Hot Cross Buns are the traditional recipe made on Good Friday because of the "cross" that are made with icing on top. If you Google hot cross buns you can find lots of lore concerning the history of these. Who knows which is true. I just know that I like to use anything I can to establish traditions for my boys which cement in their minds the true meaning of Easter even if it is a simple pastry.
Hot Cross Buns
1 cup milk
2 Tbsp yeast
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
5 cup flour
1 1/3 cup currants or raisins
1 egg white
Glaze (you can use this one or your favorite)
1 1/3 cup confectioner's sugar
1 1/2 tsp. finely chopped lemon zest
1/2 tsp. lemon extract
1-2 Tbsp milk
Get your children involved: Let them help measure and mix the ingredients. They will enjoy kneading the dough, forming the dough into balls and adding the glaze.
In a small saucepan, heat milk to very warm, but not hot (110°F if using a candy thermometer). Pour warm milk in a bowl and sprinkle yeast over. Mix to dissolve and let sit for 5 minutes.
Stirring constantly, add sugar, salt, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg and eggs. Gradually mix in flour, dough will be wet and sticky. Continue kneading until smooth, about 5 minutes. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough "rest" for 30-45 minutes.
Knead again until smooth and elastic, for about 3 more minutes. Add currants or raisins and knead until well mixed. At this point, dough will still be fairly wet and sticky. Shape dough in a ball, place in a buttered dish, cover with plastic wrap and let rise overnight in the refrigerator. Excess moisture will be absorbed by the morning.
Let dough sit at room temperature for about a half-hour. Line a large baking pan (or pans) with parchment paper (you could also lightly grease a baking pan, but parchment works better). Divide dough into 24 equal pieces (in half, half again, etc., etc.). Shape each portion into a ball and place on baking sheet, about 1/2 inch apart. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
In the meantime, pre-heat oven to 400° F.
When buns have risen, take a sharp or serrated knife and carefully slash buns with a cross. Brush them with egg white and place in oven. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350° F, then bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack. Whisk together glaze ingredients, and spoon over buns in a cross pattern. Serve warm, if possible.
Hint: If you aren't a "baker", you can always open a can of knock'em on the counter cinnamon rolls and then use the included icing to form the cross on top after they are finished baking. The true purpose is to teach the Easter story... not show off your Baking skills!!