I fell in love with a sweet roll recipe when I made my Raspberry Swirl Sweet Rolls. They are, undoubtedly, my favorite recipe of 2012. This past weekend I set out to make a different version.
And that something just had to include chocolate.
I never mind getting out of bed in the morning if I know there’s going to be chocolate for breakfast. Who’s with me on that? Recently, it’s been in the form of chocolate chip muffins and chocolate granola. But I wanted to take things to a whole other level for you (and for me!).
I like to spend my Friday nights baking with yeast. Am I boring? I sure hope not. At least there were episodes of How I Met Your Mother involved and margaritas. My favorite show, my favorite drink, and warm chocolate sweet rolls make a fabulous end to a long and chilly workweek if you ask me.
Sweet, fruity, sticky, and full of chocolate. I know you’re going to love these! And they are perfect for a Valentine’s Day treat too. I have lots more Valentine’s Day ideas to share with you ahead.
*Be sure to read the why’s and the why not’s of this recipe if you are looking to make the rolls yourself; there are some crucial notes.
To begin, warm up some milk. I did this on low heat over the stove top until the milk was lukewarm – be careful not to scald the milk. If you use a thermometer, aim for roughly 95F degrees. I avoided warming the milk in the microwave because I was afraid of overheating it. Pour the lukewarm milk into a bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a hook attachment. Add your yeast and 2/3 cup of white sugar. Stir it a little bit, cover, and walk away. Why? You are testing your yeast to prove that it is alive and active in this step.
I checked the bowl about 10 minutes later. I knew my yeast was active because the yeast/sugar/milk solution became frothy and bubbly. If yours does not, you’re going to have to start over with an active package of yeast. I like to use Red Star yeast.
With the mixer running (with the dough hook attachment), add your softened butter – be sure it is not melted or too hard. Crack 2 large eggs, add them one at a time, then a touch of salt. Let the mixer run for a bit. Manually scrape down the sides and stir by hand as needed. The butter will be “piece-y” and not fully incorporated. That’s ok, it will come together when the flour is added.
*If you do NOT have a stand mixer & a dough hook attachment, see the notes in the recipe below.
Next, slowly add the 4.5 cups of flour, 1 cup at a time. Mix for up to 10 minutes on medium high speed until a soft dough forms. 10 minutes? Yes! It sounds awfully long, but trust me on this. After this, I turned the dough out onto a floured surface and kneaded it by hand for about 3 minutes. To test the dough’s readiness, poke it with you finger. It is springs back, it is good to go.
After kneading, form the dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl. Cover with a dish towel and set in a warm place, until it doubles in size. We had the stove on earlier from warming up the milk, so we placed the bowl on the flat electric stove-top. You could also turn the oven on to 200F degrees, then turn it off. As the oven cools, place the rolls inside covered with foil. If you make these in the summer time, be sure it is not an overly humid day as the air’s moisture will have a negative affect on the dough’s rising. The dough took about 1.5 hours to practically double in size. It was squishy and so soft!
Now it’s time for some fun! Break out your rolling pin (and a ruler!) and roll that puffy ball of dough into a 10×24 inch rectangle onto floured parchment paper or some kind of non-stick mat, sprinkled with flour. I do not recommend rolling onto a floured counter top because the juice from the cherries you will add may stain. However, our counter top did not stain, but I am not sure of everyone’s working area so this is just a friendly warning.
I always underestimate the size the rectangle for this sweet roll recipe should be without a ruler! It may not look like it can roll into a rectangle that large, but I assure you that it can. It will take some time to get it perfect, but make sure the dough is completely uniform in thickness and a precisely 10×24 inches in size. What’s next? The fruity chocolate filling of course.
Mix 12 ounces of frozen dark sweet cherries with a touch of cornstarch and sugar. Gently mash the cherries with a fork – you don’t want any huge chunks. Fresh cherries will be too delicate for the filling – the fresh cherries you see in my photos are for looks.
Pour the cold sugared and gently mashed cherries over the large dough rectangle. They will be VERY juicy. Sprinkle with your mini chocolate chips – about 2/3 cup. Tightly (very tightly!) it all roll up. The cherry juices may overflow at this point, so that is why I advised parchment paper or a nonstick mat to avoid stains on your counter. Again, our counter was left stain free, but be careful.
Using your sharpest knife (very sharp!), cut into 15 or 16 rolls. I cut the rolls into 16 rolls for my Raspberry Swirl Sweet Rolls, but only made 15 with these. No rhyme or reason. Stuff the rolls into your baking pan, 5 down and 3 across (or 4×4 if cut into 16), leaving some space between each one so they have room to expand. Some rolls will be more tightly compacted since the pan is longer than it is wide. That’s ok, I promise.
Cover your baking pan and store in a warm place once again. Yes, more wait time. But what I love about making these is that there really isn’t much “work time” - just more “wait time.” And the end result of a fluffy chocolate sweet roll is well worth the wait, trust me.
