Chocolate Orange Hot Cross Buns

September 25, 2015

Hot cross buns are an Easter staple, showing up in bakeries weeks before the actual holiday because people love them so much. Soft and spiced, hot cross buns are typically studded with candied fruit, citrus zest and raisins or currants, then topped with a cross either made of icing or baked right onto the surface. Hot cross buns are typically sweet and glossy – this comes from a simple syrup made with sugar and water that’s brushed over the buns as soon as they come out of the oven.

Because everything is better with chocolate, this particular version is made with orange zest, candied citron and chocolate chunks – with a chocolate X on top. This part is simple to do – put a small handful of chocolate chips in a small zip-lock baggie, seal, put it in a bowl of warm water and wait until it melts. Massage it a bit to make sure there are no chunks remaining, then snip off one corner and pipe the melted chocolate over the buns, making sure they’ve cooled first. If you’d rather bake the crosses right into the crust, so that you can serve them warm, make a paste out of flour and water and do the same thing, piping the crosses onto the buns before you put them into the oven. You’ll wind up with golden buns, topped with paler crosses.

If you want to make these in advance, prepare the dough and shape them into buns, then cover and refrigerate overnight – this will slow the second rise, and all you’ll need to do is pull the pan out of the fridge in the morning and let them warm up a bit as you preheat the oven, then slide them in. For soft-sided buns, place them close together in a baking pan or dish; if you want them golden all around, keep them spaced well apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. I made mine fairly small, almost egg-sized, so I can have two or three.

Chocolate Orange Hot Cross Buns

1 1/2 cups lukewarm water, milk or a combination of both
1 pkg. (or 2 1/4 tsp.) active dry yeast
1/3 cup sugar
4- 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup butter, softened or melted
1 large egg
grated zest of an orange
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate
1/2 cup candied citrus peel (optional)

Glaze:
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. warm water

1/3 cup chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate, for crosses

Put the water in a large bowl and add the yeast and a pinch of the sugar. Let sit for 5 minutes, until foamy. (If it doesn’t foam, toss it out and buy fresh yeast.) Add 4 cups of the flour along with the remaining sugar, butter, egg, orange zest, cinnamon and salt. Mix until you have a sticky dough.

On a floured surface, knead for about 5 minutes, incorporating more flour as needed if it gets sticky, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Knead in the citrus peel and chocolate. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with a towel and let rise for an hour, or until it has doubled in size.

Divide the dough into 12 balls and place in a 9x13-inch baking dish or on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with a tea towel and put them in a warm place for another half hour to an hour while you preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden. In a small dish, stir together the sugar and hot water until the sugar dissolves. Brush over the buns while they’re still warm, then set aside to cool.

Put the chocolate chips or chopped chocolate into a small zip-lock baggie, seal and put in a bowl of warm water until the chocolate melts. Knead the bag a bit to make sure there aren’t any unmelted bits. Snip off one corner and pipe the chocolate out onto the cooled buns.

Makes about 1 dozen hot cross buns.

- Julie Van Rosendaal

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