For The Dough:
- 1 scant tablespoon or 1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
- 1 1/2 cups warm milk (about 110 degrees)
- 1/3 cup soft unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup light brown or raw sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 3 1/2 to 41/2 cups unbleached flour
- 1/2 cup currants
- 1/2 cup candied lemon peel or candied citron
For The Glaze:
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
For The Icing:
- 1 cup confectioners' sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream
In a large bowl, stir yeast into water to soften. Add milk, butter, sugar, eggs, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, pepper, and 2 cups flour. Beat vigorously for two minutes. Add the currants and lemon peel and stir to combine. Gradually add flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl.Turn dough out onto a floured work surface. Knead, adding flour a little at a time, until you have a smooth, elastic dough. Put dough into an oiled bowl. Turn to coat the entire ball of dough with oil. Cover with a tightly woven towel and let rise until doubled, about one hour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface and divide into 24 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball and put into two well-seasoned 9 by 12-inch baking pans. Cover with a towel and let rise until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.About 10 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Just before baking, cut a cross into the top of each bun. Combine the milk and sugar for the glaze and brush lightly over the top of the buns.Bake for 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the buns reach 190 degrees. Immediately remove buns from pans and cool on a rack for about 10 minutes.In a glass measuring cup with a pouring lip, combine the confectioners' sugar with lemon juice and enough heavy cream to reach the consistency of honey. Use to pour into the cross on the top of each bun.
Bread Basket method follows.
To shape a basket of bread "eggs" Divide the dough in half. Return 1/2 the dough to the rising bowl and cover with a towel until needed. Divide the other piece of dough into 6 pieces. Shape each piece into a 26-inch strand. Twist the strands together. Lightly grease the bottom of an oven-proof bowl or pan with no handles (I have a Pyrex bowl that measures about 8 inches across the top and is about 4 inches deep that works perfectly) and place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Loosely coil the twisted strands around the beginning with where the pan and bowl meet. Continue until you get to the center of the bowl bottom. If you have too much dough left, pinch it off to use when making the "eggs." Take the remaining dough and divide it evenly into golf-ball sized pieces. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet about 3 inches apart. Cover dough with a towel and let rise until almost doubled, about 45 minutes. About 10 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Just before baking, lightly brush breads with glaze. Sprinkle the basket with nonpareils if desired.Bake for 25 minutes, basket, and "eggs" for 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the breads reach 190 degrees. Immediately remove breads from baking sheet and cool on a rack.
To serve the bread basket and "eggs": Once the bread has cooled, pour the icing glaze over the eggs --scrape up what runs off and use it again. Let the glaze set, about 15 minutes. Decorate the "eggs" with decorator's icing. Allow time for the icing to set so they can be placed in the bread basket without smudging. Put dyed coconut (in a plastic bag, shake 3 cups shredded coconut with 2 or 3 tablespoons green food coloring until well coated -- spread coconut on waxed paper to dry for about 30 minutes) into the basket. If the top edge of your basket isn't pretty, you can use some of the icing glaze to paint the edge to hold coconut in place to hide the edge. Place the "eggs" in the basket and serve.