Confession #106: I Dream in Recipes… Chocolate Cranberry Sweet Rolls

by alexandra

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Do you guys want to know what my thoughts are like when I’m trying to fall asleep at night? Burning question, I know. ;) But what I do sometimes is… I think up recipe ideas. Wait – putting your mind to work isn’t the best way to fall asleep? Yeah, I know, but I can’t quite help it, and frankly I don’t want to. I came up with the idea for these Chocolate Cranberry Sweet Rolls one night, which means that obviously, it’s a pretty perfect time to brainstorm.

Chocolate Cranberry Sweet Rolls from Confessions of a Bright-Eyed Baker

These are tender, soft-as-air sweet rolls, with a twist –  they’re baked in a muffin tin. Why? For some reason, I just decided that sweet rolls baked in a muffin tin would be fun. Maybe it had something to do with the 10 PM recipe development process? Hah, I don’t know… It just seemed right, and it is. Everything about these sweet rolls is right.

Chocolate Cranberry Sweet Rolls from Confessions of a Bright-Eyed Baker

As much as I love sweet flavors, I’ve always had a thing for tart tastes too. As a kid, I could care less about most “candy” (my definition of candy doesn’t include chocolate), but if it was sour, I loved it. Tart fruits, like granny smith apples and tangy-sweet tangerines, have always been some of my favorites. And then there’s those dried fruits that are tart, but with some sweetness added in, like dried green mangoes (SO GOOD), and dried apricots. My taste buds CRAVE all the zing of tart, tangy foods, so the idea of combining tart cranberries with rich dark chocolate in these rolls made me insanely excited – yes, I get really excited about these things.

Chocolate Cranberry Sweet Rolls from Confessions of a Bright-Eyed Baker

These Chocolate Cranberry Sweet Rolls are incredibly soft… pillowy soft. And yeah, I already said that, but it deserves to be said again. If I’m going to make any kind of sweet rolls, it’s a rule in my book that they need to be soft as dough. When you bite into these rolls, the dough practically sinks from the pressure, leaving you to melt in the luscious combination of bright, tart cranberries and swoon-worthy dark chocolate swirled inside. These are the kind of rolls that I’m still dreaming about weeks later. I’ve already been asked to make them again. And again. That’s saying something.

Chocolate Cranberry Sweet Rolls from Confessions of a Bright-Eyed Baker

P.S. With Valentine’s Day coming up, this is the first of a few posts I have coming your way with recipe ideas I think would fit  the bill. Since Valentine’s Day is all about the chocolate and the red and pink colors, and these rolls combine both in the most drool-worthy form, they practically scream Valentine’s Day breakfast. A little indulgent, but hey, we all deserve a little love in the form of  chocolate now and then!

Chocolate Cranberry Sweet Rolls from Confessions of a Bright-Eyed Baker


Chocolate Cranberry Sweet Rolls from Confessions of a Bright-Eyed Baker

Chocolate Cranberry Sweet Rolls

  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 12 swirls


These soft, tender sweet rolls are filled with a luscious combination of tart cranberries, rich dark chocolate, and a bit of sugar. They make a decadent breakfast or sweet dessert, perfect for a special occasion like Valentine’s Day.


  • 8 1/2 ounces milk (1 cup), divided
  • 1 3/4 ounces granulated sugar (1/4 cup), divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 ounces butter (5 tablespoon), cubed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 lb 1 ounce bread flour (4 cups, spoon and sweep), plus another 1 1/8 ounces (1/4 cup) as needed
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  • 7 1/4 ounces frozen cranberries (2 cups)
  • 3 1/2 ounces granulated sugar (1/2 cup)
  • milk, for brushing on dough
  • 6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips (1 cup), chopped


