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Chocolate Chai Cinnamon Rolls

| 76 Comments

Chocolate Chai Cinnamon Rolls are my way of giving the hardest thing for me to share: my time.

Chocolate Chai Cinnamon RollsTime is something I never seem to have enough of and, as a result, I am a chronic multitasker. I cannot simply talk on the phone—I need to talk and unload the dishwasher and attend the pile of laundry that’s been giving me the evil eye for the past three days. While sitting in an unproductive meeting, I’m making my grocery list. No day holds enough hours to manage my full-time job (that one where I put on black pants, open Excel, and sit at a desk), my other full-time job (the one where I put on yoga pants, bake pumpkin mac and cheese, and talk to all of you), my inbox, my need for clean underwear, and all of those other self-actualizing activities I suppose I should be doing (reading, meditating, paying attention to my husband, etc.) I cannot do all, so I try to do all at once. I multitask. To all parents: I am in awe.
Chocolate Chai Cinnamon Rolls

A few nights ago, Ben said something striking that caused me to reevaluate my level of multitasking: “I’m beginning to wonder if I won’t recognize your face unless it’s behind a screen.” When he said this, I was standing two steps into our front door, coat half unbuttoned, reading an article on my iPhone. I had started this article while waiting for the elevator on my way to pick Ben up at the library—because clearly, I cannot simply stand and wait for an elevator. I need to be doing something. I read a few paragraphs at each red light, and now I was attempting to read while taking off my coat. Am I really that busy that I can’t dedicate 30 undivided seconds to hanging up my jacket?

Acute (if self-imposed) busyness might be at the root of my multitasking, but Ben’s comment hit on something more— I am seemingly incapable of letting an undistracted moment pass. Can I not sit quietly with my thoughts instead of my Facebook newsfeed, pray instead of checking Pinterest, or look out the window instead of at the TV?

I need to make time away from the screen, which is another way of saying I need to make Chocolate Chai Cinnamon Rolls.
Chocolate Chai Cinnamon Rolls

Chocolate Chai Cinnamon Rolls are perhaps the most rewarding gift of time out there, because every second you spend making them is repaid 100 fold by the satisfaction of each bite. The filling is deep and rich, but not overwhelmingly so. The dark chocolate flavor plays gently in the background, the warm cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves build slowly, and the candied ginger gives just the right bite. The dough is soft, fluffy, and tinted with spices. The glaze is drippy and decadent, but it lets the filling be the star.

Chocolate Chai Cinnamon Rolls taste so fantastic, they rendered me incapable of multitasking. Every iota of my attention went into appreciating the layers of light, sweetly spiced dough wrapped around the delicately balanced chocolate-chai filling. Attempting to do something else at the same moment I was enjoying them, even reading a text message, would have felt like an insult. Instead, I sipped my coffee slowly and deliberately devoured every bite.

Chocolate Chai Cinnamon Rolls

This Chocolate Chai Cinnamon Roll recipe can be prepped in advance (refrigerate the unbaked rolls for up to 24 hours or freeze for up to four weeks) and will yield two small pans. I strongly encourage you to enjoy each pan in its own way. Relish the first just as I mentioned above—in quiet, undivided appreciation with a cup of coffee or tea. For the second, invite your closest friends for breakfast (or hey, a midday snack). Place the warm pan on the table, put your cell phones away, and give each other the best gift of all:

Time.

Chocolate Chai Cinnamon Rolls

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours, 50 minutes

Yield: 18 rolls (two 9x9-inch pans)

Chocolate Chai Cinnamon Rolls

Chocolate Chai Cinnamon Rolls are tender, fluffy, and scented with warm chai tea spices. The dark chocolate filling is perfectly balanced, and the glaze sweet and spiced with cinnamon. These special rolls are perfect to enjoy with friends and family, at a special occasion, or in a quiet moment with a cup of tea. The unbaked rolls can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours or frozen for up to four weeks. By making the dough ahead, you can have warm, chocolatey, spiced rolls on your table less than half an hour after you wake up!

Ingredients

    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
  • 2 and 1/4 teaspoons Red Star Platinum Instant Yeast (1 standard envelope yeast)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 and 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour, plus additional for kneading
  • 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
  • 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

Directions

  1. 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 120°F to 130°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 standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment or a large mixing bowl.
  2. 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 sides of bowl. Add 2 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour. Beat on low speed, until the flour is absorbed and the dough is sticky, scraping down sides of bowl as you go. If 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 sides of bowl. It should still feel somewhat sticky and tacky.
  3. 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 lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Add a little flour, one tablespoon at a time, go 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Form 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.
  6. 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).
  7. 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.
  8. While the rolls bake, prepare 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.

