Chocolate and hot cross buns (two of the best things about Easter) combine to make these brioche-style buns, studded with chocolate chips and finished with a salted caramel cross
1. First make the caramel by melting the sugar in a heavy-based pan over a medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until it turns a dark amber. Carefully whisk in the butter (it might splutter), followed by the cream and salt. Pour into a heatproof container and leave to cool before storing in the fridge to cool completely.
2. For the choc brioche, whisk the yeast into the warmed milk and cover for 10 minutes.
3. Tip the flour, sugar and 1 tsp of fine sea salt into a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and mix briefly. Pour in the warmed milk and eggs, and mix on a medium speed for 10-12 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Meanwhile, beat together the softened butter and cocoa powder with a wooden spoon until combined. Add to the dough piece by piece with the mixer running, ensuring each addition is completely absorbed before adding the next.
4. Keep mixing until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and is extremely shiny, soft and stretchy. Briefly mix in the chocolate chips, then cover and allow to prove for 1 hour 30 minutes-2 hours or until really puffy.
5. To shape, tip the dough onto the worksurface and divide into 9 equal (roughly 70g) pieces, then roll tightly into balls with your hands. Put the balls into a deep 20cm x 20cm tray lined with baking paper, leaving space between each, cover and leave to prove for another 1 hour 30 minutes. They should be very puffy and almost touching.
6. Heat the oven to 195C/fan 175C/gas 5. Brush the buns with the beaten egg and bake for 16-18 minutes or until risen and shiny. While the buns are baking, make the syrup by heating the sugar and cinnamon stick with 60g of water in a small pan. Bring to the boil and cook for 1-2 minutes or until the sugar is dissolved. When the buns come out the oven, brush with the cinnamon syrup and leave to cool.
7. Once cooled completely, transfer the now solidified caramel to a piping bag. Warm it a little by squishing it with your hands. Cut a small hole from the tip of the piping bag and pipe strips of caramel across the buns to create cross shapes. The buns are best eaten on the day but will keep well for two days in an airtight container.