  1. Warm 2 1/8 ounces (1/4 cup) milk in the microwave for about 10 seconds, just until lukewarm. Place in a large bowl along with 1 tablespoon granulated sugar and stir together to dissolve the sugar. Sprinkle over the yeast and stir in with a wooden spoon. Let sit for about 15-20 minutes, until foamy. Meanwhile, microwave the butter and milk in a microwave-safe bowl for 40 seconds and stir together until the butter melts completely into the milk (microwave a bit longer if needed). Allow to cool to lukewarm.
  2. Add the cooled butter/milk mixture to the yeast mixture along with the egg. Mix together with a wooden spoon, breaking up the egg in the process. Add 4 cups of bread flour, remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, and salt and fold in as best as possible until you have a shaggy dough mixture. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, adding up to another 1/4 cup of flour as/if needed, until you have a very soft dough that doesn’t stick to your hands or the kneading surface. Shape the dough into a ball with a smooth top and place in a greased bowl about twice its size. Turn it over once to coat the top of the dough with oil and cover with greased plastic wrap. Leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hr 30-45 minutes.
  3. Grease a muffin pan with cooking spray. Place the risen dough on a floured surface* and roll it out to a 12″ x 16″ rectangle. In a food processor, pulse together the cranberries and sugar until the cranberries are chopped and the two are evenly combined. Brush milk over the dough and spread the cranberry mixture evenly on top. Sprinkle the chopped chocolate in an even layer over the cranberry. Starting with one of the 16″ sides, roll the dough up as tightly as possible, making a seam at the end and rolling the dough over the seam so that it’s at the bottom. Slice the log of dough into 12 equal pieces, and place each in one of the greased muffin cups. Some bits of cranberry and juice will come out of the rolls during this process, so scoop up whatever leftovers you can and sprinkle them over the tops of the rolls. Cover the rolls with greased plastic wrap and let them rise again until very puffy. The biggest rolls should be starting to expand over the top of the tin when they’ve risen enough.
  4. Once the rolls are about ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F. Bake them in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or just until the rolls around the edges of the muffin tin are starting to turn a little golden. A toothpick inserted into a portion of roll between the filling should come out free of dough. Enjoy the rolls warm, or allow them to cool briefly before moving them to a wire rack to finish cooling. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. Reheat individual rolls in the microwave for 25 seconds.


*Since it gets a little messy adding the cranberry filling to the dough, make sure that you’re working with a surface that won’t get stained.

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Averie @ Averie Cooks January 28, 2013

Do you like this dough base better than the cinnamon rolls you linked to from June? (that recipe appears to be the allrecipes/clone of a cinnabon recipe). I love soft, tender, no crisp edges.

Also do you think this dough would be well suited to a cinnamon roll…or stick with fruit? Sorry for the questions..Ive been researching rolls lately, like too much :)
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alexandra January 29, 2013

I actually never realized it was the allrecipes cinnabon clone, but I checked it out and it is, other than the fact that the instructions I have are made to do without a bread machine and bake at a lower temperature, which I definitely recommend for softer cinnamon rolls. I can’t really say which dough base I like better because it’s been so long since I made the first recipe, but I can tell you that both will give you very soft and tender rolls. And I do think this recipe would work well as a cinnamon roll too! No worries about the questions… I know how it feels to be a woman on a baking mission! :)

Ashley January 28, 2013

haha I do the same thing while trying to fall asleep… and sometimes even jolt out of bed to go write something down in the other room. Yeah, my husband loves that. haha. These look amazing by the way!
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alexandra January 29, 2013

Hah! That’s too funny. :) I usually just hope I’ll remember my ideas in the morning… And thank you!

sara January 28, 2013

Love these…they’re so pretty! Chocolate plus cranberries…what a great combo! These sweet rolls look divine. :)
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alexandra January 29, 2013

Thanks! I think cranberries are one of those fruits that really pair well with chocolate – they were SO good together in these rolls.

Laura (Tutti Dolci) January 28, 2013

These rolls are so pretty, perfect for Valentine’s!
Laura (Tutti Dolci) recently posted..brownie heart sandwich cookiesMy Profile

Jaclyn January 28, 2013

Oh my these look seriously amazing! Love the photos. This recipe has to be pinned, thanks!
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alexandra January 29, 2013

Thank you so much! I really, really appreciate it. :)

Heidi @ Food Doodles January 30, 2013

These are just gorgeous! I love the color of the cranberries and I can imagine how amazing these taste. I totally agree with you about the “zing”. I love sweet things but that tart taste adds so much too.
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alexandra January 31, 2013

Thank you Heidi! And there’s something that must be said for sweet and tart flavors TOGETHER, don’t you think? So good! :)

Julie @ Table for Two February 13, 2013

These are GORGEOUS!! I have a bag of frozen cranberries in the freezer from Thanksgiving just dying to be used :)
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alexandra February 15, 2013

Make them! They’re SO GOOD, especially if you’re a big chocolate fan. :)

Irene @ {a swoonful of sugar} May 3, 2013

I can’t believe I’ve only stumbled on your blog now! Your photos are so lovely and your recipes so scrumptious sounding. Adding a lot of things to my to-do list right now! :)

alexandra May 4, 2013

Wow, thanks so much! I’m so excited that you found my blog and got a chance to check out a few of the recipes. I’d love to hear about it if you give any of them a try. :)

Serena November 29, 2016

Is there any chance that you can make these using a Pillsbury dough? I need to make about 120ish of something and love this idea, but making that much dough would be such a pain.

alexandra December 11, 2016

So sorry for the late response! I suppose it would probably work in a pinch – you wouldn’t have as much of a soft and fluffy roll, but it would still be good, I’m sure!

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