Notes

Make ahead note: In Step 6, 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 refrigerator to let rise overnight. Let rolls sit at room temperature 15 minutes before baking.

http://www.thelawstudentswife.com/2013/11/chocolate-chai-rolls/

When baking Chocolate Chai Cinnamon Rolls, be sure to mind your yeast! I bake exclusively with Red Star Yeast, because I have fantastic results every time. For Chocolate Chai Cinnamon Rolls, I recommend Red Star Platinum to create the fluffiest possible dough. If you’re new to baking with yeast (or just want to sharpen your bread-baking skills), check out Red Star’s helpful videos and baking tips, along with everything you need to know about yeast. For recipe ideas and inspiration, follow Red Star Yeast on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest.

Disclosure: This recipe was developed by me, on behalf of Red Star Yeast. Red Star Yeast compensated me for my time to create this recipe and post. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.

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Author: Erin Clarke

I'm Erin, and I'm on a mission to cook everything that's tasty, {mostly} healthy, and budget-friendly—all while Mr. Right is in the library. I'm convinced that cheese and chocolate are the answer, that you can love sweets and veggies equally, and that delicious, satisfying food should be accessible to everyone. The recipes here are affordable, approachable, and delectable, and I can't wait to share them with you!

76 Comments

  1. We should totally sit down with some of these beautiful buns and share multitasking war stories…haha! I am the EXACT same way, and funny enough L recently made a similar comment as Ben. I just like to think that I’m maximizing my productivity :)

    • I LOVE that idea Kelli–and the whole productivity angle what I tell Ben too (which doesn’t go so well when I’m trying to do so many things, I end up doing all of them poorly, lol. Hey, at least I’m trying!)

  2. There’s not many moments during the day when I’m not multitasking. However, if I was sitting down eating these rolls, my mind would be 100% focused on the pleasures going on in my mouth. :) Thanks for baking with us, Erin!

  3. You pretty much just described me to a T – I am always, always doing 4 things at once! It’s terrible, I’m really trying to get better about being in the moment sometimes. Thanks for the reminder :) I would love to enjoy chocolate chai rolls with you over a cup of tea!

    • It’s a date Tracey!
      Living in the moment is so hard for me too–I sometimes wonder if I would be better if we could just add 8 hours onto the day, but somehow I think I’d fill those up as well. Can we discuss over cinnamon rolls please?

  4. im the same way friend. Its so hard to not to anything and my boyfriend gets pretty upset :( loveeee the spin with chai spices here!!!

  5. I think I had a very similar conversation with MY Ben in the last couple of weeks. And at work – oh yeah, I’m hopeless at keeping on task – I’m uploading documents at work and checking my twitter, or pinning something on PInterest. It’s just insane. I would TOTES take a multi-tasking break for THESE though. You just GET me!

    • I am glad I am not alone Megan!!! I am so bad at work, and OK, everywhere. Want to hide our phones under a couch pillow, sit down, and lay into a pan of these rolls instead?

  6. Good thing that I don’t own a smart phone :-)) My husband carries his iphone everywhere, even in the bathroom.
    Those chocolate chai buns look wonderful!

    • Angie, I love my smartphone, but sometimes I feel like I have to hide it from myself. Thanks for your kind words about the rolls! I can’t lie: I ate an entire pan by myself, and I’m not tired of them yet!

  7. I clicked through this post after publishing my own this morning and thought, “whoa, we wrote the same things!” :) Chai, time maganagement – yep, sounds familiar. I really liked how you pointed out how much time is spent behind a screen. That is so insightful … and motivating. Thanks for the reminder AND this recipe – chai and chocolate in cinnamon rolls sounds verrrry dangerous!

  8. Mmm, love cinnamon rolls so I’m all over these chocolate chai ones! Sometimes I get too lost behind a computer screen. My blog is my hobby so I’m always looking for time here or there to fit it into my hectic life. It’s definitely a good thing to step away from technology and enjoy a moment, whether it’s cooking these awesome rolls or sitting on the couch and catching up on what the family is doing.

    • I could not agree with you more Tina! Baking is my moment away from it all, then sitting down to share the goodies with friends and family is a double reward. Thanks for the reminder to take a break!

  9. Erin, these look way too good. I’m dreaming of eating these with a chai tea latte and savoring all the chai bliss.

    And I can relate to multitasking overload. Can get a little consuming at times. But cooking is a great reason to turn everything off and enjoy the moment.

    Love your writing style : )

  10. Errrrrrin! Omg. These rolls… I must have them ALL to myself.

  11. I’m not sure if I love anything more than I love cinnamon rolls! These chocolate chai rolls look delicious!

  12. You’re amazing. You’re the queen of yeast. I’m scared of it. These rolls sound fantastic! I’m a chronic multitasker too :/

  13. I can definitely relate! And as you said, to all the parents out there, I am in awe. I feel like I go-go-go, and then all of a sudden I need to stop and take an hour, or a day, to recoup. I find that if I don’t, my multi-tasking turns into multi-mistaking (like mismeasuring things, or forgetting to set the timer on something I just put in the oven… whoops!). I think slowing down a little, every now and then, makes all the go-go-go a little easier to handle. :)

  14. Ooh I’m having some trouble juggling everything up now tpp, there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in a single day gah!. Maybe I should have a rest day and bake these beauties for breakfast, they look too good to miss!

