Hot Cross Buns were a childhood treat. My mother didn't make them though, she purchased them. I remember loving the taste and the raisins, but picking out all the candied peel. I haven't seen any in the stores this year, so I made my own. The first batch was nice but not perfect. They must have been okay though because they disappeared in a few short hours. The second batch, tweaked a bit, tasted even better according to my testers! There is no candied peels in these buns because I had none on hand. If you want to add some, I'd reduce the raisins to 1/2 cup and add 1/4 - 1/2 cup candied peel.
Hot Cross Buns
4 cups all purpose flour
4 tbsn honey, divided
1 scant tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3/4 cup raisins
zest of one lemon
1 packet regular yeast or 2 tsps regular yeast
1 cup warm water
~1 cup milk (more or less, depending on humidity and flour
1 tbsn oil
4 tbsn flour
water to make paste
Add 1 tbsn honey to 1 cup warm water. Sprinkle the yeast over top and allow to proof. Combine flour, remaining honey, oil, salt, spices, lemon zest and raisins. When yeast is ready, add to the flour mixture. Stir it in, adding the milk as needed. Depending on the humidity, flour etc, you may need a bit more or possibly a bit less milk. Knead dough until smooth and elastic. Lightly grease a bowl large enough for the first dough rising. Pat the dough into a nice ball, place in bowl and cover. (plastic wrap or a tea towel will work just fine) Place the bowl in a warmish, draft-free place to rise. When the dough has doubled in size, punch down gently. Divide into 12 equal size balls and put into a greased 9 x 13 pan to rise. When the dough balls are double or nearly double in size, put the flour paste in a piping bag and pipe large X's on the tops of the buns. Bake at 375° F for approx. 25 minutes. Check after 20 minutes. Makes 12 servings
Notes - if using an egg wash, it goes on before the crosses!
One could add butter instead of oil for a richer taste. I don't have a microwave and decided it wasn't worth another dirty pot just to melt butter.
I added nearly 1/2 cup extra milk to make a good dough.
If you don't have a warm place for it to rise, the yeast will still do it's job, but it will take longer. You could mix this dough up in the evening, toss it in the fridge to rise overnight and continue the process the next morning with no harm to anything.
Historical stuff: There are apparently notes showing that they were quite popular and regulations regarding the baking of Hot Cross Buns, in the 1500's. Loaves marked with crosses have been found dating to 79CE. I've read one place dating them to 1200 and another suggesting that buns marked with crosses were from at least Saxon origins. Another bit of info suggests they were used as alms bread during lent.