Hot cross buns are a Good Friday staple in my native Australia. These sweet buns are even better when they're toasted with spiced butter and slathered with strawberry jam.
Technique tip: The dough can be made through step 1, then covered and proofed overnight in the refrigerator; proceed with steps 2 through 5 as directed. The cooled baked buns can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
For the jam:
In a small saucepan, combine the strawberries, 1/4 cup of sugar and the lemon juice. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, mashing the berries with a potato masher or fork to break them up. Simmer the mixture, stirring frequently, for about 18 minutes, or until it thickens.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until cold.
For the spiced butter:
In small bowl, stir butter and spices until well blended. Set aside.
For the dough:
In a small bowl, mix the warm milk and yeast and set aside for 5 minutes to bloom the yeast.
Meanwhile, in the bowl of an electric stand mixer, combine the brown sugar and orange zest. Using your hands, rub the zest into the brown sugar for about 1 minute, or until the zest becomes fragrant. Add the flour, salt and cinnamon and mix on low speed with the dough hook attachment to blend. Add the milk-yeast mixture, eggs, melted butter, sour cream and orange blossom water (if using) and knead on medium-low speed for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Knead the currants into the dough to distribute evenly, about 3 minutes. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel, and set aside in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until the dough doubles in size.
To shape the buns:
Punch down the dough and divide it into 18 equal-size pieces, weighing about 2 ounces each. Form each dough piece into a ball and place them on 2 sturdy, parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Cover the dough balls with an oiled sheet of plastic wrap and set in a warm place for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
For the toppings:
Position a rack in the centre of the oven and preheat to 375°F.
In a small bowl, mix the egg and cream to blend. In another small bowl, whisk the flour and water until a smooth thick mixture forms. Transfer the flour-water mixture to a small piping bag or place it in a re-sealable plastic bag and snip off one of the bottom corners of the bag.
Remove the plastic wrap from the raised dough balls. Using a pastry brush, coat the dough balls with the egg wash then pipe crosses of the flour-water mixture over the top of each. Bake for about 14 minutes, or until golden brown. Immediately transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Cut the buns horizontally in half and spread with the spiced butter. Heat large skillet over medium heat, cook buns, cut side down, 10 to 15 seconds, or until golden and toasted. Wipe skillet clean and cook remaining buns. Spoon strawberry jam over toasted buns and serve warm.