These Chocolate Cinnamon Yeast Rolls are what I imagine if a Texas Sheet Cake and a chocolate donut married and had a child. They are the perfect combination of chocolate and cinnamon in a fabulously-rich yeast dough. If you are a chocolate lover, you must try these bread-machine sweet rolls.
Although this recipe was created to be mixed in a bread machine, you can use a stand mixer or make this bread by hand if you prefer.
Do you have a favorite breakfast food you fix for your grandchildren? What was your favorite breakfast at your grandma’s house? Mine was stale donuts. Seriously. She split and fried them in butter.
For a long time, I have been looking for something to bake for my grandchildren after a sleepover. You know, something they will talk about at my funeral.
My competition is a trip to the donut store with “Papa.” Since these Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls taste a lot like chocolate donuts, I think these might be a surprising win for breakfast.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- MILK: Whole milk is best. Otherwise, use whatever you have on hand. When using fat-free milk, I substitute a tablespoon or two of heavy cream for some of the milk.
- COCOA: Dutch cocoa provides a darker color and deeper chocolate flavor. Substitute regular cocoa if you can’t get Dutch cocoa. I like Droste. It’s an America’s Test Kitchen favorite, and I can order it online.
- GREEK YOGURT: Full-fat or 2% Greek yogurt is best here. Substitute full-fat sour cream if you prefer.
- BUTTER: Use softened butter. Do not melt it. Melted butter can make your dough seem too sticky and cause you to add too much flour.
- FLOUR: Bread flour is my first choice, but I have been unable to get it in our current situation. The next best thing is an unbleached all-purpose flour with high protein content. Both King Arthur’s and Trader Joe’s unbleached flour contain 4 grams of protein per 30 grams.
While we’re on the subject of flour, get yourself some digital scales if possible. It’s the most accurate way to measure flour. I know Grandma probably didn’t use scales. She had lots of experience and knew how to judge when the dough needed more or less flour by feel.
Besides, it’s easier and faster to measure. Set a bowl or paper plate on the scales, zero it out, and plop flour on there until you hit the right number.
Don’t be that person who puts the whole measuring cup in the flour and scoops it up. Invariably, this practice results in adding too much flour. The result is dry bread. I can’t be responsible if you do this. ?
- YEAST: I use only instant yeast or bread-machine yeast because it doesn’t need to be dissolved. If all you have is active-dry yeast, dissolve it first in 1/4 cup of warm water. Stir and let sit for 10 minutes until it starts to bubble.
Reduce the amount of milk you use in this recipe by 1/4 cup. Add dissolved yeast to all the other ingredients in the bread machine pan.
- PECANS: Chopped nuts are optional. If you use pecans, be sure to toast them first (microwave works great) for maximum flavor.
Check the Dough
It’s the most important thing you should do when making bread in a bread machine. Check the dough about 15 minutes into the DOUGH cycle. You can see what the dough should look like in action in the video for this post.
If you find a pan of cinnamon rolls too predictable, here are a couple of different shaping options.
Watch the video to see how easy these twists are. Covering them with icing is the hard part. You could use a spoon as I did with the twists seen above.
A neater method is to fill a plastic zippered bag with your prepared frosting. Snip off one corner and squirt out a rope of icing in a back and forth pattern as I did over the cinnamon rolls.
Dorie Greenspan gave me the idea of making “snails” in her book Baking. Basically, you take the same rolls you cut for cinnamon rolls and place them onto a baking sheet instead of into a round or square pan.
These are easier to serve individually or give away if that’s what you’re up to.
FAQ for Chocolate-Frosted Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls
Yes. Make the dough in a bread machine and let it proof until double. Push the dough down and form it into the desired shape. Cover and refrigerate rolls overnight.
When ready to bake your rolls the next day, remove them from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature. Let them rise until almost double before baking. Depending on the ambient temperature, this may take 1-2 hours before they are ready to bake.
After the first day, you can wrap them well and store in the fridge. Microwave only a few seconds to warm them. We have always eaten them within two days but they might last longer. I’ve heard up to a week. I’ll update this post if I can ever verify that in real life.
After these Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls have been baked and cooled, double wrap them. I use plastic wrap, then foil or a plastic bag as the second covering. Freeze.
Allow frozen rolls to defrost in the refrigerator. I get them out the night before. Use within a month.
1. Push powdered sugar through a cheap sieve.
2. Pour sugar into a blender or food processor. Process the dry powder until it is smooth and lumps disappear.
THIS is the hardest thing about baking these rolls–knowing when they are done. They will brown but it’s not easy to see it until they are too brown.
My suggestion is a quick-read thermometer. (paid link) This quick-read thermometer is also good and a bit cheaper. The thermometer should read 190˚F when poked into the middle. Avoid hitting a buttery cinnamon-sugar pocket which would give you a higher reading and trick you.
