A family favourite version of the classic Easter treat, these chocolate hot cross buns are the perfect recipe to make this long weekend. With step-by-step photos, let me help show you how easy it is to make these at home!
Oh hello there Easter, you kind of stuck up on me this year. With the days currently merging into each other and Easter plans being a little different this year it’s not surprising that things are feeling slightly off.
These hot cross buns were a last minute addition to my Easter plans, and I have to insist that they be a last minute addition to yours as well. Baking these is the perfect way to spend Easter Sunday this year when your usual plans and traditions may not be possible.
Hot cross buns are a favourite Easter treat, from the day after Christmas when they hit the supermarket shelves, these sweet spiced bread rolls are enjoyed by everyone.
Sultana haters, I see you. While I personally love the fruity classic version, I live with someone who does not. And in the interest of both having a happy isolation husband and not having to buy an ingredient I wouldn’t normally have in my pantry, today we have an all chocolate version.
And you know what, it is just the perfect combination of spices and chocolate. I might even like it more than the original. I guess chocolate really does make everything better.
Like many yeast based breads, they can be intimidating to bake at home, but I have taken the challenge to try and make this post as informative as possible to ensure you get the best result through step-by-step photos and all my best tips.
Make sure to read all the way through this post to get all the tips and read the recipe thoroughly before beginning.
Chocolate hot cross bun ingredients
These hot cross buns are made with a sweet rich dough. A rich dough is characterised by the amount of fat present. In this case it is the addition of milk, butter and eggs to create a super soft end product which is different to a lean dough that is used to make my sandwich bread and focaccia. Lean dough tends to not be as soft and has a crusty exterior which is not the goal here today.
Being dairy-free, I use almond milk and Nuttelex to replace butter, and the result was still extraordinary. You can use these alternatives or the real deal in this recipe as they will both work exactly the same.
To make the dough you will need:
- Yeast – dry yeast will make your dough light and fluffy, give it rise and give it that bready taste and texture
- Sugar – feeds the yeast which makes it be able to do the hard work
- Milk – I use almond milk in this recipe, but any will do. It’s main purpose is to active the yeast and bind everything together
- Flour – regular plain flour works here
- Spices – to add that characteristic hot cross bun flavour use a combination of cinnamon and allspice
- Butter – adds richness and flavour. I use a dairy-free alternative.
- Eggs – for even more richness and softness to your end result
- Chocolate – for this twist on a classic I use both cocoa powder and chopped up chocolate, but you could also use chocolate chips.
How to make hot cross buns
There are a few steps involved here, but just make sure you read through them all before starting to make sure you know what to expect next.
- Start by ‘blooming’ the yeast by whisking it together with the sugar and warm milk. Let this mixture sit for 10 minutes until it becomes frothy.
- Make the dough by mixing all the ingredients into the yeast mixture using a dough hook attachment on a stand mixer. If you don’t have a stand mixer, then you are going to need a wooden spoon and some strong arms, motivation and persistence.
- Once the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl it is ready for it’s first rise. The dough will be quite soft and sticky. Use a spatula to scrape the dough from the bowl and turn onto a floured surface to shape into a ball carefully with floured hands.
- Place back into the bowl, cover and sit aside in a warm place for 1 hour.
- Punch down the dough, add in the chocolate and turn onto a floured surface, continue to lightly knead and shape into a ball.
- Divide the dough into 12 pieces and place into a baking pan. Cover and set aside again for 20 minutes for the second rise.
- Make the paste for the crosses, and pipe over the uncooked buns. Bake for 30 minutes.
- While baking, make the glaze and then brush over the baked buns.
Tips for making hot crossed buns
- The milk needs to be warm but not hot otherwise this will kill the yeast. If you can hold your finger in the liquid without it feeling uncomfortable, then that’s about perfect
- The dough will be quite sticky but you want to avoid adding in too much extra flour as this will alter the texture of the buns. Gently shape the dough using floured hands on a floured surface and sprinkle the dough with a little extra flour when handling it gets a bit too sticky.
- The dough needs to rise in a warm, dry spot in order to rise correctly. During the warmer months here in Brisbane, I usually just put my bowl outside under the verandah in the shade as the air temp is warm enough (or just on the counter if my air con is not on). In winter when this isn’t an option I like to preheat the oven to 100°C and then when ready for the rise turn it off and sit the bowl on the bottom shelf with the door open.
- You know the buns are done when you tap the top of them and they sound hollow. This trick works for all bread recipes.
- Serve the buns with a slather of butter, Nutella (or a vegan version), or just eat plain while warm, straight from the oven.
Hopefully all the tips in this post have made making hot cross buns at home sound like the perfect way to spend Easter this year and have taken a bit of the intimidation out of them.
And if you still need convincing, the smell of these baking away is one of the most delicious scents, I truly wish I could share it with you here. After baking, I inhaled two buns immediately while warm and the chocolate chunks were still melty among the soft bread. They are the perfect afternoon treat without being too sweet.
These chocolate hot cross buns are at their best for the first 2 days, after which they will start to be a bit stale and crumbly due to the lack of preservatives. When they get to this point either toast them and serve with butter, or use them to make a hot cross bun bread and butter pudding (which I haven’t yet made, but it sounds delicious and the perfect way to use up any extra buns!).
If you do make this recipe, please be sure to leave a comment and rating below! And tag any of your creations on Instagram with #eightforestlane as I would love to see.
Chocolate Hot Cross Buns
- 1 x 7 gram packet of yeast
- ¼ cup white sugar
- 1 ½ cups dairy-free milk warmed
- 4 cups plain flour
- ¼ cup cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- ¼ cup (60 grams) dairy-free butter
- 1 egg room temperature
- 100 grams chocolate chopped
For the crosses
- 3 tablespoons plain flour
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- 4 tablespoons water
For the glaze
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup sugar
- In the bowl of a stand mixer whisk together the yeast, sugar and warmed milk. Cover with a clean, damp kitchen towel and let sit for 10 minutes until the mixture is frothy.
- Add in 2 cups of the flour and begin to mix on low using the dough hook attachment of your stand mixer. Add another cup of flour, the cocoa powder, cinnamon and allspice, dairy-free butter and the egg and mix on medium speed until the dough starts to form. Add in the final cup of flour and mix until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
- Use a rubber spatula to remove the dough from the bowl onto a floured surface and using floured hands, shape the dough into a ball. Place the dough back into the bowl and cover with a clean, damp towel and set aside in a warm area for 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
- Punch down the dough to release the air and add in the chopped chocolate and mix through the dough gently. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead gently to incorporate the chocolate before shaping it into a ball.
- Line a 9 x 13 inch (20cm x 30cm)tray with baking paper and set aside. Cut the dough ball into 4 even pieces, and then cut each piece into 3 so that you have 12 pieces in total. Roll each piece into a ball and place evenly into the pan. Cover again with the kitchen towel and set aside in a warm place for 20 minutes.
- Before the second rise is complete, preheat the oven to 180°C. Mix together the additional flour, cocoa powder and water to make a thick paste. Place the paste into a zip lock bag and snip off the end. Once the buns have finished rising, pipe crosses onto each and place the buns in the oven for 30 minutes, or until browned on top and they make a hollow sound when you tap the top.
- About 5 minutes before the baking time is up, make the glaze by boiling together the sugar and water in a small pot on the stove until the sugar is completely dissolved. Brush the glaze over the cooked buns, and try not to burn yourself as you devour them warm.
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