Posts Tagged ‘HCB’

HCB Comparo, 2017 Edition

I wasn’t planning on doing this, honest. But since Easter was such a long way away from the indulgence fest known as Christmas, and the supermarkets just happened to start baking these pretty much on Boxing Day… I ended up eating just a few. Then of course, I had to take a photo, and after that I might as well keep looking for my favourite bun of all time.

Sonoma Not Cross Buns:

Sonoma not cross bun

Love this. By not putting a cross on the bun, all and sundry from all religious denominations can eat it. First bun I ate cold, I couldn’t stop raving about it. OK, so the ‘s’ was a bit tough to eat, but the aroma, I couldn’t stop inhaling it. I think it was the orange glaze. The fruit had been soaked in possibly earl grey tea. The second bun I ate warm after heating in the microwave. There was a very intense cinnamon aroma. The bread had a ‘dough-y’ texture. Fruit mix included orange peel.

$3.50 Each, $19 for six.
Sonoma Bakery Cafes @ Alexandria, Bondi, Glebe, Paddington, Rosebay, Waterloo, Woollahra.

Stoneground Bakery:

Stoneground bakery HCB

Available in blueberry (slightly blue cross), raspberry and white chocolate (pink-ish cross), and “normal” fruit. I bought the latter, and probably didn’t eat it at its best. Overnight in my fridge turned it rock hard. Even after microwaving it, the bun was just ‘meh’. I couldn’t remember any fruit apart from the sultanas.

$2.20 each, $9 for six.
Stoneground Bakery in Annandale and Hunters Hill.

Zumbo’s Fruit HCB:

Zumbo HCB

I had to check my records (blog) to work out if I had tried the Zumbo HCB in the past. Turns out no, I had only tried the chocolate version. This was heated up in the microwave. I got a slightly odd scent above the cinnamon note that I couldn’t quite place. Too much yeast?

This year I tried again the chocolate version, it seem less intense that four years ago; more of a ‘cocoa HCB’ rather than a dense chocolate mudcake.

$2.20 Each, $12.50 for six.
There are Zumbo stores in Rozelle, Star City (Pyrmont), QVB (Sydney City).

Boon HCB:

Boon HCB courtersy of Boon Cafe

Photo courtesy of Boon Cafe Instagram. I’ve been here several times checking out the baked goods, and suddenly there was a hot cross bun. Buttery flavour with a sweet glaze. The cross has a nice chew texture. Made with spelt flour!
Boon Cafe, 425 Pitt Street Haymarket.

Campos Coffee HCB:

Campos coffee HCB

I couldn’t resist, the buns were so enormous and a glossy dark chocolate brown with the glaze. The cross marked ontop was a bit tough to eat. High on the cinnamon factor. We spied a little orange peel and a little red cranberry (or possibly currant). Very buttery flavour.

$3.50 Each, $19 for six.
Campos Coffee, 193 Missendon Road, Newtown 2042.

So for 2017, I have to say that the Sonoma HCB with lots of glaze, eaten cold was my favourite. I could not stop inhaling that lovely scent, or gobbling up the buns.


HCB Smackdown, 2014 edition

Although the supermarkets seem to stock hot cross buns year ’round, I try to restrict my intake to just the easter period. Some places seem to think that if “spicy fruit is good, adding chocolate makes it better”. Bleeurgh. I disagree.

Brasserie Bread:

Brasserie Bread HCB

Having gone and looked at more bees, I was driving across town and remembered the existence of the Allpress coffee store on Epsom Road in Roseberry, but *also* that they stock bread from their sister store Brasserie Bread. I got there just before closing, and grabbed a soy coffee and a pack of six original hot cross buns for $17.20.

Reportedly made with Herbies “fragrant sweet spices” which includes rose petals, there is no glaze. I can see little currants and the dough is of a darker colour.

To him: Toasts well, and doesn’t crumble when buttered.
To me: unfortunately, unremarkable.

street: 58 Epsom Road, Zetland, Sydney NSW 2017
phone: 61-2-8198-4440

On the same cross town journey to find my new yoga mat (looking for a yoga store that was there about 10 years ago), I stumble across the bake bar.

the bake bar ($3 ea):

Bake Bar HCB

There is a gorgeous little jumble of glossy glazed hot cross buns on the counter. I buy two. I think my lack of lunch and sugar crash from three cakes at morning tea may have affected my judgement. I can’t remember the spices – there were some – but the bun itself is very moist with lots of fruit. The glaze doesn’t have spices, but it appears to be based upon honey rather than a simple sugar syrup. The HCB are organic.

