To prepare the buns, bring the milk almost to the boil and add the butter, leave to cool until luke warm.
Sift the strong flour into a mixing bowl, add salt, Siúcra sugar, oil and yeast. Attach the dough hook to the mixer and give the ingredients a mix. Add the beaten egg to the milk and butter and mix well.
Reduce the speed of the machine to slow, pour in enough of the milk butter egg mix to form a soft dough. You may not use all the milk. The dough should come off the sides of the bowl.
Increase the speed and “knead” for about 5 minutes until the dough is smooth.
Remove the dough hook, take the dough out of the bowl and oil the bowl, return the dough again. Cover with an oiled plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for about 1½ to 2 hours or until it doubles in size.
Once the dough has risen and while the dough is still in the bowl, knead for about 2 minutes by hand.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6. Line a large baking tray with parchment.
Place the dough on a lightly floured surface.
Drain the raisins, pat dry and add to the dough, along with the orange zest, spices and chocolate. Knead lightly to mix.
Divide into 12 equal portions (you may want to weigh them to ensure they are of equal size) and roll into balls. Place the buns 3 across and 4 down, cover lightly with an oiled plastic wrap and leave for about 30 minutes in a warm place to rise.
When ready to bake, combine the Siúcra sugar and plain flour together with enough water to form a thick paste. Spoon into a piping bag and snip the end. This “nozzle” must be fairly small.
Pipe a line along each row of the buns and repeat on the other direction to form crosses.
Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes.
Remove to a cool rack and while the buns are still hot, brush them generously with smooth apricot jam and leave to cool.