Infused with cocoa powder and chocolate chunks, these Chocolate Hot Cross Buns are a sweet, decadent twist on the traditional Easter bun recipe.
These Chocolate Hot Cross Buns are one of my favorite Easter treats. Cocoa powder and chocolate chunks give them a rich chocolate flavor that goes so well with the soft chewy texture. They’re the perfect dessert for Good Friday or Easter Sunday.
My dad, who has passed, loved hot cross buns so making these reminds me of him. He had quite a sweet tooth, so sweet bread makes sense as one of his favorite things – a love that has definitely been passed down to me!
This recipe is obviously a bit of a twist on your traditional hot cross buns, which are a sweet fruit bun with warm spices and orange peel, but they maintain the original symbolism of the Easter dessert, with the white cross piped on top.
What is the Significance of Hot Cross Buns?
Hot Cross Buns, a sweet bread roll with a white cross on the top, are said to represent the crucifixion of Jesus. The spices used are said to represent the embalming of Jesus at his burial, and the orange peel represents the bitterness of his time on the cross.
When Are Hot Cross Buns Eaten?
Hot cross buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday, to represent the day that Jesus was crucified, and on Easter Sunday. Though you can now find them throughout the Easter holiday season.
Why Were Hot Cross Buns Banned?
Queen Elizabeth the first, banned hot cross buns in 1592, except for on Christian holidays like Easter and Christmas, supposedly to protect the holiness of the buns. This ban lasted until around the 1700s.
Why Do Hot Cross Buns Have A White Cross?
The white cross on the hot cross buns represents the cross that Jesus died on.
ingredients and Substituions
- Quick rise instant dry yeast – Yeast does expire, so always check the expiration date on the package. I like this yeast over simple active yeast because it is way less fussy and in my opinion more reliable to work with.
- Caster sugar – You’ll want to divide the sugar to use at two different parts of the recipe. This sugar in Canada is called superfine sugar.
- Milk – Warmed, see notes below. I like to use 2% for this recipe but any milk will work.
- Bread flour – You can also use all-purpose flour if you don’t have bread flour on hand. Bread flour has a little more protein giving a slightly fluffier, chewier texture but the difference is negligible.
- Cocoa powder – Adds the rich chocolate flavor throughout the buns.
- Salt – Helps to balance the sweetness of the buns and also adds flavor. But salt in bread also works to tighten the gluten strands in the bread dough which helps the dough hold more of the carbon dioxide released by the yeast giving the bread a higher rise.
- Butter – Use unsalted butter, since we’re adding salt separately. It should be melted and cooled before adding it to this recipe.
- Egg – Helps to hold everything together and adds richness to the buns.
- Chocolate chunks – Though these are chocolate chip hot cross buns, I actually prefer chocolate chunks to chips for bigger pockets of chocolatey goodness!
What is Caster Sugar?
Caster sugar is also known as superfine sugar. It’s basically very finely ground granulated sugar and it has a texture somewhere between regular granulated sugar and powdered sugar. The primary reason for using it is that since it has such a fine texture, it combines with other ingredients more easily and also dissolves more easily.
What Temperature Should The Milk Be?
When making these hot cross buns or any other yeast rolls, it’s important that the milk added is warm – not too hot or not too cold. (A bit like Goldilocks!) This is important because if the milk is too hot, it will kill the yeast and if it’s too cold, it may not activate the yeast at all.
Basically, if you put your finger in and it feels like a nice warm bath, the temperature is perfect. If it feels uncomfortable to the touch, let it cool a bit.
The finger test works fine for me but if you want to be precise, the temperature should be between 100° and 110°F.
Bread Flour vs All-Purpose Flour
For this Easter bun recipe, you can use either bread flour or all-purpose flour.
But what’s the difference?
Bread flour has a higher protein content, which in turn creates more gluten in the bread. This tends to give the bread more structure. Rolls made with bread flour also tend to be sturdier and chewier.
But, truthfully, if you don’t have bread flour, all-purpose flour will work just fine in this recipe.
How to Make Chocolate Hot Cross Buns
Step One: To make these chocolate chip hot cross buns, begin by creating the dough. Add 4 cups of flour, yeast, ½ cup of sugar, cocoa powder, and salt to a bowl.
Step Two: Mix until combined then add the warm milk, egg, and butter. Mix until blended, either with a spoon or dough hook on a stand or hand mixer.
If kneading the dough with a stand mixer, knead until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. If needed, add a bit of extra flour to make it less sticky. It should be pliable and come away from the walls of the ball and not so sticky that it sticks to your fingers. It should take about 5 minutes on low to reach this point.
If you are kneading the dough by hand, blend the ingredients in the bowl as much as possible, then grease your fingers with butter and transfer the dough to a clean, lightly floured counter to continue kneading.
The dough should be nearly smooth and elastic, which takes about 10 minutes by hand.
Step Three: Once the dough is nearly fully kneaded add handfuls of the chocolate at a time and knead them until all the chocolate is evenly mixed throughout the dough.
Step Four: It’s time to let it rise. Transfer to a large, greased bowl and spray with a bit of cooking spray on top. Cover with a clean dish town and place in a warm, draft-free place to rise for 45 to 90 minutes, until it doubles in size.
Step Five: Transfer the risen dough to a lightly floured surface. Shape into a long log and cut into 12 equal pieces. I like to use dental floss and loop a piece underneath the dough and pull it tight up top. It creates a clean slice without sticking.
