Posts Tagged ‘the hunt for the perfect easter bun’

HCB Comparo, 2018 edition

The hot cross buns appeared on supermarket shelves on boxing day, 26 December 2017. I resisted until February, then I started walking past the supermarket on a Monday morning, on my way to work. My weakness – mocha hot cross buns, particularly if they were still warm from the oven and slightly undercooked. I can stop any time. Really. I’m not addicted. Then that big supermarket chain “ran out of mocha flavouring” about a fortnight before easter and my hopes were dashed two fold.

This year, we take the HCB smack-down trans-Tasman. That’s right, show us what you got, New Zealand!

Kitchen by Mike ($5):

Kitchen by Mike Hot Cross bun
It was a bit dry from the air as they were all separated in the cabinet. They were cut apart rather than pulled apart by hand. Very dense dough, the glaze on top was very yummy, possibly infused with orange peel. This might have been a bit better if it had been heated in the microwave.
$5 ea.
Kitchen by Mike @ Mascot (Sydney Airport, International)

Zumbo ($2.80):
Zumbo Hot Cross bun

Also taste tested in 2017. Still soft a few days after buying. This was heated in the microwave. Lovely and doughy with a nice strong spice with sultanas and orange peel.
$2.80 ea.
There are Zumbo stores in Rozelle, Star City (Pyrmont), QVB (Sydney City), South Yarra (Melbourne).

Ima Bakery (NZ):
Ima Bakery (NZ) - Hot Cross bun
This bun had just come out of the oven. Not as heavy on the spices as the zumbo HCBs. The bun felt quite heavy, but it was nice and doughy. The glaze seemed to be just a sugar glaze. The custard cross was nice, but it didn’t blow me away like the one from Le Chocoreve. I think that one had a lot more spice.
$5.50 NZD Ea.
Ima bakery @ Auckland, New Zealand.

Amano Bakery (NZ):

Amano Bakery (NZ) - Hot Cross bun
I like the “A” is for “Apple” (or possibly Anarchy or Amano) on top of the bun. Brioche like texture. The bun was a little less heavy in weight than from Ima. The dough was fluffy but more ‘dry’ than the others. Sultanas and mixed peel that left a tingly mouth feel. Interesting, but not a fave.
$3.50 NZD each.
Amano Bakery @ Auckland, NZ.

Wild Wheat (NZ):

Wild Wheat (NZ) Hot Cross bun

The cross is very faintly marked. These are a fave of a mum of a friend of taste tester two, because they taste “wholesome”, and taste tester two is in agreement. It isn’t overly sweet. Spices are noticable, but not too over the top. It left a slight tingling feeling in the mouth which is likely the nutmeg and mixed peel. The glaze/wash on top of the bun seemed to be something more than the usual sugar glaze which was nice. The dough was good, not over the top doughy, but not brioche in texture like Amano.
$3 NZD each.
Wild Wheat @ Auckland, NZ. There is also a Brisbane outpost, I shall have to visit next time I’m in the area.

Flour and Stone ($3.50):
Flour and Stone Hot Cross bun

I had the advantage of grabbing this one just out of the oven. The glaze was very sticky, with bun itself having a good orange peel taste (leaving my mouth tingly), and a solitary sultana. This was last tasted in 2013.

Flour and Stone @ Wolloomooloo.

Earth to Table ($7.90):

Earth to table hot cross bun

If a HCB is ‘raw’, can it really be termed a “bun”? This was very dense and kind of like a HCB flavoured protein ball rolled in coconut. Raspberry Chia jam in the middle.

Earth to Table @ Bondi Junction.

Le Breton ($1.80):

Le Breton hot cross bun

This was an interesting looking cross, yellow in colour and skinny. It actually had a taste (slightly sweet, custard like), and wasn’t inedible. The HCB had a lovely dense dough, not very spicy and a custard-like cross, which was preferential to Ima (Auckland, NZ).
$1.80 ea, 6 for $8.50, 12 for $16.
Le Breton @ Mosman.


Delica hot cross bun
Almost like a control, this one was tried originally in 2014.

Not exactly a memorable bun, but I like the cross because it was actually edible and not just a decoration.
$2.40 each, 6 for $12.50.
Delica Bakery @ Naremburn.

Victor Churchill:

Victor Churchill hot cross bun
Super sticky and thick glaze that was a little jam-like. Decent spices. Tingly mouth aftertaste. Very doughy texture, almost as if the dough is still raw.
Victor Churchill @ Woollahra.

