I always used to think hot cross buns were difficult to make, and avoided baking them for years. When I finally gave them a try one Easter, I realized they are really easy to make. They will keep for about four days in an airtight container but if they do go a little hard, toast them and spread with ample amounts of butter.
Recipe adapted from Clodagh’s Kitchen Diaries by Clodagh McKenna © 2013 Kyle Books, and the photographs © Kate Whitaker
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Coat a large bowl with oil and set aside.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
To make the dough, whisk together 1/2 the milk, the yeast, and 1 teaspoon of the sugar in a small bowl and leave to stand until frothy. Combine the flours, remaining sugar, raisins, candied peels, spices, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix on low speed until combined (alternatively add the ingredients to a large bowl and combine by hand). Add the butter, 2 eggs, and the yeast mixture and continue to mix for about 3 minutes or until a sticky dough forms.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for about 5 minutes until smooth. (If you have combined the dough by hand increase the kneading time to 10 minutes.) Form the dough into a ball, place it in the prepared bowl, and turn to coat all sides with oil. Cover with a clean, damp kitchen towel and leave to rise in a warm, draft-free place for about 1 hour or until it doubles in volume. Punch down the dough, place it on a lightly floured surface, and knead for 3 minutes. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball and place about 1 in apart, in 3 rows of 4 , onto the prepared baking sheet. Cover and leave to rise for about 11/4 hours until doubled in volume.
Combine the egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water in a bowl. Use a pastry brush to lightly brush the egg mixture on the top of each bun. Put the buns in the oven, reduce the temperature to 400 degrees, and bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown. Transfer the buns to a wire rack. In a small bowl combine the confectioners’ sugar, remaining milk, and vanilla extract. Stir until smooth. When the buns have cooled slightly, drizzle a horizontal line across each row of buns followed by a vertical line to form a cross on the crown of each one.