Step Six: Fold the edges of each slice underneath to create a ball. Place on the floured surface, cup one hand on top, and roll around in a circular motion to shape into a smoother, more uniform ball.
Once all of the dough balls have been rolled, place them on a 9″ x13″ baking sheet lined with parchment paper, 3 across and 4 deep. Lightly grease the tops of the buns and cover them once again.
Step Seven: Place the rolls in a warm place for the second rise, which should take about 30 to 40 minutes. The dough should rise to just under double in size.
Once the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 350°F.
Step Eight: Mix together ½ cup of flour and 7 tbsp of water, whisking until smooth. It should be thick but still a little runny. Almost like a thinner version of cake icing. Place the white flour mixture in a piping bag.
Step Nine: Pipe crosses over each bun, allowing the flour mixture to fall over the sides of each bun’s curves.
Bake the buns for 20 to 25 minutes, until the top surface is slightly darker than the sides.
Step Ten: At the same time, whisk together the remaining ¼ cup of sugar and ¼ cup of water until the sugar dissolves.
Immediately baste the tops of the buns with the sugar glaze when you pull them from the oven. Let the glaze set for a few minutes, then serve and enjoy!
How Do You Know When Bread Is Kneaded Enough?
Fully kneaded dough should be soft and pliable but not sticky. It should not stick to the sides of your mixing bowl or to your hands.
If you’re kneading by hand, you should be able to pull a little dough so that it’s almost see-through without it breaking off and the surface of the dough will appear fairly smooth.
Should You Eat Hot Cross Buns Warm or Cold?
Either! You can enjoy these choc chip hot cross buns any way you’d like to. Personally, I love to enjoy them warm from the oven when the chocolate chunks are nice and melty and then any leftovers at room temperature but it’s up to you!
Proper Storage & Freezing
These chocolate hot cross buns can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days in the fridge for up to a week.
They also freeze well. Allow the baked buns to cool completely, then wrap them in plastic wrap and freeze them for up to 3 months. Thaw on the countertop and enjoy at room temperature or reheat gently in the microwave.
More Easter Recipes:
- Gluten-Free Carrot Cake
- Garlic & Rosemary Lamb Chops
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Eggs
- Calamari Fritti
- Lemon Meringue Pie
- Coconut Macaroons
Chocolate Hot Cross Buns
- 4 1/2 cups bread or all-purpose flour; divided
- 3/4 cup castor sugar; divided
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 2 1/4 tsp quick rise instant yeast
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 cup 2% milk; warmed
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter; melted and cooled
- 1 egg; room temperature
- 1 cup chocolate chunks
- Add 4 cups of flour, yeast, 1/2 cup sugar, cocoa powder and salt to a large bowl. Mix until well combined.
- Add the warm milk, egg and butter and mix with until blended with a spoon or stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. If using a stand mixer, mix until the dough becomes smooth and an elastic dough forms, Add a little extra flour if needed so that the dough is less sticky. You want the dough to be pliable and to come away from the walls of the bowl. The dough will still be a little sticky but not enough to stick to your fingers. This will take about 5 minutes on low. If mixing the dough by hand, once you have blended the ingredients in the bowl as well as you can, grease your fingers with a little butter, lightly flour a clean surface with the remaining flour and transfer the dough to the counter to knead.
- Knead by hand for about 10 minutes or until the dough is nearly smooth and elastic. You want to be able to pull a little dough so that it can become almost see-through without breaking off.
- Grease a large bowl and place the kneaded dough inside. Then spray a little cooking spray on top of the dough or grease with a little butter so that the dough does not stick to the bowl or dry out. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel and place in a warm, draft free place to rise (proof) until doubled in size. This will take about 45 to 90 minutes depending on the warmth of the space.
- Once the dough has risen, remove it from the bowl and place it back on a lightly floured surface. Shape the dough into a long log long enough to cut the dough into 12 equal pieces. I find using dental floss to cut the dough most effective. Just loop a piece under the log of dough and pull tight up top and it will slice cleanly through without sticking.
- Once the 12 pieces are cut, fold the edges of the slices underneath to create a ball. Then put the ball back on the floured surface and cup one hand on top and roll the ball of dough around on the counter under your hand in a circular motion. This will help shape the dough into a smoother more uniform ball.
- Line a 9" X 13" baking sheet with parchment paper and place the balls of dough 3 across and 4 deep evenly on the baking sheet. Lightly spray or grease the tops of the buns with cooking spray or butter and cover once again with plastic wrap or a clean dishcloth.Return the tray to a warm place for a second rise for about 30-4 minutes or until the dough has risen to just over double in size..
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- In a small bowl mix together the 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water. Whisk until smooth. Place the flour mixture into a small resealable sandwich bag or piping bag. The mixture should be thick but still runny.
- Once the buns have risen, remove the cover and cut the tip off of the piping bag and carefully pipe crosses over each bun allowing the flour mixture to fall over the sides of each bun's curves.
- Bake the buns for about 20-25 minutes or until the surface has started to darken slightly from the sides.
- While the buns are baking, add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and a 1/4 cup of water to a small bowl and whisk until the sugar is dissolved.
- When the buns are done baking, remove them from the oven and then baste the tops of the bun with the sugar glaze. Let the glaze set for a few minutes and then serve the buns warm or cooled.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.