German Chocolate Sweet Rolls


German Chocolate Sweet RollsI can’t remember when I started thinking about these German Chocolate Sweet Rolls which are based on the German Chocolate Cake.  While the name implies the cake comes from Germany, that is not the case.  According to NPR, “The name comes from Sam German — who was either an American or an Englishman, depending on what you read.

In 1852, he invented a style of sweet baking chocolate for the Baker’s chocolate company. The company named it after him, but “German’s Chocolate” didn’t become well-known until 1957. That’s when a Texas homemaker sent her now-legendary cake recipe to a Dallas newspaper.

Somewhere along the way, German’s Chocolate Cake lost its apostrophe-s, leaving Germany holding the credit for a classic American dessert.”

This dough, because it is heavy in chocolate and butter, needs a cozy, warm place to get going. I heated the oven to 350°F for exactly one minute, turned it off and put the dough in with the  oven light on to keep the temperature low but warm.  After an hour I removed it and let it finish rising at room temperature where it became light as a feather, exactly as I wanted it.

While I normally like to hold my yeast dough in the refrigerator for a day or two to develop more flavor, the dough for these German Chocolate Sweet Rolls is easiest to shape immediately after it has risen.  And this dough is a cinch to roll out.  It doesn’t spring back and keeps its shape.  It doesn’t have to be perfect either.

Filling and shaping these rolls is much easier than it looks with waves of the traditional German Chocolate Filling rippling through the finished rolls.   These German Chocolate Sweet Rolls are definitely worth making. And I’d be willing to bet that if you make them once, you’ll make them again.

German Chocolate Sweet Rolls FillingFilling ingredients

2/3 cup evaporated milk
2/3 cup sugar (130 grams or 4 1/2 ounces)
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup butter (75 grams or 2 2/3 ounces  or 5 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sweetened coconut (85 grams or 3 ounces)
3/4 cup chopped pecans (85 grams or 3 ounces)

Combine the milk, sugar, egg yolks and butter in a heavy saucepan.  Ingredients in a panCook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened, about 12 minutes. If you draw your finger through the mixture, it will stay divided. Thickened liquidStir in the remaining ingredients. Pecans, coconut added to filling Cool completely and chill. This filling can be made several days ahead.  Keep it refrigerated until filling the dough.

If you forget to make this ahead of time, just make it as called for then spread it out thinly and refrigerate it.  It will be cold and ready to use by the time the dough finishes rising.Quick cooling filling

Chocolate Yeast DoughDough Ingredients

2 cups bread flour (280 grams or 10 ounces)
1/3 cup sugar (65 grams or 2 1/4 ounces)
1/3 cup Dutch cocoa (30 grams or 1 ounce)*
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
4 tablespoons butter (60 grams or 2 ounces)
3 ounces semisweet chocolate (85 grams)
1 teaspoon instant coffee
2 1/4  teaspoons instant yeast (1 package, 7 grams or 1/4 ounces)
1 teaspoon vanilla

*Natural cocoa can also be used if that is what you have.

Combine the milk, butter, chocolate, and coffee in a small saucepan.  Heat until the butter and chocolate have melted.  When the mixture has cooled to lukewarm, add the yeast and vanilla.  Let sit for about 5 to 10 minutes so the yeast softens.Yeast added to liquid

In the bowl of a processor, add the bread flour, sugar, cocoa, and salt. Dry ingredients in procesorPulse several times to mix.Dry ingredients processed

Pour the cooled liquid over the dry ingredients and Liquid in processorprocess until a soft ball forms.  Process 30 seconds to knead.  Dough finished in processorPlace the dough in a large container sprayed with a baking release and place the dough in it. Unrisen dough in containerCover with plastic wrap. Then cover the container with a lid or foil.

Preheat the oven to 350°F for ONE MINUTE with the LIGHT ONTURN THE OVEN OFF.  Place the dough in the oven for 1 hour.  Remove it from the oven and let it finish rising at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 more hour.Risen Dough

Filling and Shaping for German Chocolate Sweet Rolls

Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12″ x 14″ rectangle.

Lightly mark 4 1/2″ strips in from the edge of the dough on each side.Sides marked

I then use a ruler mark the 4 1/2″ all the up the dough.

