EASTER BUNS Ellsworth, Mrs. M.W. Queen of the Household. Ellsworth & Brey: Detroit, Michigan, 1899. p. 17
"Three cups sweet milk, 1 cup yeast; flour to make think batter. Set this as a sponge over night. In the morning add 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup butter, melted, 1/2 nutmeg, 1 saltspoon salt. Flour enough to roll out like biscuit. Knead well and set to rise 5 hours. Roll 1/2 inch thick, cut into round cakes, and lay in rows on a buttered baking-pan. When they have stood 1/2 hour, make a cross upon each with a knife, and put instantly into the oven. Bake to a light brown, and brush over with a feather or soft bit of rag, dipped in the white of an egg, beaten up stiff with white sugar. These are the "hot cross-buns" of the "London cries."
Notes / My version: N.B. When a Victorian recipe seems to call for an inordinate amount of yeast, it's a sure bet the author meant home-made yeast, i.e., sourdough starter. 3 cups milk 1 cup sourdough starter 10 cups all purpose flour 1 cup granulated sugar 1/2 cup butter 1/2 tsp. salt 2 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg 1 egg white 1/4 cup powdered sugar
Mix the milk, sourdough starter, and 4 cups of flour in a very large mixing bowl. Cover with a towel and let rise overnight. In the morning, melt the butter; add it and the sugar, nutmeg, salt and the other 6 cups of flour to the sponge. Knead well, then return to the bowl and let rise in a warm place 5 hours. After this, be sure to treat the dough VERY GENTLY or you will force out all the air bubbles, resulting in heavy buns.
Transfer the dough to a floured surface and GENTLY roll it and cut with a round cutter.
Bake at 375 degrees until golden brown.
Frosting: While the buns bake, mix the egg white and powdered sugar, then beat until stiff. As soon as the buns come out of the oven, make frosting crosses on top of each one using a feather, clean cloth, or clean paintbrush.