I am one of those people who go grocery shopping with two separate lists: a physical list of things to buy and a mental list that forms up in your head spontaneously—when you see something you don’t need but cannot keep yourself from buying it, thinking you may need it soon. For me, most of the time that “soon” comes rather late, when the spontaneously bought ingredient is literally ready to scream at me—just use me finally!
The cranberries I bought quite some ago were from my second list. They were on the verge of going bad but were courageously hanging in there. I had to use them. I wanted to bake something with them, and thought of combining them with chocolate. The cranberry season is in full swing and chocolate is always there, any season. So decided to make use of the two together now that I had the opportunity.
My choice fell on pull-apart cranberry-chocolate buns from the recipe I had bookmarked long ago. Tried it and love it. The buns turned out fantastic. You bite on a roll, and the juicy cranberries burst in your mouth, blending in with dots of melted chocolate—so unexpected, so good. I will be making these buns again and again.
Cranberry-Chocolate Sweet Buns
Adapted from Home Baking by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
Makes 2 loaves of 8 rolls each
2 cups milk, heated until lukewarm
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, chilled
1/2 cup well-chilled fresh cranberries (can substitute frozen cranberries)
Lightly butter two 9-by-5-inch (23-by-13-cm) bread pans or two 8-inch (20-cm) round cake pans. Aside.
Place the milk in a medium bowl and stir in the yeast. Let stand for several minutes, then stir in 1 cup of the flour. Add the butter, sugar, egg, and salt, and stir to incorporate. Add the remaining 4 cups of flour and stir to completely incorporate. Add the chocolate chips and cranberries. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently, folding the dough over on itself without pushing down too hard (you don’t want to break the cranberries, but if you accidentally do, it’s ok), until the dough is smooth and only slightly sticky, about 4 minutes.
Place the dough in a clean bowl, cover with a cloth, and let rise until doubles, about 1 1/2 hours.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Cut in half, then cut each half into 8 pieces. Roll one piece of dough under your hand to shape it into a rough ball. Continue with the remaining pieces of dough, placing 8 balls in pairs side by side in each rectangular pan, or placing 8 balls in a circle, starting from the outside edges and working in, in each cake pan. Cove with a cloth or plastic and let rise for 30 minutes.
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC).
Just before baking, brush each loaf with the egg wash. Sprinkle with sugar over them and bake for 30 minutes, until puffed and golden brown. Immediately remove from the pans; let cool on a rack. These are best after they’ve cooled to warm or to room temperature. Tear off the buns and enjoy.