  15. I am so bad about this. Even my screen time is multitasked. I usually have at least 7 tabs open in a browser at any given time. It drives my husband CRAZY. Lately, I’ve been trying to focus my energies on one task at a time. And as counterintuitive as it feels, I think I’ve actually been MORE efficient. (go figure.) Thanks for the challenge…and for this recipe. I’ve been dying to see it ever since I saw the tease post on Instagram. :) Also, I can’t wait to hear about your TV appearance!!

    • I do the SAME THING with my computer Courtney–to the extent that my internet periodically shuts down. I like your idea of one thing at a time, and I believe you are really onto something. I am going to try to make that a goal of mine too!
      Glad you like the recipe :) Let me know if you try it and thanks for the TV encouragement too–I’ll be nervous!

  16. Ohhh my goodness — I want I want I want!

  17. This flavour combination is one of my favourites. And who doesn’t love a chance to shut down the i-devices and take a break? I sure do!

  18. This is a great reminder for everyone to unplug every now and then! Also, I can totally imagine how wonderful these must taste, especially because my latest favorite drink is the chocolate chai latte at Starbucks :)

  19. Oh my – the filling is a very interesting combination of flavors! These indeed are best made when there are friends and family to share with – cos these would not be safe alone at home with me! Unlike you, I am a lousy multitasker – but I am good at enjoying my eats :)

    • Thanks so much Shashi. Chocolate + chai is my new salted caramel. Also, I for sure recommend sharing with friends–I kept the whole first pan to myself and (while I enjoyed every bite) it wasn’t pretty!

  20. Hi Erin. Oh yes, it is crazy hard once you have kids. I’m in awe of parents of more than one! These rolls look so very good. I love the chocolate and chai flavors! Thank you for sharing them!

  21. Don’t panic, but we might be the same person. 1.) I can’t just wait for elevators, either. 2.) I postpone laundry day as long as possible. Sure would be nice if I didn’t really need clean underwear. 3.) The concept of parental multitasking makes me want to crap.

  22. It’s been FAR too long since I’ve made cinnamon rolls. Love your version!!

  23. i’ve always wanted to make cinnamon rolls because i LOVE them, but haven’t precisely because of how time consuming they can be – and i’m a student! i have such respect for you, girl. these look absolutely amazing as well; what a lovely combination of flavours.
    the hobbit kitchen x

  24. I totally understand where you are coming from! These cinnamon rolls look like a great way to just stop and enjoy the moment!

  25. I’m definitely going to have to try these out!

  26. I am totally a chronic multitasker too but baking is one thing I can focus on. These cinnamon rolls look to die for! Can’t wait to try them :-)

  27. i can definitely relate to this!! these flavors sound awesome together. chocolate AND chai? yum!

  28. I love all of the spices in these rolls. They must be so warming and delicious! Perfect for a crisp fall weekend with a cup of hot coffee.

  29. LOVE this. These would go so well with a cup of coffee or even the chocolate chai latte from starbucks! Ah, I totally wish I had a batch of these for tomorrow morning!

  30. I got a similar statement from my husband and it stung…really bad. And I don’t know how to fix this level of computer addiction/iphone. But this cinnamon bread can help for a few hours as I re-evaluate my life. This is perfect. Loving it.

    • Thank you so much! It definitely can sting (especially as I’m trying to figure out how to balance everything), but I love the idea of reevaluating life over cinnamon rolls. What better way could there be? :)

  31. These sound utterly good. Chocolate and chai has to be a fine combination!

  32. I love this post…I feel the same way about not ever letting an unproductive second go by. I wish we could all sit down and enjoy one of these amazing looking cinnamon rolls and a cup of coffee together :)

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  39. These look amazing! I’m planning on making them ahead for a Saturday brunch but was wondering how long I should let them thaw after freezing before popping them in the oven. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Morgan, I am so excited that you are going to try this recipe! I would take them out of the freezer and place them in the fridge one day before to give them plenty of time to thaw. Then, if you have time, I’d let them sit out at room temperature the morning of the brunch for about half hour. If you don’t have time, they will still turn out just fine; just keep an eye on them partway through the baking time. If the tops start to brown too quickly, cover with tinfoil, continue baking, and you’ll be good to go!

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  43. I love this dough! It was very easy to work with and baked up nicely.

    • I am so happy to hear that, thank you! This is one of my favorite doughs, and I use it for the base of almost all of my sweet rolls. It’s great to hear that it works well for other too. Thanks for taking time to let me know, and enjoy your rolls :)

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