Today is Good Friday -- one of the most solemn and sacred days of the Christian calender. Without Good Friday, the promise could never have been fulfilled. The date is set because of the Jewish Passover. We know it was a Friday because the next day was the Jewish sabbath. The days of the week were also just beginning to be used. It goes back to astrology and the belief that each of the planets govern a day. The major change was calling Sunday -- the day of our Lord. If you look at the week days in French or another Romance language, you will see what I mean. English days are derived from Anglo Saxon/Nordic gods.
In many Catholic countries such Spain and Italy, the day is one of processions. Years ago when I visited Spain during Holy Week, I was surprised at how many processions happened. It was Catholicism at its most raw -- robes, whips and chains. The procession on Palm Sunday in Grenada frightened me as the dark was falling and these men were solemnly processing, cowls hiding their faces. A few years later, we happened to be in New Mexico going from Santa Fe up to Taos and passed by the Chimayo pilgrims -- many were carrying crosses. The guidebooks all said that unless you were taking part, it was best to steer clear of the festival...Given my experience in southern Spain, I agreed.
In Britain, spiced buns first became popular during the Tudor period. Elizabeth I forbade the making of hot cross buns on any day except Good Friday. I forget when the edict was relaxed. I tend to like the British version of hot cross buns much more than the American. This is mainly because you have a dough or pastry cross in the UK as opposed to an icing cross.
I adapt the Elizabeth David recipe for her definitive guide to English Breads for my recipe.
It is basically -- warm 10 oz milk to blood heat, add 1 tablespoon of yeast -- allow to soften. Mix 1 lb strong bread flour (4 cups) with 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp nutmeg, ground allspice, and ground cloves, and 2 oz dark brown sugar (1/3 cup). Add yeast milk mixture, and then two eggs. Make into a soft dough, add more flour if required and then add 4 oz (1 cup) currants. Allow to rise until double (about 45 minutes.
Shape into 16 balls. Make a short crust pastry ( 4 oz flour plus2 oz butter. Mix into a fine crumb add2 tablespoons approx water) Make snakes of the pastry. Put crosses on top of buns. Brush with milk. Allow to rise for about a half hour. Cook in a hot oven for 20 minutes until nicely browned.
Far better tasting than the hot cross buns one purchases in the shops.