In this step, be prepared for the cherries to release even more juice. The bottom of your pan will be FULL of dark red cherry juice, only to be absorbed in the baking process – the bottoms of the baked rolls are coated with a wonderful sticky cherry glaze.
After the rolls have puffed up a bit in this step, it’s time to bake them. They only take about 25 minutes in the oven. Be sure to cover your rolls with foil to prevent the tops of your rolls from getting too brown. I found that no matter what I do, the rolls on the edges will get more brown than the center rolls and this really just depends on your oven.
The smell of bread baking reminds me of home when my mom made bread from scratch. It’s simply amazing. And the smell of these sweet yeast rolls in the oven makes me want to bake them every single day. The only thing better than the smell of these sweet rolls baking is tasting them.
Time for a glaze shower. I was going to pour a chocolate glaze over top, but I went with a simple white glaze made from heavy cream and powdered sugar. I didn’t want more chocolate to overpower the cherries. Along with the glaze, I sprinkled more chocolate chips on top. Be sure to glaze the rolls right before eating them. The rolls freeze exceptionally well, for up to one month, and I suggest freezing them without the glaze.
The rolls texture? They are tender and fluffy, soft and puffy. Everything I love about rolls. I loved unraveling them to find the sweet cherry and decadent chocolate inside. Cherries and chocolate just belong together, right? Especially coiled inside fluffy sweet dough.
And isn’t the color just fabulous? They are beautiful rolls. Almost too pretty to eat!
These are an instant favorite of mine. The wait time, about 4 hours total, is a bit tedious but not too bad. Pressed for time? Try making my yeasted 30 Minute Soft Pretzels instead. That will soothe your carby yeast craving in a shorter amount of time for sure.
There is quite simply nothing like a from-scratch, sweet, doughy roll first thing in the morning and I could not be more pleased with how these rolls turned out. Just wait til you try these!
Makes 15 rolls. To make ahead: The recipe can be prepared through Step 4. Cover the rolls and let sit overnight at room temperature before baking in step 5.
- 1 cup milk
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons active dry yeast (2 standard size packets - I prefer Red Star yeast)
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting/rolling
- One 12-oz. package frozen cherries (not thawed and not fresh)
- 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 2/3 cup mini chocolate chips, plus more for sprinkling on top
- 1 cup powdered/confectioners' sugar
- 3 Tablespoons heavy cream (or half-and-half or milk)
- Make The Dough: In a small saucepan, warm the milk over low heat until lukewarm (no need to use a thermometer, but to be precise: about 95 degrees F). Pour the warm milk into the bowl of a stand electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment and manually stir in the sugar and yeast. Cover with a towel and let stand until the yeast is foamy, about 5-10 minutes. Add the softened butter, eggs, and salt. Scrape down the sides and manually stir as needed. The butter will not fully incorporate and be "piece-y." Gradually add the flour and beat at medium speed until a soft dough forms. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until the dough is soft and supple, about 10 minutes longer. *If you do not have a stand-mixer with a hook attachment, use a hand-held mixer to mix the butter, eggs, and salt together with the yeast mixture. Slowly add the flour and knead the dough by hand.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it with your hands for about 2 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a lightly greased bowl. Cover the dough and let sit in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.
- Line the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish with parchment paper, gently sprayed with non-stick spray, leaving room on the sides. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. The cherries will release their juices in the next step, so to be extra careful and avoid staining, I suggest turning the dough out onto a floured nonstick surface rather than your counter. Using a rolling in, roll into a 10×24 inch rectangle. I used a ruler for accuracy. Make sure the dough is smooth and evenly thick, even at the corners.
- Make The Filling: In a medium bowl, toss the frozen cherries with the sugar and cornstarch. Gently mash the cherries so there are no whole cherries left. Spread the cold sugared/mashed cherries evenly over the dough. Sprinkle with 2/3 cup mini chocolate chips. Tightly roll up the dough to form a 24-inch-long log. Cherry juices will seep out the sides. Cut into 15 even rolls (or 16) about 1.5 inches in width each. Arrange them in the prepared baking pan, cut sides up. Cover the rolls and let them rise in a warm place until they are puffy, about 2 hours. The cherries will release their juice at the bottom of the pan.
- Preheat the oven to 400F degrees. Cover the rolls with aluminum foil and bake for about 25 minutes, until they are golden and the chocolate chips are melted. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for about 15 minutes.
- Make The Glaze: In a small bowl, whisk the confectioner’s sugar and heavy cream until smooth. Add more sugar or cream, depending how thick you want the glaze. Pour glaze over the rolls and sprinkle with more chocolate chips, if desired. Serve warm.
*Baked rolls can be frozen up to 1 month and warmed up to enjoy at a later date. Glaze right before serving.
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Sally’s Sweet Roll Mania:
I am in love with fruit and chocolate together. For my birthday dessert, I got a bouquet of chocolate covered fruit. Here are a few recipes of mine combining the two.