A hot cross bun gone giant!
Put the flour, salt, sugar, yeast and spices in a large bowl and mix to combine. Rub the butter in until it is no longer visible, then mix the raisins and dates through (if your dates are sticky, toss them individually in the flour so they stay separate in the dough).
Make a well in the centre of the bowl and add the milk, followed by the water (please do it in this order or the temperature of the water will kill the yeast)! Now mix it all together (take any rings off first)! After a couple of minutes, the dough will start to come together. Take it out of the bowl and place it on the counter.
Now knead! Stretch it, pull it, push it, punch it, fold it. Just work that dough! You might think you need more flour, but you really shouldn't! Yes, it will start out sticky, but it will gradually become smoother and more elastic and the more you knead, the more it will improve the taste! Yes, this bit is hard work - keep going for a full ten minutes!
And rest! Not you! :P The dough! Put in back in the bowl (no need to oil it). Cover it with a tea towel and leave it to rest for at least an hour. Hopefully, if the temperature in your house is warm, when you check the dough it will have grown to around double its size. If not, leave it a bit longer.
Line a loaf tin with baking paper. Take the risen dough out of the bowl, make it into a rough loaf shape and place in the tin. You can wet your hands if you want to smooth the top a bit. Cover it with the tea-towel again and leave for a further hour. It should rise again to almost double its size - up over the tin is great!
Preheat the oven to gas mark 8 (450f/230c) for ten minutes. We like to place a pan of icecubes (or water) at the bottom of the oven to create some steam to keep the loaf moist, but you can skip this stage if you prefer. Place the loaf on the middle shelf (allow room for it to rise a bit) and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to Gas mark 6 (400f / 200c) and bake for a further 10 minutes.
At this point we usually remove the loaf from the tin and return the loaf to the oven on it's side (or upside down). Our oven is a bit temperamental so this ensures it is cooked evenly all the way through. (Check how brown the top is and choose the best option for you). Cook the loaf for a further 10 minutes on Gas Mark 4 (350f / 180c), then place it on a wire rack to cool.
If you want a shiny looking loaf, brush the maple syrup over the top whilst it is still warm. Enjoy!