Tender, warmly spiced, and studded with bits of melty chocolate, these vegan hot cross buns are a fun and delicious spin on a traditional favorite. Whether you celebrate Easter or not, these buns are a treat enjoyed by everyone!
Line a 9" x 13" baking pan with parchment paper, or grease well.
In a small pot, melt the coconut oil over low heat. Add the plant-based milk, brown sugar and vanilla. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Turn off the heat and set aside to coll to 110-115°F. If the temperature is higher than this when combined with the yeast, the yeast will die. Stir in the vanilla.
In a large bowl with a wooden spoon or in the bowl of a stand-mixer with a dough hook attachment, mix 4 cups of the flour, baking powder, spices, yeast and salt together. Slowly stream in the warm milk mixture. If using a stand-mixer, add the chocolate as soon as the dough starts to come together and run it on a medium-low setting for about 8 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic with a slight stickiness. If it's too sticky, add a bit more flour, a tablespoon at a time. If doing it by hand, don't add the chocolate just yet. Instead, turn the dough onto a lightly oiled surface and knead it for about 8 minutes. Keep your hands lightly oiled to prevent the dough from sticking to you.
If kneading by hand: once the dough has been kneaded enough, roll the dough out to a rectangle roughly 10" x 6". Then, scatter the chocolate over half of the dough and then fold the remaining half over. Roll the dough out again but into a smaller rectangle than before, just until some of the chocolate is poking out. Roll the dough into a tight log along the long end. Spiral the dough around itself to create a rough disc. Play with it and knead it to encourage it to smooth out and become a ball. Some of the chocolate may fall out, but don't fret, just press it back into the dough.
Rinse out the large bowl and grease well. Place the dough ball into the bowl, cover with a tea towel in a warm place for about 90 minutes or until about 1.5 times its original size.
Punch the dough down and turn out onto a lightly oiled surface. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll them into balls, pinching the bottom like little purses, and pressing in any chocolate dropping out. Place the buns in the prepared pan, 3 across width-wise and 4 across lengthwise down. Cover again in a warm place and let rise for another 30-60 minutes.
For the Crosses:
In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350° F. Whisk together the flour and water in a small bowl for the paste to make the crosses starting with 4 tbsp of water adding more only until the paste is just thick enough to pipe but not so thin that it will spread and not form lines for the crosses. Once no lumps remain, spoon into a small zip-lock bag or piping bag fitted with a very small round tip. If using the bag, snip off a tiny corner (slightly more narrow than you want the lines of the cross to be) and slowly pipe a line down the middle of buns one way, and then the other way.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the buns are light brown and you hear a hollow sound when rapping the center of a bun. Let cool for 15 minutes before glazing.
For the Glaze:
Mix together the confectioner's sugar, plant-based milk and vanilla in small bowl. Using a pastry brush, brush the glaze over the warm buns taking care to avoid any chocolate so it does not smear. Serve immediately.
Store at room temperature for 2-3 days in an airtight container.
*Neutral vegetable oil (such as avocado, canola, sunflower, etc) can be used instead of coconut oil.Overnight Instructions: Prepare the recipe through to forming the buns and placing in the prepared baking pan. Cover the shaped buns tightly and refrigerate for up to about 12 hours. At least 3 hours before you need them the next day, take the buns out of the the refrigerator, keep covered, and allow to rise on the counter for about 1-2 hours before marking with crosses and baking. Freezing Instructions: Allow the buns to cool completely and then wrap so they are airtight for up to 3 months. Thaw the buns in the refrigerator or at room temperature.