Sides Marked

Spread half the filling (about 235 grams or 8 1/3 ounces) evenly over the center strip.Center filled

Bring the right side over to cover the center strip and Right side overspread the remaining filling over the top of this strip of dough.Filling on top

Bring the left side of the dough over to cover the filling. You will have a 4 1/2″ x 12″ rectangle.Filling finished

Place it on a tray and transfer to the freezer to chill.  It should be firm but not hard.

Spray a six-hole Texas muffin pan well. with a baking release.

Remove the filled dough from the freezer and mark the dough every inch along the 12” side.  One inch markingsAllow the dough to soften at room temperature for a few minutes to shape it.

Cut two strips of dough Take one strip and hold each end twisting it by rotating your hands in opposite directions. Twisted stripPlace it in a muffin cup along one side. First twist in cupTwist a second strip and place it in the cup on the other side.
Tuck the edges of the second twist firmly down into the sides of the cup.  It is easiest to do this by using a small flexible spatula and pulling the dough already in the cup back a bit so the edge of the new piece will fit snugly against the side of the cup.Edges of dough pushed back

Shaped unbaked roll

Continue to fill all of the cups with 2 strips of dough each.Pan of rolls

Preheat the oven for 1 minute as above.  Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let rise for 45 minutes.  Remove them from the oven and let the rolls rise until they come to the top of the cups or slightly above.Risen rolls

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350°F.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the filling is lightly browned on top and the dough is set.  Let them cool in the pan for 5 minutes then carefully go around the edges to release them.

Leave them in the cups.   Let the rolls cool completely.  Go around the edges of the cups again and turn the German Chocolate Sweet Rolls out onto a cooling rack.Finished whole roll

Note:  While any yeast product is best the day it is made, these German Chocolate Sweet Rolls are great even three days later if wrapped individually in plastic wrap and held at room temperature.  These may also be baked, wrapped individually after cooling and frozen for a month.  Thaw at room temperature.  Preheat the oven to 350°F and place the rolls back in the muffin tin.  Cover with foil and heat for about 15 minutes.

Yield:  6 large sweet rolls.  Although I only made the large rolls, 1 strip of twisted dough could be used in regular size muffin cups.  The baking time may need to be reduced.

You might also enjoy the following recipes:

Chocolate Cranberry Quick Bread
Chocolate Orange Raisin Bread 
Lemon Glazed Twist with Brioche

Pastry has not only been my profession, but my passion. If there is anything in particular you would like to see or any questions about baking or pastry, please let me know. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss a post!
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11 thoughts on “German Chocolate Sweet Rolls

  1. Nikki

    These I have to try. I am making more bread lately and this looks like it would be a great one to try.
    I may have mentioned this before but have you checked out a recipe by Julia Baker. Her German Chocolate Souffle Cake is decadent and if you love the components of the German Chocolate Cake you have to try it. I do not do the ganache or the whipped coconut cream as I feel it really does not need either.
    Thanks again for another great recipe. And very detailed instructions for a not real confident bread baker.

  2. Kathy Parathyras

    Hi Helen, I love your blog and have picked up so many valuable tips from you. These chocolate rolls look amazing and I would like to make a batch today, but only have all-purpose flour on hand. Is bread flour absolutely mandatory for this recipe? Thanks!


      1. Bruce

        When using AP flour instead of bread flour, if you knead it twice as long, it develops more gluten (which is the reason for using bread flour).

        1. hfletcher Post author

          Hmm, all-purpose flour has a gluten (protein) count of about 11 to 12, bread flour about 14 o 15. There are other reasons for using bread flour. It is inherently stronger which keeps the product from falling after it has risen. I use bread flour in my chou paste so it doesn’t collapse and also, it doesn’t have the wet dough inside that has to be removed. It bakes up with a hole in the middle. An interesting point. I would run a test on if I had the time. I’ll put it on my list. Thanks for bringing it up Bruce.

          1. Bruce

            Thanks, Helen. I’ll change my comment to “That is ONE reason for using bread flour”. :)

            I’ll start using bread flour for chou paste. Thanks for that information.

  3. Deborah Anderson

    Hi Mrs. Fletcher, These look delicious and I love German Chocolate Cake you did mention in the Note bake without the glaze is there another glaze for the top besides the traditional German Chocolate icing put into the rolls?

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Deborah, I originally was going to use a glaze and decided against it. I removed it and one reference but didn’t catch the second. Thanks for pointing this out. Trust you will enjoy the rolls.

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