Paste for crosses
1Place the yeast, a bit of the sugar and the milk in a bowl and let it sit for 5 minutes to make sure the yeast is active.Sift the flour with the spices and salt, and add almost all of it to the yeast mixture along with the butter, remaining sugar, egg and dried fruit. Mix until you have a sticky dough.
2Take the dough out and place it on a floured surface. Knead for about 5 minutes, adding more flour as you need to if it gets sticky, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Knead for another minute for good measure and an upper-body workout.
3Place back in the bowl, cover with a towel and let rise for an hour, or until it’s doubled in size. If you want to bake them fresh in the morning, put the bowl in the fridge overnight to slow the rising.
4Divide the dough into 12 balls and place in a 9”x13” baking dish or on a cookie sheet – space them close together if you want them to rise and touch and be soft, pull-apart buns, or space them further away if you want them to have a baked crust all the way around. Cover with a towel or loosely with plastic wrap and put them in a warm place for another half hour to an hour. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
5Mix the flour and water for the crosses, put the mixture in a zip-lock bag and snip a tiny piece off the corner. Pipe a cross onto the top of each bun and bake them for 25-30 minutes, until golden and well risen. If you want to glaze them, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat until the sugar dissolves (alternatively you can do this in the microwave). Brush this hot syrup generously over the tops of the buns while they’re still warm.
6To make the Orange Chocolate Chunk version: ease up on the cinnamon a bit and omit the allspice; add the grated zest of an orange along with the melted butter and egg; add 1/2 cup chopped candied orange peel and 1 cup chocolate chips or chunks to the dough instead of the raisins and citron. Omit the paste for the crosses and instead bake them, cool them and cross them with chocolate - place a small handful of chopped chocolate or chocolate chips in a ziplock baggie, seal and put in a bowl of warm water until it melts.
7 Snip a small piece off the corner and squeeze the chocolate out onto the buns.