To him: Toasts well, and doesn’t crumble when buttered. His favourite.
To me: yummy! Also, see earlier disclaimer.

street: 67 Frenchmans Road, Randwick, Sydny NSW 2031
phone: 61-2-8021-0728

Once again, the Good Living liftout (now re-monikered “good food”), did a piece on the best hot cross buns around Sydney.

This is the one that got me all excited:

Sweetness the Patisserie:

Share from Pixlr

Sweetness were due to make an appearance at Castle Hill Markets, but were unfortunately unable to bring some to the markets for me. So after querying colleagues who live around that area – and finding that none of them were likely to make a trip to Epping that weekend, I wrangled a special journey.

The smell of cream buns filled the car. The glaze has got a citrus tang, the bun tastes buttery with a dryish texture but not overly spicy. The cross has been applied across each set of 3×2 buns. The cross itself is almost like a lolly – it’s got a sweet crispy texture. It’s not just a dough mixture. I spot sultanas, currants, and bitter orange peel.

I’m embarrassed to say I don’t know how much these cost. I was so excited about getting buns, that all I can remember is… rocky road + 1 dozen buns = $29 ish. rocky road, hazelnut brittle + 1 dozen buns = $56 ish

To him: Crap. Crumbles when toasted and buttered. When are you next going to Randwick?
To me: I could have a winner here..

street: 38 Oxford Street, Epping, Sydney NSW 2121
phone: 61-9829-3800


Delicia HCB

A late contender, also purchased as part of a special journey based upon a “hot rumour”. On Saturday, these guys had sold out by 1pm, so a special weekday trip was made.

Smells yeasty, dough is speckled with spice, and I can also taste the grittiness of it in my teeth. Not much fruit. I think I found a juicy moist sultana, possibly soaked in liquid before baking. The bun is slightly gummy but not as moist as that from the bake bar. The cross is fat and white.

Him: I didn’t let him near this one, because I only had one. But I toasted half – and it crumbled to bits when you tried to butter it. I don’t think he would have liked it.
Me: Surprised by the lack of fruit. I don’t think the spice was that prominent apart from the gritty taste, but there was a nice aroma when I toasted them.

street: 298 Willoughby Rd, Naremburn, NSW 2065
phone: 61-2-9438-1330

For my future reference, here is the Epicure article for the Melbourne contingent.

Verdict:This year, I think I preferred the HCB offerings from Sweetness, followed by that from the Bake Bar. Your mileage may vary.

Happy Pagan Festival Everybody!

HCB Comparo, Part 2

A HCB delegation happened to be sent to Melbourne prior to Easter. What, are we inflaming the Melbourne-versus-Sydney debate? Never!

This delegation’s investigations were assessed under stricter conditions than the original comparo’s: “Look, Smell, Taste, Eat” philosophy.

The buns were laid out, the buns were warmed up in the oven. They were then sliced in half, and the fruit distribution compared. Finally, they were eaten.

The Melbourne HCBs

Do you feel queasy yet at the amount of fruity bread like products about to be consumed?

Ombra Restaurant $5 each:

Ombra HCB

Oh the sacrifices we make. Although six buns had already been consumed through the course of the day, and a full meal; when this was spotted on the menu: how could you not order it?
This was eaten on a night out at the restaurant.
Dark coloured, skinny piped cross.
Over toasted.
Very plain in flavour
No. 7 by both delegates.

street: 76 Bourke St Melbourne Victoria 3000
web: Ombra Bar

Babka #6 $2 each

Babka HCB - inside

Really nice even distribution of fruit
Raisins and sultanas
There was finely grated citrus (tiny dots visible) and strong citrus smell and taste
Not overly spicy, more sweet and sugary
Lighter and more fluffy than the others.
Rated as No 3 by the second delegate, No 6 by the first.

