As soon as hot cross buns started appearing in supermarkets earlier this year, I promised myself that I would wait until March before I succumbed and bought some to enjoy. I have a moral objection to supermarkets selling Easter goods immediately after Christmas. After all, it’s slightly ridiculous to have Easter eggs and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates sitting next to each other in the first week of January!
I finally caved in this weekend, and bought a variety of hot cross buns from the two largest grocery retailers in Australia – Coles and Woolworths supermarkets, as well as from the largest bakery chain, Bakers Delight.
Doing this did mean that I ended up buying 30 hot cross buns. Unfortunately, the Coles and Woolworths hot cross buns only come in packs of six (or nine, for mini hot cross buns), so…well, let’s hope that they freeze and defrost well, as I think I’ll be eating them for weeks to come!
Taste-testing parameters: 1) All buns were tested untoasted; 2) Fruit or spiced buns were tested with Buttersoft spread, chocolate buns were tested without any spread at all; 3) All buns were tested on the day of purchase.
- Bakers Delight traditional hot cross bun ($1.40 each): The most enjoyable out of all the traditional hot cross buns. Sweet, sticky glazing, sufficiently spiced with cinnamon, with a crisp top and doughy inside. Large in size, perfect for an afternoon tea snack with lashings of good quality butter.
- Bakers Delight fruit-free hot cross bun ($1.40 each): Lacks that extra ‘something’ without the inclusion of sultanas and other dried fruits. While the bun is extra-spiced with cinnamon to make up for it, it still doesn’t quite hit the mark.
- Bakers Delight chocolate chip hot cross bun ($1.40 each): This bun tastes of the holidays…that’s the best way I can think of to describe it. Unlike other chocolate hot cross buns, this retains an element of the spiced cinnamon-y goodness of a traditional hot cross buns, so you get a chocolate cinnamon mix that reminds me of sipping on a mug of spiced hot chocolate during the holidays.
- Coles fruit hot cross buns ($3.50 for six): Like the Bakers Delight traditional hot cross bun, this has a nice glazed top and doughy inside. Unlike the Bakers Delight hot cross bun, this bun isn’t quite as well spiced, and relies primarily on the fruit for flavour.
- Coles chocolate hot cross buns ($3.50 for six): This is super chocolate-y – not for those without a sweet tooth. There’s no spice to this hot cross bun at all, and I would be more inclined to call it a dense chocolate brownie-esque brioche that just happens to have a white cross on it. Great as dessert, not so great just as a snack.
Note – Coles had a few other interesting flavours in store, but I decided not to try them. They also do Apple & Cinnamon and Raspberry & White Chocolate – I’d be interested to give them a go next time!
- Woolworths traditional hot cross buns ($4 for six – on sale for $3.50 this week): These are noticeably smaller than both the Bakers Delight and Coles buns, and a bit denser as well. They’re also more misshapen and mis-sized, meaning that if you were sharing a pack with your family, one person would be stuck with a smaller bun. Unfortunately, they’re not well-spiced, nor glazed with a crispier top – it’s doughy all the way through and just a tad on the bland side.
- Woolworths mini milk chocolate hot cross buns ($3.50 for nine): These were less than impressive – caught halfway between a sweet chocolate dessert bun (not chocolatey enough or sweet enough), and a plain bun for a snack (too sweet for a savoury snack). It fulfills neither of those particular needs, and is stuck in a limbo of confused halfway foods.
Overall, Bakers Delight hot cross buns are by far the best currently on offer in a mass-market setting. They’re flavourful even when they’re fruit-less, they’re glazed and crisp yet doughy when they’re fruity, and they taste like sweet chocolatey cinnamon happiness when they’re chocolate chipped. They are pricier though as you buy them singularly, so if you prefer to eat your hot cross buns in bulk, they’re probably not for you.
If you’re a bulk bun eater, I recommend the Coles hot cross buns over the Woolworths hot cross buns. While they’re not quite as tasty as the Bakers Delights buns, they do a much better job of addressing a particular need (e.g. a dessert need, or a snack need), and are much more satisfying in that sense.
Unfortunately, the Aldi that I visited were not selling hot cross buns. Does anyone know if its an item that they stock? If so, I’d definitely be interested in trying them, as previous experience has shown that Aldi’s seasonal baked goods range (e.g. Christmas panettone) are far superior to any offerings by Coles or Woolworth!