Forget every other Hot Cross Bun you’ve ever had. We don’t need them anymore. We’ve got these babies. While you’re at it, go ahead and forget every other so-called ‘chocolate’ bread that you’ve ever had. So much brown nonsense, right? It never actually tastes like chocolate. It’s always just regular bread, mysteriously and misleadingly tinted brown. Damn the man.
Pillowy, deeply chocolatey, studded with crystallized ginger, dried cranberries, hazelnut and dark chocolate; these are the best Chocolate Hot Cross Buns I’ve ever made or had. It’s not always the case, but the fun thing about these bad boys is, there’s a secret ingredient. You might know it. I first used it to make the world’s greatest Babka. Now I’m bringing the amazing, puff-power of tangzhong to bear on these buns. Tangzhong is just a cooked flour paste (just flour and water) but you would not believe what it does for your sweet bread.
Like these buns, your breads will be light as a cloud. A chocolate cloud, in this case, with plenty of chunks and surprises hidden throughout. I am a huge fan of the combination of chocolate and ginger, so I threw in some chewy chunks, as well as tart cranberries and hazelnuts, for a nutella-ish vibe. Of course, there are chunks of dark chocolate too. As I was making these, I though about how great a Black Forest inspired version would be, with dried sour cherries and white chocolate throughout.
Of course, these are perfect for any application where you would normally deploy a hot cross bun. Just instead of being a lightly spiced, fairly ho-hum bun, these are turbo-charged chocolate, which is really what Easter is all about (if you, like me, stopped maturing at age 5). But I would be remiss, sorely remiss, if I did not tell you about the single greatest thing you can do with one of these epic Chocolate Hot Cross buns…
It’s midnight – grab a bun. Split it roughly down the middle – just pull it apart – then gently place those slices in a toaster. Let it run for a few minutes, you don’t want any colour, but some crispness is ideal. While that is happening grab some vanilla (or better yet, coffee, or no – butter pecan!) ice cream out of the freezer to soften up. Now, as soon as the bun pops up out of the toaster, slam it on a plate, and wodge in a great, melting scoop of your ice cream du jour. Squish the lid down on top of it, and take a bite. You’ll meet toasty, crispy edges; a doughy, warm interior; some ice cream soaked bits; and some cool creamy pockets of cold ice cream. Happy chocolate day!
- 6 tbsp (90ml) water
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 2 + ¼ cups (335g) plain flour
- ⅓ cup (30g) cocoa powder (good quality)
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ cup (50g) sugar
- 1 + ½ tsp dry active yeast
- ½ cup (125ml) milk
- 2 eggs
- ½ stick (55g) butter, soft
- 4 oz (100g) dark chocolate, chopped
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ¼ cup crystallized ginger, chopped
- ¼ cup hazelnuts, chopped
- 3 tbsp flour
- 2 tbsp sugar
- First, make the tang zhong. Place the flour and water into a small saucepan and place over a medium heat, whisking, until the mixture is cooked into a claggy gel. Set aside to cool.
- To make the buns, place the four, cocoa, salt, sugar and yeast into the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Whisk together the tang zhong and milk. Pour that into the dry ingredients, and crack in the eggs. Using the dough hook, work the mixture on a low speed, just until it begins to come together in a dough.
- Slowly add the butter, about a teaspoon at a time, working well in between each, and mix until all the butter has been incorporated. You should have a sticky, dark brown dough. Scrape down the bowl, cover with plastic, and set aside in a warm place until doubled in size (anything from 1-2.5 hours).
- When the dough has risen, add in the chocolate, cranberries, ginger and hazelnuts, and mix until everything is incorporated. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide into 10 even pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and place on a paper-lined baking sheet. Cover lightly with plastic and set aside to rise again for about 40 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 160C/325F. When the buns are risen, make the crosses on top. Mix the flour with about 3 tbsp water to form a thick paste. Transfer to a piping bag with a small round tip, and pipe crosses across the top of the buns.
- Bake the buns for 20 minutes, or until they are risen, are a dark matte brown, feel springy and spongey to the touch, and sound hollow when tapped.
- Mix the sugar with a splash of boiling water, just to dissolve the sugar and form a syrup. Brush the syrup over the hot buns and then set aside to cool. Serve warm.