San Antonio Bakery ($2.5):

San Antonio bakery hot cross bun
I liked the look of the cross, but it was tough and inedible. Slightly spicy, but a bit of a bitter aftertaste.
San Antonio Bakery @ Kirribilli, Balmain, Coogee.

Zumbo, with salted caramel injection:

Zumbo Hot Cross bun
Is there anything that salted caramel doesn’t make better?
Actually, this.
You take one good thing, add another, but unfortunately the salted caramel completely overwhelmed the taste of the chocolate hot cross bun.
$3 ea.
There are Zumbo stores in Rozelle, Star City (Pyrmont), QVB (Sydney City), South Yarra (Melbourne).

Merchants of Ultimo ($3.50):

Merchants of Ultimo - hot cross buns

Orangey fanta spicy smell. Puffy texture. Good eating when baked on that day and eaten cold. The cross decorative mixture has been used to make hot happy buns as well as hot cross buns. The cross mixture has me a little intrigued, as you can see that it was puffy once, and has defalted with cooling. Perhaps more oil than just a flour water mixture? Reminds me a little of edible paint that I used on the eye pies. This is actually produced by “Bakers Lane”, a concession stand inside the Merchants of Ultimo eating area.
$3.50 ea, 6 for $12.
Merchants of Ultimo @ Glebe.

Coogee Bay Pavillion ($3.50):
Coogee Bay Pavilion hot cross bun

A surprise find, this place was open on Good Friday. Noticible spices in the dough. Spares on the fruit with only cranberries and currants. Dough on its own seemed quite sweet. Nice fluffiness in the dough, but on the drier side. The cross was sweet like custard, and edible when cold.
$3.50 ea.
Coogee Bay Pavillion is @ Coogee.

Saga, Enmore ($4):

Saga Hot Cross bun
“Spiced brioche, tons of fruit and peel, standard cross, glazed with tears from the Easter Bunny” – Andy Bowdy.
Nice strong smell of spices. Very buttery dough, slightly bitter/sour taste from the spices. Once heated, the cross was nice, not too hard, but nothing special. Different sized sultanas that had a nice spiciness and not overly sweet like other HCB.
$4 ea.
Saga @ Enmore.

La Bancz ($3.5):

La Bancz hot cross buns
There was a hot tip on this one having a “custard-like cross” that we used to take for granted from Le Chocoreve. One morning at 7am when the bakery opened, they weren’t available. the next time at 10am, they were all sold out. Third time lucky.
A pleasant fruit bun – was nice to eat cold. Almost no spice flavour with sultanas, currants, cranberries, and a little mixed peel. Very soft pillowy bun. Custard cross was quite sweet and the glaze soaked into the base to make it a little wet. Overall, quite sweet. Still pleasant when heated but does not improve with heating. The dough was noticeably darker in colour than your ‘standard’ HCB; and had a slightly gritty mouthfeel.

$3.50 each, 4 for $12, 6 for $16, 12 for $30.
La Bancz@ Rozelle.

Victorie ($3.5):

Victorie hot cross bun

This one is a strange beast, a franken-bun. The top is croissant. The base is hot cross bun. The HCB dough was nice and gooey. Nice spice flavour without too much bitterness. Some sultanas and mixed peel. Not too sweet.

$3.50 each, 6 for $18.
Victorie Bakery @ Cammeray and Rozelle.

Woolies fruitless
No photo.
Seriously, why bother? Tasted and smelled like plastic.
6 for $3.50

Woolies Mocha
No photo.
When I had these hot out of the oven, and slightly undercooked, you had this heady mocha-spicy chocolate aroma wafting throughout the office. When they were running out of ‘flavouring’ they were a dry and overcooked hamburger bun, and when I stopped to taste them as they were, without the smell crying “eat me, eat me”, they were a little bit ordinary. Taste tester two tried one at an easter bun function at work, and declared that it had a faint plastic aroma.
6 for $3.50

Paddy the Baker (three for $10):

Paddy the baker - hot cross bun

Big, puffy. A slight glaze on top. Taste and smell inoffensive. Not memorable. Not made from the same stuff that the Irish Soda Bread is made of. I don’t think it contains potato. I like the potato bread much better.

Paddy the Baker @ multiple market locations around Sydney.

If we are comparing Le Bancz to Le Breton, Le Breton is better flavour wise (less sweet), and much better value for money. Le Bancz is like a very pleasant fruit bun that is nice to eat cold.

The HCB preferences this year (in no particular order):
Merchants of Ultimo – smells like fanta, and the hot happy/cross bun face motif
Zumbo chocolate – nice and strong on the spices
Victor Churchill – very dense dough, and crazy amount of spicy glaze
Le Breton – incredible value, and a yummy custard cross.


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!