26 Mar // hot buns


The great hot cross bun hunt of 2018 began early in March. Although they’d been in supermarkets since Christmas, slowly they seeped into my instagram feed with increased frequency, and so it was time to begin.

The latest in “the gourmetisation of basic foods” my boyfriend said with an eye-roll, he was outraged to see them at cafes for upwards of $3.50, lamenting they were 19p when he was young. And it’s true: this is essentially a fruit bun, something you’d expect to see in a bakery for a dollar or two. But not so in this instagram age we live in, where the simplest of foods becomes a thing and you find yourself paying $4 for an artisan, kneaded from scratch bun with a vanilla pastry cream cross.

Anyway I love the things, so ever your dutiful correspondent, I set about finding a few around the country that might get you excited this weekend. And so here I am with tighter clothes and a swathe of information about your not-so-humble hot cross bun.

[NOTE: at the outset, my aforementioned boyfriend was dubious and a bit miffed about my endeavours, since at Christmas time we did exactly the same thing with Christmas mince pies - we taste tested about twenty of the things: fancy, bog-standard, and everything in between. We gave them scores, made notes about what made them good or rubbish. He even got his legend of a Mum to send us a batch of her famous recipe (the best, of course) only to have his slack girlfriend (me) completely drop the ball and not even get the blog post published. I’m still sorry.]

We begin in Auckland, which has a very strong bun game, with Ima today showing lines out the door at their Fort Street bun fortress. Chef and owner Yael Schocat has mastered the bun, with her pièce de résistance being a vanilla pastry creme cross. They’re generously sized, well spiced, perfect with coffee, and delicious. The recipe is online! Rejoice.  

In Wellington you’ve got Leeds Street Bakery offering up a very good looking bun, and I have it on good authority that Baker Gramercy in Adelaide Road are pumping out some goodies. They’re open today and tomorrow but have a lot of pre-orders, so get in there. Put some bakers through hell for a couple of days!

Daily Bread is the new kid on the Auckland baking block, with artisan sourdough and smoked fish and pickled eggs on sprouted lentil loaf, and not almond croissants but hazelnut ones (much to my boyfriend’s chagrin) as well as a very good baguette, and hot cross buns. A steaming tray of them came out of the oven a couple of Saturdays ago, and I asked for one. When old mate behind the counter simply put it on a plate, I asked if I could have it toasted, and with a condescending smile he said ‘it’s hot out of the oven, it won’t need it’. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, but when I asked for butter, he looked at me again and said ‘honestly, you won’t need it’. I ate it, and guess what? It needed toasting and butter. I’m still bitter two weeks later.

Making up for it slightly, is Orphans Kitchen on Ponsonby Road (who has the same owners). They serve the Daily Bread HCBs toasted as they should be, and with the infamous OK burnt butter. It’s intense in a good way, and alongside a filter coffee you’ve got a pretty good time.

Other good options if you’re not interested in baking on Friday are the Loaf buns at Farro Fresh and the Pandoro ones available at Moore Wilsons (and I presume Pandoro stores). Also, the ever wonderful Amano in Auckland’s Britomart are serving up one hell of a bun. My sister brought us afternoon tea yesterday (what a GB) and it's a solid classic executed beautifully. I’m a fan.

If you’re planning on making them, I have it on good authority from excellent baker and food writer Lucy Corry that Dan Lepard’s spiced stout buns are the way to go. They only buns I’ve made before are these Alison Holst by way of HungryandFrozen, recipe here. You cream the butter and the sugar alongside your yeasty dough, which seems weird but results in a lovely soft bun.

Christchurch, cone city, I have not forgotten about you! You are in fact, very much in luck. Grizzly Baked Goods have you covered with their hot cross buns, and they are excellent. A very solid and well done classic, these are some of my favourites. Sam the man behind the buns couriered me up a four pack, and I ate two in very quick succession which resulted in a slight guts-ache but no regrets. You can order them online and I very much suggest that you do.

In Hot Cross Bun alternatives, the mad-genius Willy Wonka of New Zealand gelato, Giapo, has done a hot cross bun cone contraption, which is essentially an entire bun on a cone, filled with ice cream. I had one filled with a caramel, amaretti, and italian meringue ice cream and it was glorious.   

The Clareville Bakery, in the Wairarapa, was visited on Saturday, and their bun was pretty good, despite their staff giving me an eye roll when I wanted it toasted. They gave them a light heating and chucked butter in, and whilst they were perfectly enjoyable, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about their Hot Cross Bun doughnut, which was in their cabinet alluringly filled with cream. Not having one is my biggest regret this year to date.

I see that local take-home-dinner and cafe queen Jess’ Underground Kitchen is doing hot cross bun flavoured bliss balls. Jess, I think you’re amazing, but I have no time for your ‘healthy alternatives this Easter’. The Caker on K Rd has done a hot cross bun cake, if that’s more your thing. Hamilton’s ice cream masters Duck Island are doing a hot cross bun flavoured ice cream which I am tempted to drive all the way to Hamilton just to try it. And over the ditch, Sydney’s Continental Deli are doing a Hot Cross Bun dessert featuring Burnt Pepe Saya Butter, loaded with orange, spices, and spiked with Pedro Ximenez Sherry soaked raisins (dribble emoji). Meanwhile Australia’s ice cream kings Gelato Messina are doing a flavour called, ahem, Hot Cross Buns, which is hot cross bun gelato smashed with buttered hot cross buns. *books flights*

And so! It is Easter and this is your week for buns. You be the judge.