Nowadays Hot Cross Buns are traditionally eaten in Ireland on Ash Wednesday and on Good Friday. This practice would have been frowned on in the past when these were black fast days and the people would scarcely have had enough to eat, not to mention spicy fruit filled buns.
This is Darina Allen's Ballymaloe Cookery School recipe.
25g (1oz) fresh yeast
110g (4oz) castor sugar
450g (1lb) bakers flour
75g (3oz) butter
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2-3 teaspoons mixed spice, depending how fresh it is
1 level teaspoon of salt (important to add)
2 organic eggs
225-300ml (8-10 fl oz) tepid milk
75g (3oz) currants
50g (2oz) sultanas
25g (1oz) candied peel, chopped
Egg wash made with milk, sugar, 1 organic egg yolk, whisked together
50g (2oz) white flour
1 tablespoon melted butter
4-5 tablespoons cold water
Put 600ml (1 pint) water and 450g (1lb) sugar into a pan and boil for 2 minutes. Brush over the buns as soon as they come out of the oven to give them a sweet, sticky glaze. This makes a large quantity of bun wash but it keeps very well.
To Make the Hot Cross Buns.
Dissolve the yeast with 1 tablespoon of the sugar in a little tepid milk.
Put the flour into a bowl, rub in the butter, add the cinnamon, nutmeg, mixed spice, a pinch of salt and the remainder of the sugar. Mix well. Whisk the eggs and add to the milk. Make a well in the centre of the flour, add the yeast and most of the liquid and mix to a soft dough, adding a little more milk if necessary.
Cover and leave to rest for 2 or 3 minutes then knead by hand or in a food processor until smooth. Add the currants, sultanas and mixed peel and continue to knead until the dough is shiny. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place until it doubles in size.
"Knock back", by kneading for 3 or 4 minutes, rest for a few minutes. Divide the mixture into 14 balls, each weighing about 50g (2oz). Knead each slightly and shape into buns. Place on a lightly floured tray. Egg wash and leave to rise.
If using shortcrust, arrange a cross of pastry on each one. Leave to rise until double in size. Then egg wash a second time carefully.
We tend to decorate with what we call a “liquid cross”. To make this, mix the flour, melted butter and water together to form a thick liquid. Fill into a paper piping bag and pipe a liquid cross on top of each bun.
Preheat the oven to 220ºC/425ºF/Gas Mark 6.
Bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes then reduce the heat to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6 for a further 10 minutes or until golden. Leave to cool on a wire rack. Split in two and serve with butter.
Alternatively, brush each one with bun wash while still warm.