Easter is just around the corner (seriously, it’s coming up on us RIGHT QUICK) and I don’t know about you, but I’m already thinking about brunch. It’s what I do.
Many years in my youth, my family would go to the restaurant Easter brunch buffet. Sometimes this wasn’t so bad — I would get my fill of that prime rib station and a plate full of mini cheesecakes. Other years, not so much. Once, I encountered an extremely hot outdoor tent buffet with supposed-to-be-cold kale salad that was melting into a puddle of ice cubes-turned-water next to a tray of cheese cubes that were fused together by the sun’s death rays (though also, perhaps, banding together as a way to survive), and a terrifying man-size bunny that greeted every table with his terrifying man-size immobile bunny face. I think there also might have been an entire family in overalls and flannel, if memory serves.
This year, I’m avoiding any potential chances for a recurrence of things past while also graduating beyond the prime rib/mini cheesecake situation. I’m bringing this chocolate cinnamon roll wreath front and center instead.
The difference between cinnamon rolls and a cinnamon roll wreath is this: Nothing, except for their shapes. The wreath offers something unique, new, fun and easily pulled apart in a crowd of grabby hands. Add a little bit of cocoa powder and cocoa nibs to the filling and you’ve got not just a cinnamon roll wreath, but a chocolate cinnamon roll wreath. Get ready for oohs and aahs at the Easter brunch table (but hopefully not from a terrifying man bunny).
I prepared the dough for this delectable treat using my trusted Red Star Yeast, and the result was something so fluffy, so tender, so light and pillowy, it’s a good thing I made one of these wreaths for myself ahead of time so I can spare any Easter brunch guests from my rather ravenous reaction to these rolls. Aheeeerm.
What rolls did make it past my moment of weakness were shared among my family, who were in town visiting this weekend. Unfortunately we won’t be able to see them for Easter this year, so our festivities came early. And by festivities, I mean stuffing our faces with these rolls. And also maybe a few mini Cadbury eggs. Aheeeerm.
So do yourself a favor: Avoid the buffet, the crowds, the creepy man bunny and this Easter, bake yourself a chocolate cinnamon roll wreath. It’s just the right thing to do.
- 1 cup milk
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3½ cups all-purpose flour, divided, plus more as needed
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- 2¼ teaspoons (1 packet) Red Star active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Powdered sugar, for topping (optional)
- ¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- ¾ cup light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ cup cocoa nibs (or mini chocolate chips)
- In small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine milk and butter. Heat until butter is melted and mixture reaches 120 to 130 degrees F. Pour into large bowl or bowl of stand mixer. Add 2 cups flour, sugar, egg, yeast and salt. Using wooden spoon or dough hook on low speed, mix dough 3 minutes until well combined. Stir in remaining 1½ cups flour.
- If kneading by hand, turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead 10 minutes, adding more flour as needed until dough is smooth, soft, elastic and only slightly sticky. If kneading in stand mixer, knead with dough hook on low speed 5 minutes, adding more flour as needed until dough is smooth, soft, elastic and only slightly sticky.
- Lightly spray inside of large bowl with cooking spray or brush with oil. Shape dough into ball; place in bowl and turn once to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in warm place 1½ to 2 hours until doubled.
- Punch down risen dough. On lightly floured surface, press or roll dough into approximate 15-by-11-inch rectangle. Spread softened butter evenly over dough. Sprinkle evenly with brown sugar, cinnamon, cocoa powder and cocoa nibs. Roll up dough tightly from long end into log. Transfer log to parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
- With log seam side-down, carefully slice dough almost completely through into 1-inch rolls, so rolls are still connected at bottoms. Gently turn cinnamon rolls on sides, overlapping each other and gradually forming into one large circle. Tuck last cinnamon roll underneath first cinnamon roll. Place ramekin or other small oven-safe bowl in center of circle to maintain round shape. Cover rolls with clean kitchen towel and let rise 45 minutes until puffy.
- Meanwhile, heat oven to 375 degrees F. Uncover rolls and bake 20 to 25 minutes until tops of rolls are golden. Remove ramekin. Cool rolls slightly before sprinkling with powdered sugar, if desired. Serve warm.
Disclosure: I received compensation for recipe development purposes from Red Star Yeast. All opinions are my own.