Confession #106: I Dream in Recipes… Chocolate Cranberry Sweet Rolls
Do you guys want to know what my thoughts are like when I’m trying to fall asleep at night? Burning question, I know. ;) But what I do sometimes is… I think up recipe ideas. Wait – putting your mind to work isn’t the best way to fall asleep? Yeah, I know, but I can’t quite help it, and frankly I don’t want to. I came up with the idea for these Chocolate Cranberry Sweet Rolls one night, which means that obviously, it’s a pretty perfect time to brainstorm.
These are tender, soft-as-air sweet rolls, with a twist – they’re baked in a muffin tin. Why? For some reason, I just decided that sweet rolls baked in a muffin tin would be fun. Maybe it had something to do with the 10 PM recipe development process? Hah, I don’t know… It just seemed right, and it is. Everything about these sweet rolls is right.
As much as I love sweet flavors, I’ve always had a thing for tart tastes too. As a kid, I could care less about most “candy” (my definition of candy doesn’t include chocolate), but if it was sour, I loved it. Tart fruits, like granny smith apples and tangy-sweet tangerines, have always been some of my favorites. And then there’s those dried fruits that are tart, but with some sweetness added in, like dried green mangoes (SO GOOD), and dried apricots. My taste buds CRAVE all the zing of tart, tangy foods, so the idea of combining tart cranberries with rich dark chocolate in these rolls made me insanely excited – yes, I get really excited about these things.
These Chocolate Cranberry Sweet Rolls are incredibly soft… pillowy soft. And yeah, I already said that, but it deserves to be said again. If I’m going to make any kind of sweet rolls, it’s a rule in my book that they need to be soft as dough. When you bite into these rolls, the dough practically sinks from the pressure, leaving you to melt in the luscious combination of bright, tart cranberries and swoon-worthy dark chocolate swirled inside. These are the kind of rolls that I’m still dreaming about weeks later. I’ve already been asked to make them again. And again. That’s saying something.
P.S. With Valentine’s Day coming up, this is the first of a few posts I have coming your way with recipe ideas I think would fit the bill. Since Valentine’s Day is all about the chocolate and the red and pink colors, and these rolls combine both in the most drool-worthy form, they practically scream Valentine’s Day breakfast. A little indulgent, but hey, we all deserve a little love in the form of chocolate now and then!
These soft, tender sweet rolls are filled with a luscious combination of tart cranberries, rich dark chocolate, and a bit of sugar. They make a decadent breakfast or sweet dessert, perfect for a special occasion like Valentine's Day.
8 1/2 ounces milk (1 cup), divided
1 3/4 ounces granulated sugar (1/4 cup), divided
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 1/2 ounces butter (5 tablespoon), cubed
1 lb 1 ounce bread flour (4 cups, spoon and sweep), plus another 1 1/8 ounces (1/4 cup) as needed
1 teaspoon salt
7 1/4 ounces frozen cranberries (2 cups)
3 1/2 ounces granulated sugar (1/2 cup)
milk, for brushing on dough
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips (1 cup), chopped
Warm 2 1/8 ounces (1/4 cup) milk in the microwave for about 10 seconds, just until lukewarm. Place in a large bowl along with 1 tablespoon granulated sugar and stir together to dissolve the sugar. Sprinkle over the yeast and stir in with a wooden spoon. Let sit for about 15-20 minutes, until foamy. Meanwhile, microwave the butter and milk in a microwave-safe bowl for 40 seconds and stir together until the butter melts completely into the milk (microwave a bit longer if needed). Allow to cool to lukewarm.
Add the cooled butter/milk mixture to the yeast mixture along with the egg. Mix together with a wooden spoon, breaking up the egg in the process. Add 4 cups of bread flour, remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, and salt and fold in as best as possible until you have a shaggy dough mixture. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, adding up to another 1/4 cup of flour as/if needed, until you have a very soft dough that doesn't stick to your hands or the kneading surface. Shape the dough into a ball with a smooth top and place in a greased bowl about twice its size. Turn it over once to coat the top of the dough with oil and cover with greased plastic wrap. Leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hr 30-45 minutes.
Grease a muffin pan with cooking spray. Place the risen dough on a floured surface* and roll it out to a 12" x 16" rectangle. In a food processor, pulse together the cranberries and sugar until the cranberries are chopped and the two are evenly combined. Brush milk over the dough and spread the cranberry mixture evenly on top. Sprinkle the chopped chocolate in an even layer over the cranberry. Starting with one of the 16" sides, roll the dough up as tightly as possible, making a seam at the end and rolling the dough over the seam so that it's at the bottom. Slice the log of dough into 12 equal pieces, and place each in one of the greased muffin cups. Some bits of cranberry and juice will come out of the rolls during this process, so scoop up whatever leftovers you can and sprinkle them over the tops of the rolls. Cover the rolls with greased plastic wrap and let them rise again until very puffy. The biggest rolls should be starting to expand over the top of the tin when they've risen enough.
Once the rolls are about ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F. Bake them in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or just until the rolls around the edges of the muffin tin are starting to turn a little golden. A toothpick inserted into a portion of roll between the filling should come out free of dough. Enjoy the rolls warm, or allow them to cool briefly before moving them to a wire rack to finish cooling. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. Reheat individual rolls in the microwave for 25 seconds.
*Since it gets a little messy adding the cranberry filling to the dough, make sure that you're working with a surface that won't get stained.