From Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book Of Breads, by Bernard Clayton, Jr.
I grew up in Connecticut and we ate these every good Friday. I don’t find them in the south much and few people I know who grew up in the south are even familiar with them. Despite its Christian overtone, the bun is supposed to have originated in pagan England. Even today, a hot cross bun baked and served on Good Friday is believed to have special curative powers.
NOTE: The dough is refrigerated overnight, so prepare it on Maundy Thursday if you wish to serve it on Good Friday. Bake enough for Easter breakfast, too.
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted, plus extra for brushing
2 eggs, separated
1 cup hot milk (120°F to 130°F (50°C to 55°C))
3-1/2 to 4 cups bread or all-purpose flour, approximately
1 package dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup currants or raisins (I used golden raisins and currents, omitting the candied fruit)
1/4 cup chopped candied fruit
1 egg yolk, beaten, mixed with:
2 tablespoons water
1 cup confectioners’ sugar mixed with:
1 tablespoon milk and
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 baking sheet, greased or Teflon
By Hand or Mixer: (30 mins.)
In a large bowl mix the sugar, melted butter, egg yolks, and hot milk. Stir to blend and set aside for a moment.
Into a mixing or mixer bowl measure 2-1/2 cups flour, the yeast, salt, and spices; blend. Pour the liquid mixture into the flour with 50 strong strokes of a wooden spoon, or for 2 minutes with a mixer flat beater. Add the currants or raisins and candied fruit. Blend.
Beat the egg whites until frothy but not quite stiff, and work into the batter. Add additional flour, 1/2 cup at a time, with the spoon or dough hook, until it is a rough mass. Knead for 2 or 3 minutes. Don’t make it a stiff dough but leave it soft and elastic.
First Rising: (1-1/2 hours)
Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature while it rises to double in bulk, about 1-1/2 hours. (If prepared with a new fast-rising yeast and at the recommended higher temperatures, reduce the rising times by approximately half.)
Punch down the dough. Cover and store in the refrigerator overnight. On the following day, remove the bowl from the refrigerator and allow to stand for about 1 hour at room temperature.
Kneading: (10 mins./45 secs.)
Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Shaping: (15 mins.)
Divide the dough into equal parts in successive steps – 2, then 4, then 8, then 16, then 32 – and shape into balls. Place the balls about 1″ apart on the baking sheet.
Second Rising: (1 hour)
Brush the balls with melted butter, cover with wax or parchment paper, and put aside to rise until double in volume, 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) 20 minutes before baking.
Baking: (25 mins.)
Remove the paper covering the balls. With a razor or scissors, cut a cross on the top of each bun. Brush with the egg-water wash.
Place in the oven until nicely browned, about 25 minutes. If oven space is limited, several batches may be baked.
(If using a convection oven, reduce heat 50°F (30°C)).
Remove the buns from the oven. Place on wire racks. When cool, form a cross in the cuts on each bun with fairly firm confectioners’ icing.
Yield: About 3 dozen buns