Sunday, February 28, 2010

Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls

My Venture into Unconventional Cinnamon Rolls

Many of you have read on my blog that I'm not a big chocolate lover. My blog buddy, Valerie, sent me some WONDERFUL chocolate from Belgium for Christmas. Some friends have suggested that, it's not that I don't like chocolate, it's just that I've never had GOOD chocolate. After eating that rich and creamy chocolate from Belgium, they may be right.

Years ago, I had a bad experience that reinforced my negative thoughts about chocolate. My friend Jenifer and I used to be roommates and she had a wonderful dog named Malcolm. I loved that dog! Whenever I was cooking…or cleaning…or sleeping…or going to the bathroom, Malcolm was right by my side. Jenifer was out-of-town for a few days and I had to make a Brooklyn Blackout Cake for a friend's birthday. If you've never made a Brooklyn Blackout Cake before, it's a chocolate cake that is a layered with a chocolate custard and coated on the outside with chocolate cake crumbs. It's absolutely disgusting. Anyway, Malcolm was napping at my feet on the kitchen floor as I was frosting the cake. Until the custard sets up, the layers of this particular kind of cake are very unstable. When I finished the cake, I picked up the cake plate and turned to go to the fridge when, all of the sudden, the top two layers of the cake flew off and landed right on Malcolm's head. You can imagine your reaction if somebody dropped a cake on YOUR head while you were soundly sleeping and dreaming of an all-you-can-eat buffet of snausages, pig ears, and beef bones.

With my mouth gaping wide open, I looked down and there was a huge mound of cake right on top of that poor dog's head . Malcolm jumped up and shook his head – sending chocolate cake and pudding flying everywhere. He then realized that the cake might be edible so he started sniffing some on the floor. Having read that chocolate is dangerous for dogs, I screamed, "NO!!!" I scared that poor thing half to death and he started running away. I took after him in pursuit, cake plate still in hand, screaming, "Don't eat the chocolate! DON'T EAT THE CHOCOLATE!!!" Both Malcolm and I had stepped in the cake on the kitchen floor so we were leaving chocolate footprints EVERYWHERE. Clods of chocolate kept falling off of his head as he was trying to flee the crazy man wielding a cake plate screaming at the top of his lungs. I finally got a hold of him and immediately got him into the tub so I could wash off the chocolate. When I got him spic and span, I put him outside until I could get the house cleaned up. I couldn't decide which smelled worse – the strong smell of the chocolate wafting throughout my house or the lovely odor of wet dog. After putting him outside, I then turned and gazed upon a sea of chocolate everywhere. It looked like Willy Wonka was brutally murdered in my living room.

I was sure that Malcolm didn't have a chance to eat any of the cake but I called the vet anyway and he assured me that we would not need to pump Malcolm's stomach or call the nearest Poison Control Center as I had suggested he do. I then called a carpet-cleaning company and they immediately came to my house. When the cleaning guy arrived and saw all of the mess, the only thing he could say was "What the…what on earth happened in here?!" The only thing I could muster was "There was…an incident." After washing a dog, paying $157 to get my carpets cleaned, and baking TWO Brooklyn Blackout Cakes, everything was as it should be. Can you not see why I hate chocolate?

I may have forgotten to mention this little incident to Jenifer since no harm was done and I didn't want her to worry every time she left me alone with Malcolm. The guilt of not telling her has plagued me for years. If you're reading this Jenifer, sorry!!! I know I should have told you that I almost killed Malkie with chocolate when you were in Chicago that one time! Malcolm is no longer with us but his memory lives on every time I make something with chocolate. I hope he's in doggy heaven right now eating all of the chocolate he wants.

Did you notice in the picture that I put a paltry amount of frosting on the cinnamon rolls? That was to give you all the illusion that I have some degree of restraint. After I took the picture, I really loaded on the cream cheese frosting and ate two of those puppies with my fingers. The chocolate in the center had melted and was all gooey and cinnamony. The rolls were still really warm so the frosting was beginning to thin and was dripping onto the plate. I had chocolate and cream cheese on both sides of my mouth and dripping from my fingers. Heaven. For just one moment, I really liked chocolate. Enjoy – and happy baking!

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls
(Printable Version)

1 egg
1/2 c milk
1/4 c sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c butter (4 TBSP)
1/4 c warm water (110F)
1 .25 oz package active dry yeast
1/3 c cocoa powder
2 1/2 c all-purpose flour

6 TBSP butter, melted
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c chocolate chips (preferably Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips)
1/2 c finely chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
2 TBSP butter, room temperature
1/2 lb powdered sugar (roughly 2 cups)
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 TBSP milk
Chocolate shavings from a semi-sweet chocolate bar for garnish

Take the egg out of the refrigerator and crack it into a bowl so that the egg will warm up some before adding it to the dough. Over medium heat in a small sauce pan, scald the milk, sugar, and salt. Remove from the heat and skim off any skin that has developed on the surface. Add the butter and allow the mixture to cool to lukewarm.

While the milk is cooling, combine the warm water and yeast. In a mixing bowl, whisk the cocoa powder and flour together.

