After several years of trying various recipes, I think this is the recipe I will be using in the future. It is somewhat involved, but well worth it. The trick is to find something you can do in the kitchen area so you can jump up every now and then to complete the next phase of the recipe. Be sure to read the recipe through thoroughly before beginning so you can get an idea of what is involved.
Also, I'm giving you measurements for about 40-50 rolls. The basic roll recipe I developed this from comes out of the More With Less Cookbook and makes 100 rolls. So, this recipe is easy to double, and also easy to break in half. The pictures shown are for the 100-count recipe (which is the recipe below, doubled).
Dissolve in small bowl:
1 1/2 Tbsp. (1 1/2 packages) dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
Mix in larger bowl:
2 cups scalded milk
1 cup mashed potatoes (no milk added)
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
grated zest of one orange and one lemon*
Let the milk mixture cool until lukewarm, then add:
3 cups flour
Let stand until mixture foams (about 20 minutes).
1 beaten egg
1 1/2 tsp. salt
5-6 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp. mixed spice**
1 1/4 cups currants (I soaked mine in hot earl grey tea before draining and adding; if you don't have currants, you can use raisins, or golden raisins, or a mix of all three fruits)
Here is a picture of the mixture at the foaming stage, just as I added the above ingredients:
Work in as much flour as needed to make a nice dough and then turn out onto a floured surface and knead until it is elastic and feels "done" (about 7-10 minutes). This picture does not show the "done" state, this was at the beginning of the kneading process:
Stick the kneaded dough back into a greased bowl and allow to rise until doubled -- at least an hour, possibly more.
Punch down and form into rolls. Place rolls on a greased cookie sheet. Brush with a beaten egg white mixed with 1 Tbsp. of water.***
Mix about 1/2 cup of flour with some water to form a paste. Put the paste into a little ziplock bag and cut the corner off. Squeeze the flour paste onto the buns to form crosses.
Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes until nicely browned.
Here are the buns ready for the oven:
Cool the buns on racks and brush with warmed honey or corn syrup, if you desire:
I freeze these buns after they cool and then thaw them as needed. They will stay fresh, unfrozen, for 2 days, but then they tend to lose their softness.
**Mixed Spice is one of my very favorite smells! I get mine from the UK, so I'm not sure where to send you to get it here in the States. I found a recipe for it at recipezaar.com which I will include. There is not "one" recipe for this though. Just about every bottle you pick up has a different ingredient list! Ingredients include: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, mace, cloves, ginger, coriander, cardamon, etc.
Mixed Spice: 1Tbsp + 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp. ground coriander, 1 tsp. ground nutmeg, 1/2 tsp. ground ginger, 1/4 tsp. allspice, 1/4 tsp. cloves (The Spice Bible)
I think cardamon would be really nice in the above mix.
***There are three ways to achieve the "cross" on the buns. The most proper way is to make pastry and lay pastry crosses on top of each bun. This is very time consuming, and I never tried it again after the first attempt!
The second way is to mix the flour and water paste and squeeze it out from a bag. This works well if you can get the rest of the bun to brown properly (I had problems with that this year, because I didn't glaze the buns first with egg white. Next year I think the egg white glaze will make a difference).
The third way is to make a thin icing and pipe the crosses on with icing after they are baked and cooled. This is a no-fail way, and makes the buns a bit sweeter, if that is what you are after. They don't store so well this way though, as the icing can rub off.