The best and worst hot cross buns
ACCORDING to the universally recognised marker of legitimacy (Wikipedia, of course), a hot cross bun is a spiced sweet bun made with currants or raisins, marked with a cross on the top.
But roaming the aisles of the big supermarkets or browsing the offerings of your local bakery, it's fairly obvious some have taken liberties with traditional Easter recipe, or thrown it out the window completely.
Some hot cross buns are squishy, some are tough. Some are sweet, while others are straight-up spicy.
There are also modern variations - choc-cross, choc-chip, triple-choc, brioche, fruit-free (aka sacrilege) and of course gluten-free and vegan. There's something to suit everyone's taste.
The purists at news.com.au believe the traditional formula is the only way to go this holiday season, and so, in a selfless and stomach-ache inducing effort to help sort quality from crap, we've tasted all the major bun bakers' offerings.
Judging appearance, fruit content, texture and overall deliciousness, here's our verdict from five inexpert journos on the best mass-produced hot cross buns.
The bakery chain stocks chocolate, fruitless, and the unique and popular apple and cinnamon varieties, but when it came its traditional recipe, this was a bun of integrity.
The team concurred the bakers had produced nice, tidy uniformed buns with straight crosses and a generous glaze that gave a slightly hardened top. While the texture was "a bit bready", it was lighter and had a more fragrant, spicy flavour than some supermarket alternatives.
This true, traditional hot cross bun recipe (retailing at $7 for six) scored between three and four out of a possible five from all our judges.
Our verdict: 3.7/5
On shelves, the most noticeable characteristic of the Woolworths bun (which retailed for half the price of Baker's Delight's at $3.50 a half-dozen) is the variation. Some were very light in colour and others darker, some appeared to have risen higher than others, but they may have just been squished and knocked about a bit.
Buns in the packet we chose were somewhere in the middle on those two fronts, and were packed with fruit. While the chunky raisins gave a nice, sweet, slightly-spiced and fruity flavour, the doughy bread part was lacking its own flavour. There was also consensus the bun was a little doughy and seemed to settle in the stomach.
They garnered scores ranging from 2.5 to 3.5.
Our verdict: 3.1/5
The cheapest of the bunch at $2.99 for six, Aldi's Bakers Life branded buns had a lighter, blond colouring and springy texture that wasn't as dry as others. These were fruit-packed, but the distribution was all over the shop - one mouthful could be packed with soft and spicy raisin pieces and the next bite nothing but bread. The dough was described by more than one reviewer as "gluggy", but the spice-factor was satisfactory across the board.
With scores ranging from a savage 1.5 to middling 3, the Aldi buns averaged 2.3/5.
Our verdict: 2.3/5
Coles is offering a surprisingly similar product to its competitor Woolworths with a matching price, though with a little more consistency on the shelves. The golden-brown, slightly squishy buns had a lower fruit content than some others, but the chunks somehow seemed fresher and gave a nice hit of sweetness and spice.
The bun was slightly dry and felt a little stodgy, and one taster noted "wide, messy crosses".
The Coles bun scored mostly 3s and one 2.
Our verdict: 2.8/5
"Nice, neat buns." "Attractive, uniform shape." "Tight, tidy crosses."
Coming with an $11 price tag, everyone agreed the high-end David Jones offering certainly looked the best. While smaller than the others, these neat little buns packed a flavour-filled, spicy punch - the darker colour could have been a hint of the cinnamon content. The sweet spice was a little much for some tasters, but bang on for others. It's a personal preference, I guess. One reviewer observed much of the fruit appeared to have sunk to the bottom. These were definitely the fanciest buns, but according to the scores the most divisive.
While clocking up mainly high scores (up to 4.5) one reviewer gave the treat a scathing 2.5.
Our verdict: 3.7/5