Babka HCB - inside

street: 358 Brunswick St, Fitzroy VIC 3065
web: Babka Bakery on urbanspoon

Fatto a Mano bakery #5

Fato e Manno HCB

Good crunchy crust, partly because of the reheating.
Chewy texture.
Uneven piped cross.
Not very spicy
Not too sweet – a little bready in texture.
No citrus
Sultanas and raisins
Super sticky glaze
Rated as No. 6 by the second delegate, No. 5 by the first.

Fato e Mano HCB - inside

street: 226-228 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia.
web: fatto e mano

French Lettuce, $2 Ea.

French Lettuce HCB

A thick custard like cross, similar to Le Chocoreve (Sydney). Quite doughy in texture, on the “just borderline” undercooked.
Slightly bitter spice in there, possibly from cardamom.
Sultanas, raisins, big yellow sultanas. Quite an even distribution of fruit.
I like the look of the cross – it looks like it has been rolled and applied by hand.
Quite a dark dough – use of a spice similar to cinnamon but not cassia. It started with S … but we can’t think what, possibly star anise.
Rated as No. 5 by the second delegate, No. 4 by the first.

French Lettuce HCB - inside

Street: 237 Nicholson St Carlton VIC 3053
Web: The French Lettuce

Candied Bakery #3, $$2.70 ea:

Candied Bakery HCB

They looked like little jewels nestling in their box. They also look like they have been individually ‘raised’ and proved: rather they each bun helping the others rise on the baking tray.
Quite a sweet glaze – very sticky
Juicy and plump fruit
Good balance of spice, possibly cloves.
Doughy but dense
No citrus – sultanas and raisins
Rated as No. 2 by the second delegate, No. 3 by the first.

Candied Bakery HCB - inside

street: 81a Hudsons Rd., Spotswood, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 3015
web:Candied Bakery

Baker D #2 $3.20 each:

Baker D HCB

Strong citrus – chunks of orange peel
Possibly a part sourdough base.
Glaze not over powering
Raisins, sultanas, orange peel
Dark dough
A lot of fruit – evenly distributed
Quite a sweet glaze but not just sugar sweet
Possibly freshly grated ginger in the mix.
Quite a dense texture.
Rated as No. 3 by the second delegate, No. 2 by the first.

Baker D HCB  - inside

street: 3/149 Fitzroy St, St Kilda Victoria 3182
web: Baker D

Dench, $ $16.60 for 6:

Dench HCB

Finely grated citrus (tiny dots visible) as well as bigger chunks and strong citrus smell and taste
Strong spice – possibly cardamom
dense but doughy
Good chewiness
Dark dough
Not too sweet
A favourite with both delegates!

Dench HCB - inside

street: 109 Scotchmer St, Fitzroy North, Victoria 3065

Rylstone Bakery $1.50 Ea:

Rylstone HCB
I also had the opportunity to try the buns from Rylstone Bakery. Unfortunately only the chocolate chip ones were left. They were tasty and moreish, although there was a bit of a granular grittiness in the mixture. It may have come from hand ground cinnamon.

street: 55 Louee Street, Rylstone, NSW 2848
web: Rylstone Bakery

Here is Epicure’s Comparison, from theage newspaper.

I also stumbled across this website, who did a HCB comparo in 2011.

HCB Comparo

I’ve spent a while tasting various hot cross buns this year, and then I was pipped at the post by the article in smh’s goodfood, here for the Melbourne version. Le Sigh.

Let’s do it anyway!

This time last year I was baking up a storm, making pagan fruit buns. This year I haven’t yet had a chance to do so, but I have been buying up a storm:

Le Chocoreve, $3.50 each:

Le Chocoreve

I remember these as having a very sticky complex flavored glaze and one of my favourites last year. This year, the armoa was still heavenly, but there was less complexity in the glaze. The flavour of the bun was very bitter: I think this came from too much orange peel, my sister reckons it came from the cardamom.

street: 16 Douglas Street, Stanmore NSW.
ph: (02) 9569 5644

Black Star Pasty, $4.50 each:

I forgot to take notes. I just ate it.

