Today, the Friday before Easter, is a special day known as Good Friday. To many it is a dark day , the day that our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified and died on the cross. All Christians know that while this is Friday and the day of the crucifixion Sunday is coming. Other names for this special day include Holy Friday, Black Friday, and Great Friday. However, while Easter has become a traditional celebration that all including the secular world observe Good Friday has remained primarily a holy and spiritual observance.
Many churches across the country will hold Good Friday church services. Each religion seems to have their own traditions when it comes to the Good Friday and Easter celebration. Some church members will fast and many sects will sing specific hymns for the services. Perhaps one tradition that is sweet is the making of Easter bread
There are many stories behind the reasoning of baking and eating hot cross buns and other sweet breads. One story is about a monk in the 12th century who at the end of lent season prepared and baked yeast sweet buns and marked them with a cross on Good Friday. In addition, this type of sweet buns and rolls could not have been prepared before the end of lent as they contain dairy products that were / are traditionally forbidden during the Christian lent season of fasting
1/2 cup raisins, currants, or craisins + 1 cup boiling hot water
3/4 cup very warm milk, divided into 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup (I used whole milk, 2% is fine)
1/2 cup white sugar + 1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup (4 Tbsp) unsalted butter, softened 15 seconds in microwave
1/2 tsp salt
1 envelope active dry yeast (about 3/4 Tbsp or 2 1/4 tsp) – I used Red Star Yeast
2 large eggs, well beaten
3 1/2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp (a large pinch) ground nutmeg
For the Egg Wash:
1 egg, well beaten with 1 tsp water
For the Glaze:
1/2 cup Powdered sugar mixed with 2 1/2 tsp Milk
In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup raisins/craisins with 1 cup boiling hot water. Let sit 10 min then drain well and set aside.
In a large measuring cup, combine 1/4 cup warm milk with 1/2 tsp sugar and sprinkle 3/4 Tbsp yeast over the top. Stir and let sit at room temp until bubbly and doubled in volume (10 min).
In a large mixing bowl combine 1/2 cup very warm milk with 1/2 cup sugar, 4 Tbsp softened butter and 1/2 tsp salt. Stir until butter is melted. Add 2 well beaten eggs and proofed yeast mixture. Stir in 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon and pinch of ground nutmeg.
Using the dough hook attachment mix in 3 1/2 cups flour, 1 cup at a time until soft dough forms. Knead 8-12 min on speed 2 or until smooth and elastic. Dough will still stick a little to the bowl but not to your fingers.
If kneading by hand, use a wooden spoon to stir, then turn out onto a well-floured surface and knead 8-12 min using just enough flour to prevent sticking to your hands.
Add drained raisins/craisins (pat them dry with paper towels if they still seem too wet) and transfer dough to a large buttered bowl, turning it to bring the buttered side-up. Cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free room 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in volume (you can also proof in a warm 100˚F oven).
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and cut in half then continue cutting dough until you have 12 equal sized pieces. Roll dough into balls and transfer to a buttered 9×13″ baking pan. Cover with a tea towel and let them sit in a warm, draft-free room 30 min until puffed
Now you should preheat your oven to 375˚F. Generously brush the tops with egg wash and bake for 15-17 minutes or until tops are golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan.
Once buns are just warm (not hot), stir together the 1/2 cup powdered sugar and about 2 1/2 tsp milk. You can add more powdered sugar to thicken it up if needed. Transfer glaze to a ziploc bag, cut off the tip of the bag and pipe a cross shape over each of the buns. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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