Traditionally eaten on Good Friday these sweet spicy buns are simple to make and really delicious. Hands on prep time is relatively short but allow enough time for the dough and buns to rise before required.
To make the dough, place the flour and spices into a large mixing bowl and stir in the yeast, sugar and salt. Rub in the butter with your fingertips, then stir in the sultanas and mixed peel. Make a well in the centre.
Beat the egg with a fork until frothy, then beat in the milk. Pour into the centre of the dry ingredients and add most of the water. Mix to a soft dough, adding the remaining water if required.
Turn out the dough and knead gently for 5 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat the dough in the oil. Cover and leave in a warm place to rise for about 1½ hours, or until doubled in size.
Turn out, and lightly knead again. Divide the dough into 12 and roll each piece into a ball. Place on a greased baking sheet about 2cm apart. Cover with a damp tea towel, or slip the tray inside a carrier bag, and leave in a warm place until doubled in size which should take about 50 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 190℃/180℃ Fan/ gas mark 5.
To make the crosses, place the flour into a small bowl and stir in enough water to mix to a soft paste. Spoon the mixture into a disposable piping bag and snip of the end. Pipe a cross on each bun.
Bake for 20 -25 minutes until risen and golden. While the hot cross buns are baking, prepare the glaze. Place the sugar and water in a small pan and heat gently stirring until the sugar dissolves.
Once the buns are cooked transfer to a wire rack placed over a tray or baking sheet the brush the tops with the sugar glaze.
Hot cross buns are best eaten warm and on the day they are made. However, they can be refreshed by popping them in the microwave for a few seconds to warm through. They are also delicious toasted. Freeze for up to 2 month. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight and warm in the oven at 180℃/170℃ fan/gas mark 4 for 5 minutes. Variation I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to Hot cross buns, but if you want to vary yours occasionally you could try adding 125g dried cranberry and 50g chopped pecans instead of the sultanas and mixed peel and use cinnamon in place of mixed spice.