Julia's Super Scrumptious Chocolate Hazelnut Buns

Summer is done, Easter is approaching and, all of a sudden, it’s sweet bun season. From hot cross to cinnamon, babka to challah, there’s nothing more comforting than a perfect twist of slightly-sweet-slightly-savoury bread when the weather turns cool.

Julia Busuttil Nishimura guides us through the changing of the seasons with her favourite flavour combo, chocolate and hazelnut, in delicious, doughy form.

This will also be the last time we capture Julia in her often-photographed Brunswick home, as she’s just moved house – the end of an era!

Julia Busuttil Nishimura

Julia’s slightly savoury scrumptious sweet buns with chocolate and hazelnut. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Julia in her beloved Fitzroy pad, the last time we’ll see her in this iconic kitchen (she’s moving this week)! Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Rolling out the dough. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Folded the chocolate and blitzed hazelnuts into the rolled dough. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Slice the folded pastry lengthways. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Twist the lengths of dough from each end and slowly wind them around your hand. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

A close-up of the hard part! Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Wash with egg and spring with pearl sugar before putting in the oven. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

And voilà! Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Julia Busuttil Nishimura
9th of March 2021

These buns tick all of my boxes. Soft and pillowy, not too sweet and visually very, very beautiful. They also happen to contain chocolate and hazelnut – one of my all time favourite combinations. With Easter coming up, and Hot Cross Buns front and centre in all the bakeries, there is no better time to make these gorgeous chocolate hazelnut buns. It can take a little practice to get the twisting and knotting right, but even when it’s not perfect, it’s still certainly delicious.

Other nuts like walnuts and almonds are great here, and these buns are also lovely with a butter cinnamon filling instead, for those who prefer a more traditional spiced filling. The pearl sugar is available from most baking supply shops, but can be left out or swapped for some chopped nuts.

The perfectly portioned Easter treat! Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Very munch-able. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Yuki loves them! Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.


(Makes 12)
500g plain flour, sifted, plus extra for dusting
15g dry active yeast
80g caster sugar
Pinch of sea salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
200ml full-cream milk
80g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 eggs

Chocolate hazelnut filling
100g unsalted butter
50g brown sugar
100g 70% chocolate
2 tbsp chocolate hazelnut spread
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
150g toasted hazelnuts, very finely chopped (I do this in a food processor)

Egg wash, for brushing
Pearl sugar, to decorate


In a large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, yeast, sugar, salt and cinnamon.

Warm the milk together with the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat until the butter has melted. It should be around 40C. Allow it to cool if too hot. Whisk in the eggs into the milk mixture. With the mixer on low, stream in the milk mixture then increase the speed to high and mix for 3-4 minutes or until the dough looks glossy and elastic. It should be a fairly soft dough but not sticky. Add a little extra flour if needed.

Turn the dough into a ball and set aside to rise, covered, in a lightly greased bowl for 1 – 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, to make the chocolate filling, combine all of the ingredients, except for the hazelnuts, in a medium saucepan. Melt over a low heat, stirring to ensure the mixture doesn’t burn. Allow to cool while the dough rises.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line two flat baking trays.

Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll out to a 50 cm × 40 cm rectangle. Spread the filling evenly over the entire dough, right up to the edges. Sprinkle with the toasted hazelnuts. Fold the dough into thirds, like a letter. Use a rolling pin to flatten and stretch the dough a little. Trim a small amount from the edges of the rectangle so now you have straight edges. Cut 12 strips from the long side of the dough. Working with one strip at a time, hold the ends and twist to form a rope. Secure one end with your thumb and wrap the rope around three of your fingers twice. Wrap the other end around the top of the circle and tuck it under the circle, releasing it from your hands, to form the bun. Place on the baking tray and repeat with the remaining strips of dough. Leave plenty of room for the buns to spread as they cook.

Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until slightly puffy and risen.

Brush the buns with the egg wash and scatter with the pearl sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden. The buns are best eaten warm from the oven.

What else I’m cooking:

Slow roasting all of the overripe end of season tomatoes! Just simply in a tray with extra virgin olive oil, garlic, salt and oregano and roasted until soft and beginning to caramelise. It makes the best pasta sauce and is the perfect way to hold onto summer.

What else I’m eating:

The mixed salad plate from Wild Life Bakery! The perfect working lunch.

Click here for a downloadable, print-able recipe!

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