Add the lukewarm milk mixture, yeast mixture, and egg to the flour. Use a mixer equipped with a paddle to get the ingredients completely combined then shut off the mixer for 4 minutes. This rest period will allow the liquid to more readily absorbed so you do not end up adding too much flour. After 4 minutes of resting, switch to a dough hook. Mix the dough for about 3 to 4 minutes. This dough will be a little stickier than many kinds of dough that you may have worked with before. For the most part, the dough should not be sticking to the sides of the bowl as it is mixing. If it is really sticking, add a little more flour. If it looks pretty dry, add a teaspoon or so of water.

Spray a bowl with cooking spray. Form the dough into a ball and add it to the sprayed bowl. Spray the top of the dough lightly with cooking spray then cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size – about 60 to 75 minutes.

Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough out into a 12" x 9" rectangle (with one of the longer sides closest to your tummy). The dough should be very soft and easy to work with.

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, white sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Brush the bottom and sides of two 8" cake pans with some of the melted butter.

Brush half of the remaining butter on top of the dough. Make sure to leave a 1" edge on the top and bottom that is completely free of butter, sugar, nuts, and chocolate. Sprinkle the butter with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Drizzle the remaining butter all over the sugar mixture. Add the chocolate chips on top of the sugar. I use about 1/2 cup or so. You could certain use more or less. If using nuts, sprinkle some on now. Lightly press the chocolate and sugar mixture to make it easier to roll. Lightly brush the 1" strip of dough at the top with a little water so, after you roll up the dough, the seam will seal better. Starting from the side closest to your tummy, carefully roll up the dough – trying to keep as much of the filling inside as possible. You should end up with a log roughly 12" in length. Pinch the lightly moistened seam tightly to seal. Cut the roll into 10 slices.

Place 5 rolls in each pan (4 around the outside and 1 in the center) – leaving as much space as possible between each roll and the sides of the pan. Cover and let rise until doubled – about 45 to 60 minutes. About 15 minutes before the rolls have fully risen, preheat the oven to 350F. When doubled in size, uncover the rolls and bake about 15 minutes.

While the rolls are baking, make the frosting. Using a mixer equipped with a whisk attachment, whisk the cream cheese and butter together. Add the powdered sugar and use the mixer to slowly whisk it in. Add the vanilla and milk. Whisk for about 2 - 3 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed. Too thick for you? Add another 1/2 tablespoon of milk at a time until you have reached the desired consistency.

When the rolls are done, allow them to cool in the pans for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove a roll from one of the pans and place it on a serving plate. Top with some frosting and some shaved chocolate from a chocolate bar. The frosting will start to melt and everything will get gooey and messy. Unapologetically eat the rolls with your fingers. Remember – everything in excess. I mean moderation. Yeah, yeah. Moderation.

1) Regular chocolate chips contain stabilizers that inhibit melting. The Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips melt beautifully and are flat disks which makes them easier to roll up inside the cinnamon rolls. The chocolate flavor is also great. I'm not getting paid to say this either!
2) The amount of liquid in the dough and the rising times are estimates.
3) I do not recommend using a 9x13" dish to bake these in. I don’t think they cook evenly in a larger pan which is why I recommend using 2 eight-inch cake pans instead.


  1. Hello Blog Buddies!
    Due to a known problem with the blogging software I use on this website, you may get an error when you attempt to post a comment. If you try to leave a comment and get an error, simply click the "Post Comment" button again. It should work after clicking the "Post Comment" button one or two additional times.

  2. These look incredible Vince! Chocolate and cinnamon is among my favorites :) Can't wait to give this recipe a try!

  3. Oh geez Vince........this is NOT gonna make my healthy breakfast taste good AT All! I'll be seeing these beauties in my dreams AND when I'm looking at that whole wheat toast in the morning.
    I LOVE making bread of all kinds, so I sure can't wait to try these! :)

  4. Vince, the photo of these yummy rolls is not working on PW's Tasty Kitchen site.

  5. Thanks for letting me know! It looks like they have it working now. They didn't say what was wrong.

  6. mmm mmm mmm!!!! these sound SO goo-ood!!!!

  7. The recipe looks great, but the story is absolutely hysterical. I can picture that poor dog....

  8. First time for me at your website. Love your style and love your recipes. Sorry to say, I gained 5 pounds just by stopping......darn, who cares anyways?? Thanks for the tasty recipes !! Maria

  9. Marriage Saved! Just kidding-almost. This recipe is perfect for us. My husband loves to be pampered with desserts and I don't like chocolate (I know, my family has already accused me of being a pod person!) I can make this for him and not be tempted in the least except for maybe the cream cheese frosting! I made them for him last night and today I'm the world's greatest wife! Thanks can't wait to try more of your stuff!

  10. Vince! I love you!!! Thank you for that hilarious story about you and Malcolm. I'm so lucky to have a friend like you, and thank you so much for all of those times that you took care of Malcolm for me! I very much appreciate you!

  11. I love this story almost as much as I (think I´ll) love this recipe. I´m setting up to make these rolls right now, and I can´t wait to see how delicious they turn out to be. Thanks for sharing your hilarious chocolate story and the recipe!

  12. Made these, loved these. I forgot the chips until after I had already rolled and sliced the rolls, but thankfully I saved them by sliding chips into the rolls one by one. Also added some sweetened condensed milk to the filling and frosting, just because I had it in the fridge. Great recipe and not overly chocolatey. Yum!

  13. I'm going to be making these tonight! I can't wait, but by next spring my husband maybe going up in pants sizes...... :)


A moderator reviews all comments before they are posted. After submitting your comments, please check back in a few hours to see if they were added.

Related Posts with Thumbnails