Yes. Vanilla or Browned Butter frosting is also delicious on these rolls.
If you don’t have 9-inch round pans, I would make the Chocolate Snails described above instead. Using an 8-inch pan will crowd the rolls and may cause the middles to pop up higher than the roll, similar to the way overcrowded trees grow tall and skinny if they don’t have room to spread out.
8 or 9-inch square pans will work. A 13 x 9-inch pan will hold all 16 rolls. Another possibility: Use your 8-inch pan and only fill it with 7 rolls. Cook the other roll in a muffin pan or set it onto a pie plate to cook by itself.
While we’re talking about pans, the gold-colored pans are my favorite for perfect browning. Light-colored pans or disposable aluminum foil pans often don’t brown well.
Shaping and Baking Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls
How To Make the Chocolate Icing
Shaping and Baking Chocolate Snails
Instead of baking the rolls in a pan, make Chocolate Snails. Prepare dough as described above through step #9.
What Bread-Machine Recipe Would You Like To Try Next?
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- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened dark cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick), softened
- 1/4 cup Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups of bread flour (360 grams)
- 2 teaspoons bread machine or instant yeast
- 1/4 cup butter (very soft)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 cup pecans (toasted)
- 1-1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1-1/2 cup powdered sugar (sifted if it has lumps)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2+ tablespoons milk
- Add all dough ingredients to the bread machine pan in the order listed. Set your machine on the DOUGH cycle and push START.
- After 10-15 minutes, open the lid and assess the consistency of the dough. If the dough is too wet, add flour 1 tablespoon at a time to get the dough to form into a pliable ball. If the dough is too dry and slapping the side, add milk 1 tablespoon at a time. The dough should stick to the side, then pull away cleanly.
- When the dough cycle is complete and the dough has risen to double its original size, remove the dough from the bread-machine pan onto a lightly-floured board.
- Shape dough into a ball. Divide in half. Roll each half into an 11 x 11-inch square.
- Spread half (2 tablespoons) of the softened butter over the top. Sprinkle half of the brown sugar-cinnamon mixture evenly over the butter, then half of the chopped pecans.
- Starting from one side, roll the dough into a cylinder and seal it.
- Cut in half with a serrated knife or dental floss. Cut each half into four equal pieces. In the end, you should have 8 pieces from one ball.
- Transfer slices to a greased 9-inch round pan. (If using a square pan, slice each cylinder into 9 pieces. Or use a 13 x 9-inch metal pan which will hold 16 rolls.
- Repeat steps 5 through 8 with the remaining half of dough.
- Cover your prepared rolls with a tea towel, a cheap shower cap (my fave), or wax paper. Let rolls rise in a warm place until they are not quite double in size.
- Bake in a preheated 350˚F oven for 13 minutes or until rolls are slightly brown on the edges. A quick-read thermometer should read 190˚F.
- Allow the rolls to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Turn rolls out onto a cooling rack (or serving plate if you are ready to eat). Leaving rolls in the pan until they are cold will likely result in soggy bottoms.
- Once you pull the rolls out of the oven, make the icing.
- Place broken chocolate squares and butter into a microwave-safe, medium-sized glass bowl or a Pyrex quart measuring cup. Microwave for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes on 50% power stirring halfway through to melt the butter and chocolate evenly. Continue stirring at the end of that time to finish melting the butter.
- Add the sifted powdered sugar and milk. Stir vigorously until your icing is smooth and starts to shine. Slowly add more milk if needed to make the icing pourable. (If you make the icing ahead of time, it will thicken as it sits. You may need to add more milk and whip it until it's once again the right consistency.)
- Drizzle icing over the rolls with a spoon. If you want a neater look, fill a plastic zippered bag with the icing. Zip the bag shut. Snip a small hole in one corner and squeeze icing over the tops of rolls. (Be sure you have sealed the bag before you start squeezing. I'll let you figure out what happens if the bag pops open.)
Alternate Mixing Instructions:
Directions for making bread with a stand mixer or by hand:
- To make this recipe in a heavy-duty stand mixer, add ingredients to the bowl in the order listed. Turn on low speed to mix until all ingredients are moistened. Using a dough hook, turn speed to 2 or 3 and continue beating/kneading until dough becomes smooth and elastic (about 5-10 minutes). Cover and allow to rise in a warm place. Deflate dough gently and shape as indicated in the recipe.
- If making by hand, combine all ingredients into a shaggy ball in a large bowl. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead with your hands until dough becomes smooth and elastic, a process that will likely take 10-20 minutes depending on your experience. Place the dough ball into a greased bowl. Cover and allow to rise until double. Deflate dough gently and shape as indicated in the recipe.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1 slice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 259Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 46mgSodium: 182mgCarbohydrates: 41gFiber: 2gSugar: 11gProtein: 8g