour.
- When the hour is almost up, preheat the oven to 200°C / 390°F (180°C fan). In a small bowl, mix 50g plain flour and 3 teaspoons of cocoa together. Add water, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is pipe-able. The stiffer this mixture is, the more pronounced your crosses will be.
- Fetch the dough balls from their warm location, and using a piping bag pipe crosses on to the top of each of the buns with the cocoa and flour mixture. It is easier to do the buns one by one, and make sure that the crosses are hugging the curves of the buns well.
- Bake the hot cross buns for 15-20 minutes, until the tops of the buns feel firm. Mine took about 17 minutes to reach this stage. Remove from the oven but leave one the baking tray to cool for 10 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack. Microwave the marmalade for 20 seconds or so, and then brush onto the top of each of the buns to glaze them. Leave to cool completely.
- These buns will keep for 3-5 days if stored in an airtight container, in a cool place. The buns can be frozen for 2-3 months - just defrost at room temperature. If necessary, de-frosted buns can be warmed in the oven for 1 few minutes to perk them back up. It is best not to freeze the unbaked dough, as this may deactivate the yeast and the buns may not rise correctly.
- Mixed spice is a UK term, I believe. It is a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, etc. However, Pumpkin Pie Spice should make a good substitute in the US if you don't want to make your own. Let me know how it turns out!