277 Australia Street, Newtown.
ph:(02) 9557 8656.

Infinity Sourdough: $1.30 each:

No glaze made this baby looked naked and unfinished. It had a very light spice flavour, that disappeared almost as soon as you had swallowed your mouthful. Aroma was brown paper bag like. Fruit spotted : rasins only. Cheap, but also unmemorable.

street: 225 Victoria St, Darlinghurst, NSW 2010.
ph. 9380 4320

Flour and Stone, $3.50 each:

Aroma is sweet and yeasty. The marking on top was thick, like it had been rolled and applied by hand rather than piped. Fruit spotted: sultans and juicy looking fresh orange peel. The cross itself was crispy and caramelised and added another layer of interest. The flavour lingered in the mouth several minutes after eating: a light tingly citrus flavour without being unpleasant. My favourite so far.

street: 53 Riley St Woolloomooloo NSW 2011.
ph: (02) 8068 8818

Organic Bread Bar, $3.50 each:

Organic Bread Bar HCB

The organic bread bar’s stalwart sticky fruit bun has been replaced for a short time by the hot cross bun.

I may be slightly biased in favour of this offering, because they were still warm from the oven. No crispy quinoa topping, but filled to the brim with fruit. In the centre is a gooey dried apricot which I am sure was soaked prior to including into the mixture.

Sorry, flour and stone, but I think I’ve found a new favourite.

street: 356 South Dowling Street,Paddington, NSW 2021.
ph: (02) 9357 4448

Bowan Island Bakery, $9.30 for six:

Bowan Island Bakery HCB
The packet is marketed as ‘artisan hot cross buns’. Spelt flour and chocolate ones are also available.

The bun is marked by a skinny cross that has to have been piped on. The bun is gummy in texture and borderline on the cooked side. There are raisins, sultanas and a thick piece of mixed peel. The after taste is slightly bitter, like citrus pith.
street: 183 Victoria Road, Drummoyne.
ph: (02) 9181 3524

Adriano Zumbo, $3.50 each

Zumbo HCB

Unfortunately on the day I visit, there is one chocolate HCB left.

The bun is a dark dark brown, almost black in colour. The cross is also brown. The flavour is dark cocoa and very gingery. Like a chocolate ginger snap.

Central Baking Depot, $2.20 each ($12 for six):


The bun is marked with an oozy big cross that looks like it has melted upon baking. Tastes very buttery. Slightly gritty, as if the cinnamon has been hand grated. No lingering aftertaste. Fruit potted: sultanas and orange peel.

Pasticceria Papa

Pasticceria Papa HCB

Oh my. If you buy a tray of six, it looks like you receive a glossy looking tray of hot cross buns. If you ask for one with your coffee because you’re on your pushbike… it looks like you get yesterday’s stock. It was rock hard. There was no cross marking. It tasted like white bread with sultanas in it. Only sultanas.

street: 145 Ramsay St, Haberfield NSW 2045.
ph: (02) 9798 6894

Where do you find your favourite hot cross buns? Have you tried baking them yourself?

Hot Cross Buns

This year, I couldn’t stock up on my Hot Cross Buns from La Tartine. I missed the markets just prior to Easter.

HCB - tadah!

Thems mah buns.

Fortuitously, two recipes appeared in the paper for making the HCB. One from St Honoroe sourdough bakery that used fresh yeast; and just as I was converting the recipe to halve the amount and substitute dry yeast, I got one from the Blue Ribbon set of recipes that have won prizes at the Sydney Royal Agricultural show.

The changes that I have made I have indicated with an asterix (*).This took me about five hours to make, from starting with the yeast to cleaning up. Whilst I was waiting for the yeast to activate or the dough to raise, I was preparing for, or eating dinner.

HCB Ingredients
Makes 12
1 tsp dried yeast (1 packet 7g)*
1/4 cup sugar
4 cups plain flour
1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp mixed spice*
1 tsp cinnamon*
[3 teaspoons ‘spice’ mix for this amount of flour is minimum]
60g butter
1 egg
1/2 cup sultanas (200g or 2 cups)*

Ingredients for the cross
1/2 cup plain flour, extra
1/3 cup water

Glaze Ingredients
1 tbsp sugar, extra
1 tbsp hot water
1 tsp gelatine

You need a tin that will allow your buns to pull each other up by their bootstraps; that is, it is small enough so that when the buns rise, they touch each other. I used a 20cm x 20cm square cake pan, so could only bake four buns at a time.

1. Lightly grease your tin.

2. Mix yeast with 1 teaspoon each of the sugar and flour, add lukewarm milk and mix well. Cover and stand in warm place 10 to 15 minutes or until mixture is frothy.

