Dark chocolate, beetroot and cranberry hot cross buns

One Easter, when I was 4 years old, the Easter bunny came to drop off our eggs and never left. We named her Tinkerbell and weren’t the least bit concerned that all the other kids in the world would now no longer get their Easter eggs. She was ours – pure white, incredibly fluffy and best of all, she had delivered chocolates.

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Easter mornings are still filled with the buzz of occasion. My mom and I cook for days leading up to the event – slow roasted lamb shoulder with extravagant amounts of rosemary and lemon, whole heads of garlic, creamy spanikopita, crunchy roast potatoes, chargrilled greens and a traditional Greek bread decorated with brightly coloured eggs. Sometimes culinary perfection isn’t fancy, it’s just right.

But there’s one part of Easter that I’ve never felt right about – raisins. The smell of toasting hot cross buns could not be more enticing. My family eat them by the dozen, slathered in butter. I try them every year, desperate for them to be delicious, but…the raisins. They’ve just never been my thing and they’re almost impossible to avoid in those spicy little buns. But I am done with the disappointment and this year, I’m making my own hot cross buns.

The warm spice in the bun embraces the slightly bitter dark chocolate while the earthiness of the beetroot clings to the tart cranberries. This is Easter reinvented and I am so excited to be more than just a spectator at the morning bun toasting frenzy!

Ingredients

Prep time: 2.5 hours (including dough proving time) | Cooking time: 25 min | Serves: 12–18

For the dough

100 g dried cranberries
3 Tbsp fresh orange juice
250 ml milk
50 g butter, plus extra for greasing
1 large free-range egg
500 g strong unrefined bread flour, plus extra for dusting
250g cooked, pureed beetroot
2 heaped tsp ground cinnamon
2 heaped tbs good quality cocoa powder
14g dry yeast
100 g good quality dark chocolate chips
75 g castor sugar
1 tsp fine salt

For the cross

50 g plain flour
2 heaped tsp cocoa powder
5 Tbsp water

For the glaze

3 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp castor sugar

Method

1. Soak the cranberries in the orange juice for an hour before you want to start.
2. Melt the butter with the milk in a pan over a medium heat. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly before whisking in the egg. Set aside.
3. Drain the cranberries, discarding the orange juice, and place in a bowl with the flour, beetroot, cinnamon, cocoa powder, yeast, chocolate chips, castor sugar and salt. Mix well.
4. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and add the milk mixture to it. Stir together until a smooth dough is formed – if you find the dough too wet to come together add more flour until you have a workable dough.
5. Dust your work surface with flour, turn out the dough and knead for 10 minutes until the dough is soft, smooth and elastic.
6. Place your dough into a greased bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
7. Line two baking trays with baking paper. Set aside.
8. Place the dough onto a floured surface, and knead for 2 more minutes.
9. Cut the dough in half and roll both into fat sausage shapes. Slice each into 6 even-sized pieces, then roll into balls and place on the baking trays. These will make quite large buns. If you prefer smaller ones, divide the dough into 16 or 18 pieces.
10. Cover the trays loosely with clingfilm and allow to prove again in a warm place for 45 minutes, or until doubled in size.
11. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
12. To make the crosses mixture, sift together the plain flour, cocoa and water in a small bowl. It should be of a thick, pipe-able consistency. Using a piping bag, pipe a cross onto each bun.
13. Place the buns into the oven and bake for around 20 minutes. The buns should be cooked through, but still soft.
14. While the buns are baking, make the honey glaze. Place the honey and castor sugar in a pan and heat for a few minutes until the honey is properly runny and the sugar has dissolved.
15. Remove the buns from the oven and place on a cooling rack.
16. Brush the top of the buns a few times with the glaze until sufficiently covered. Leave to cool and serve.

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What’s your favourite hot cross bun reinvention? We’d love to hear how you’ve spiced up this Easter classic.

For more delicious Easter recipes, classic ones and ones with a twist, head to our Easter recipes collection.