Chocolate Chai Cinnamon Rolls are my way of giving the hardest thing for me to share: my time.
Time is something I never seem to have enough of and, as a result, I am a chronic multitasker.
I cannot simply just talk on the phone—I need to talk AND unload the dishwasher, AND attend to a pile of laundry that’s been giving me the evil eye for the past three days WHILE devouring some Coffee Cake Muffins for dessert.
Acute (if self-imposed) busyness might be at the root of my multitasking, much of which is spent with my face glued to a screen (as I dream up a recipe for the BEST Apple Bread).
Whenever I find myself needing a little less screen time in my day, I turn to baking.
Some days, it’s Healthy Banana Bread other days call for something a bit more decadent.
Today is one of those days and chocolate cinnamon rolls are my escape.
5 Star Review
“I love this dough! It was very easy to work with and baked up nicely.”— Trisha —
How to Make Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls
These chocolate cinnamon rolls have a deep and rich filling accented with heavenly chai spices of warm cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and candied ginger.
With a dough that is soft, fluffy, and tinted with spices and a sweet subtly chai-spiced glaze that is drippy and decadent, these chocolate cinnamon rolls will easily become a family weekend brunch favorite (as will these Chocolate Muffins).
- Flour. A blend of whole wheat white flour and all-purpose flour gives these rolls the perfect balance between fluffy and whole grain healthy.
- Yeast. Instant yeast that can be mixed right in with the other dry ingredients makes preparing the chocolate cinnamon roll dough a breeze.
- Butter + Egg. Enrich the dough with fat and flavor for tender, soft cinnamon rolls that just melt in your mouth (like these Gingerbread Cinnamon Rolls with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting).
- Sugar. Sweetens the dough and also contributes to its tenderness.
- Vanilla. Adds a pleasant aroma and smooth taste to the dough.
- Chocolate. Finely chopped chocolate fills every nook and cranny of these decadent swirled sweet rolls.
- Candied Ginger. Adds a little gingery bite to the filling that pairs perfectly with the chocolate and chai spices.
- Spices. Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, a pinch of cardamom, and a dash of black pepper make for a warm, soulful blend of spices that will fool you into thinking you’re sipping on a steaming chai latte with your cinnamon roll.
- Powdered Sugar. Mixed with half-and-half, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves creates the BEST cinnamon roll glaze you’ll ever drizzle over your sweet rolls.
- Prepare the dough in a stand mixer.
- Knead on medium-low until dough is smooth and elastic (or knead by hand).
- Let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled.
- Make the filling.
- Roll out the risen dough into a rectangle.
- Sprinkle all the filling evenly over the dough.
- Roll the dough into a tight log, then cut into 18 slices.
- Arrange in two 9 x 9-inch greased baking pans with cooking spray.
- Let rise again until doubled.
- Bake until the tops are golden, remove and let cool slightly.
- Mix together the glaze ingredients.
- Drizzle glaze over the warm rolls and serve. ENJOY!
For the second rise, rather than let the rolls rise at room temperature, you can cover the pans loosely with plastic wrap lightly coated in cooking spray, then place in the refrigerator to let rise overnight. Let rolls sit at room temperature 15 minutes before baking.
So let’s put the cell phones away, and give each other the best gift of all: quality time with each other…and a pan of chocolate cinnamon rolls.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are lots of factors that impact the rise of your dough. Here are a few of the most common factors to check. First, always check the expiration date of your yeast. Second, make sure you activated your yeast with water warmed to the yeast manufacturer’s recommended temperature (usually 105 to 120 degrees F). Third, check the temperature of your kitchen. If your kitchen is on the cool side, your dough may need a little longer to proof.
Sure! This is one of my very favorite doughs to use for various sweet rolls. Try using it with the filling from my Cranberry Orange Cinnamon Swirl Bread or a tasty experiment of your own.
The main difference between instant and active dry yeasts is how they are activated in baking. Instant yeasts can be mixed right in with the other ingredients as you prepare your dough. Active dry yeast, on the other hand, needs to be reactivated with warm water prior to mixing it with the remaining dough ingredients for best results.
Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls
For the Dough:
- 1 cup whole milk or substitute 5/8 cup (5 ounces skim milk, plus 3/8 cup (3 ounces) half and half)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup white whole wheat flour or substitute unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 package instant yeast (1/4 ounce or 2 1/4 teaspoons)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus additional for kneading
For the Filling:
- 8 ounces semisweet chocolate (preferably chocolate bars, but chocolate chips can be used in a pinch)
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup brown sugar light or dark
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1/3 cup finely chopped candied ginger
For the Glaze:
- 1 cup powdered confectioners' sugar sifted
- 2 tablespoons half and half or heavy cream
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/8 teaspoon cloves
Prepare the Dough
- Pour milk into a large glass measuring cup. Add butter and microwave on high, until the butter melts and the mixture is warmed to 110°F to 125°F (it should feel warm but not hot.) Start with 30 seconds, then microwave in 10-second intervals, until the desired temperature is reached. Once heated, pour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or a large mixing bowl.
- Add white whole wheat flour, granulated sugar, egg, vanilla, yeast, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves.
- Beat on low speed for 3 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add 2 and 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour. Beat on low speed, until the flour is absorbed and the dough is no longer sticky, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go. If the dough is very sticky, add more flour one tablespoon at a time, combining after each, just until dough begins to form a shaggy ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. It should still feel somewhat sticky and tacky.
- If using a stand mixer, fit the mixer with a dough hook and knead on medium-low for 6 minutes, until smooth and elastic. If kneading by hand, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Add a little flour, one tablespoon at a time, if the dough is too sticky.
- Lightly oil a large, clean bowl with cooking spray. Form dough into a ball and place it in the bowl, turning once to coat with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.
Make the Filling
- If using a chocolate bar, roughly chop the chocolate into chunks. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, place the chocolate, granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, ground ginger, salt, black pepper, and cloves. Pulse until the chocolate is very finely chopped and some parts are powdery. Add the butter and pulse again, until the butter is evenly distributed throughout the chocolate. (If you do not have a food processor, chop the chocolate very finely, then stir in the sugar, spices, salt, pepper, and butter until you have a rough paste.) Add candied ginger and pulse a few additional times, just until barely combined. Set mixture aside.
Shape the Rolls
- Once the dough has doubled, turn it out onto a well-floured work surface. (To test if the dough has completed rising, gently press it with your first two fingers; if the indentation remains, the dough is ready.) Roll the dough into a 16-inch x 12-inch rectangle (be sure to measure.) Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border uncovered on each side. It might seem like too much filling, but use all of it.
- Starting at one of the long edges, roll the dough into a tight log, then tightly pinch the end to seal. Turn log so that the seam side is down, then carefully trim each end so that they are straight. (The end scraps can be baked separately in lightly greased ramekins.) Gently stretch and pat the log as needed so that it is 18 inches in length and roughly even in diameter. With a serrated knife, gently saw the log into 18 1-inch segments.
- Lightly mist two 9 x 9-inch baking pans with cooking spray (a square 8 x 8-inch pan or round 9-inch pan will work as well.) Arrange the rolls in the pans, cut sides up, dividing the rolls evenly between each.
- Cover the baking dishes with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in volume, about 45 minutes. (It may take a bit longer but is worth the wait.)
- Place rack in the center of your oven and preheat to 375°F. Bake rolls until the tops are golden and the centers reach 185°F to 190°F, 20-25 minutes. Check the rolls at the 15-minute mark—if they begin to brown too quickly, cover the pan with foil and continue baking until complete. Remove from oven and place pan on a cooling rack for 5 minutes.
Make the Glaze
- Stir together the sifted powdered sugar, half and half, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves. Once rolls have cooled 5 minutes, drizzle over the rolls using the tines of a fork or a small spoon, and serve warm.
- TO MAKE AHEAD: In Step 4 of the Shaping the Rolls section, rather than let the rolls rise at room temperature, you can cover the pans loosely with plastic wrap lightly coated in cooking spray, then place in refrigerator to let rise overnight. Let rolls sit at room temperature 15 minutes before baking.
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