I have managed to cheer myself up completely by baking amazing hot-crossed buns. They are soft, fluffy and fragrant and better than any I've had since my Mum made them when I was little...
1 cup milk
1 sachet of dried yeast
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
5 C flour
1 1/2 cup currants or raisins
1/2 cup of chopped candied orange peel
1 egg white
1 1/3 cup icing sugar
1 1/2 tsp. finely chopped lemon zest
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1- 2 tblsp. milk
If you haven't baked with yeast before, do some reading first, for some background and prepare to witness some special magic. In a small saucepan, heat milk to luke warm, but not hot. Pour warm milk in a bowl and sprinkle yeast over. Mix to dissolve and let sit for 5 minutes.
Gently mix in sugar, salt, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg and eggs. Gradually add flour, dough will be wet and sticky, and continue mixing until smooth, about 5 minutes. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and let the dough "rest" for 30-45 minutes.
Mix until smooth and elastic, for about 3 more minutes. Add currants or raisins and knead until well mixed. At this point, dough will still be fairly wet and sticky. Shape dough in a ball, place in a buttered dish, cover with a lid or plastic wrap and let rise overnight* in the refrigerator. Excess moisture will be absorbed by the morning.
Let dough sit at room temperature for about a half-hour. Line a large baking pan (or pans) with parchment paper (you could also lightly grease a baking pan, but parchment works better). Divide dough into 24 equal pieces (in half, half again, etc., etc.). Shape each portion into a ball and place on baking sheet, about 1/2 inch apart. Cover with a clean tea towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
In the meantime, pre-heat oven to 400° F. When buns have risen, take a sharp or serrated knife and carefully slash buns with a cross. Brush them with egg white and place in oven. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350° F, then bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack. Whisk together glaze ingredients, and spoon over buns in a cross pattern. Serve warm, if possible (Hot Cross Buns).
Instead of this glaze I just made a sugar syrup with some sugar, lemon juice and a little zest and cinnamon, simmered on the stove til slightly thick, and brushed on hot... It added some extra sweet sticky zest at the end... then I pulled out the white picture icing and added some lightning bolts...
*if you cannot possibly wait until tomorrow, break off a bit, and form it into bun shapes, and place on a tray and let rise for an hour in a warm spot and then bake as directed, and you get the early bun. Not terribly different from the next day bun, still delicious, and a whole day earlier...