3. Meanwhile, sift sugar, flour, salt and spices, rub in butter, add egg, fruit and yeast mixture, and knead lightly to ensure ingredients are thoroughly mixed.

4. Place dough in lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and clean cloth and stand in a warm place 40 minutes or until dough doubles in bulk.

5. Punch dough down, turn out onto floured surface and knead well until smooth and elastic. It will be really sticky, so sprinkles of flour help.

6. Cut into 3 equal pieces then cut each piece into 5 (4 for me), making 15 (Me: 12) buns in all. Knead each into a round shape. Preheat oven to 220C. Put buns on tin and stand in warm place 10 to 15 minutes or until they reach top edge of tin.

Making the cross
7. Make paste by mixing 1/2 cup extra plain flour and 1/3 cup water, fill piping bag and pipe lines across the rows of buns, forming a cross.

8. Bake 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately brush with glaze made from heating extra sugar, hot water and gelatine in a saucepan and simmering for 1 minute.

Cool buns on a wire rack.

So here we go!

HCB - the beginning

I microwaved the milk for 30 seconds, and confirmed that was cool/warm enough for a finger. Then I added the yeast/flour/sugar combo. For the yeast mixture, I let the mixture stand and activate for at least 30 minutes. It had formed a nice bubbly crust on top whilst I was putting the dry ingredients together.

I didn’t bother sifting my flour. I never have, the sifter takes up too much space in my cupboards! For the spice mixture, I used powdered ginger, all spice and a tiny bit of chinese five spice powder. I didn’t knead at this stage, I just used my mixing spoon. This was covered with some oiled cling film, and then a tea towel, atop the stove with the underneath grill turned alternately on/off.

HCB - just mixed

For the fruit mixture I used 50g mixed peel (1/2 cup), 50g cranberries, 100g sultanas. Some of the cranberries and sultanas I soaked with hot water to make them plumper.

Once the dough had risen (approximately one hour – time to cook and eat dinner), I kneaded the dough. This was made much easier by dusting my hands with flour first. It didn’t take long for the dough to feel good.

HCB - risin'

I had to cook three batches because of my small square pan. I made 4 buns per batch. I rested the two thirds dough covered in cling wrap and a tea towel whilst the preparing the first third.

HCB - boot filling

Each ‘bun’ I placed in the pan, and then waited until they rose enough to join and help each other rise. This took much longer than the 10-15 minutes as suggested, and did not reach the top edge of the tin.

I made my own piping bag by putting it in a zip lock bag and squeezing.

This worked very well until Pop!, the seam broke. The remainder giant crosses were made using the back of a spoon handle dipped in batter. The hole I cut in the bag was also a little too small.

HCB - bake ready

Next time?

Use more spice! I used the 1/2 teaspoon per spice as recommended in the recipe, but my bun wasn’t flavourful enough. I have doubled the quantities, but not yet proved this.

Next time, I would form the buns from each of the other waiting thirds of batter, and leave these to rest under cling film whilst I was cooking and preparing the first batch. The less manhandling the better, as I found that me manipulating them made them deflate. Perhaps form them on a sheet of baking paper so I could slip them straight into the pan without waiting for them to rise again?

Post-post notes

1. Spice: I have remade the recipe, and fed it to unsuspecting colleagues. Use at least 3 teaspoons of ‘spice’ for the quantity of flour. I am tempted to use more.

2. Proving:
Don’t refrigerate your dough overnight! I made a batch, and then was worried about the little gremlins growing in the batter. I then put it in the fridge, and had
~~~~~~~HCB NIGHTMARES.~~~~~~~
Don’t do it! The dough was never the same again, but ended up proving for 24 hours, part-refrigerated, part-benchtop. Well, unless it is quite a warm night, you may be excused.

3. The taste test:

I ate half of a commercial HCB this morning and compared it to my one, HCB 2.5.

Commercial: Very sweet. It had ‘grainy’/bark-like bits in it, which came from the cassia, and ended up being unpleasant and bitter.

Mine: Quite yeasty in flavour (well it had been proving for close to 24 hours). Similar level of cinnamon/allspice “speckling” to the commercial bun. Very soft. But still not quite the amount of ‘spice’ flavouring I wanted! (Almost 5 teaspoons worth).

Happy Easter everyone.