Mix together the flour, salt and sugar in a bowl. Rub in the softened butter with your fingertips and make a well in the flour. Crumble the yeast into the milk so that it dissolves and pour the milk along the egg into the well. Bring the dough together with your hands or with a spatula.
This is quite a soft, supple dough. If it feels a little wet and stinky don't panic, just stay with it and be persistent. Avoid the temptation to add extra flour. A mixer with the dough hook attachment can be used if needed. Turn the dough out on to a clean surface and knead for 10 minutes.
Just as you reach the windowpane stage, add the mincemeat to the dough and gently knead for a few minutes to distribute the fruit. We want the fruit to be evenly distributed without having it all broken up. Put the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave to prove for about 90 minutes.
Once the dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto a clean work surface and knock back. Cut the dough into 10 equal pieces for your buns, form into rolls and place on a non-stick baking tray or a tray lined with parchment, leaving enough room between to allow each bun to prove and grow without touching.
Leave to prove again for 60 to 80 minutes or until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5 then make up the paste for the crosses by mixing together the flour and sugar in a bowl. The paste needs to be of a piping consistency. Brush each bun with a beaten egg, spoon the paste into a piping bag and pipe a cross on each bun.
Bake the buns at 190°C for 16 to 18 minutes, until rich golden in colour. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Tip: Whilst warm, brush each bun with a simple sugar glaze to add a wonderful shine and finger licking stickiness to each. Instructions for mincemeat: In a large mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Mix well. Store in the fridge. Ideally I would leave to marinade for at least 6 weeks before using in order to let the flavours develop but when time is tight, 24 hours will do the trick. This will keep for at least a year.
Recipe by Patrick Ryan Of Firehouse Bakery