A Very Scientific Ranking Of Store-Bought Hot Cross Buns
Australians love complaining. Right now it may be about supermarket protocol and the mixed messages from our government and rightly so. But in happier times, Australians also love complaining about the Hottest 100, reality TV celebrities, and hot cross buns being sold in January.
I’ll say this: people are free to complain about whatever they want, but having hot cross buns available for a solid four months before Easter is a blessing that people don’t realise, especially in these trying times.
However, not all hot cross buns are created equal. In a quest to separate the good hot cross buns from the merely mediocre, I spent a Saturday afternoon buying, eating and ranking every hot cross bun I could find in a supermarket or chain bakery.
I ended up with twelve different hot cross buns from Bakers Delight, Brumby’s, Woolworths, and Coles. Aldi was sold out and my local IGA didn’t stock any. Also, I didn’t buy fruitless hot cross buns because I’m not a monster, sorry.
Now, my patented hot cross bun ranking methodology is as follows.
As we all know, the optimal way to consume a hot cross bun is to cut it in half, toast it, and spread with butter (Lurpak, if you can get it). However, just as often, a hot cross bun is eaten on the run. So in the interests of capturing both domains, I ate and rated the buns both plain and toasted, with Lurpak. The buns were judged according to appearance, texture, fillings and, of course, flavour.
My friend Jo also helped me judge, partly because she’s English and thus has opinions on hot cross buns, and also because it made it seem more like a fun activity and less like a sad, single person eating a dozen hot cross buns.
Onto the rankings!
Here is the definitive ranking of hot cross buns.
#12: Woolworths chocolate hot cross bun
This was a flop, surprisingly. As a non-traditionalist and lover of chocolate, I thought this would rank highly for me. It looks tantalisingly rich and chocolate-y, with a sharp, defined cross and soft, fluffy-looking bun.
The bun was fluffy, but that’s where the good things ended. This bun was heavy on the cocoa, but not in a good way—more like when you accidentally get a mouthful of cocoa powder while eating cake batter. I also couldn’t find many choc chips (I’m honestly doubting if there were any at all), and toasting it only made the weird cocoa flavour more obvious. Sorry Woolies.
#11: Coles apple and cinnamon
This bun scored low on visuals but smelled like apple pie, which I was into. Once in uni, I ate an entire frozen Nanna’s apple pie for dinner. No further comment at this time.
I’m pretty sure they just mixed apple pie filling into this bun, which sounds great in theory, but maybe my palate has improved since my entire-apple-pie days, because the fruit was a bit much. Jo (a traditionalist) called it sickly sweet, and said it wasn’t a real hot cross bun. “You could maybe eat it as pudding,” she said. The English person has spoken!
#10: Coles gluten-free choc chip
I’m not gluten-free (clearly), but these were the only choc chip hot cross buns I could find in Coles, so why not?
I was prepared for the worst, and I will say that these buns are not particularly fun to eat straight from the package. The bun wasn’t as sprightly looking as the others, and the texture was dry and breadlike.
That said, it was surprisingly okay once toasted – the butter helped with the dryness and it wasn’t as obviously bready. The choc chip distribution was decent too. As someone who can eat gluten, I probably wouldn’t buy it again, but it’s much better than I expected.
#9: Bakers Delight apple and cinnamon
This was a much better apple and cinnamon hot cross bun, with what looked and tasted like real, fresh bits of apple distributed throughout. The apple was more tart, and the cinnamon less subtle than in the Coles apple and cinnamon.
It toasted well and maintained its cinnamon and spice flavour. Not bad at all.
#8: Woolworths choc chip brioche
I loved this bun. The brioche bun was pillowy soft and almost melted in your mouth. From a visual perspective, it was very pretty too.
There were an acceptable amount of choc chips, and toasting and buttering it brought it up to a whole ‘nother level.
Jo ranked it dead last, saying “It’s not really a hot cross bun, is it?” Sorry Jo, all I wanted to do was eat tasty treats and this is it!
#7: Coles traditional
Our first traditional bun to hit the rankings was pretty average-looking but had a springy texture and good filling. The fruit was pretty sweet, and toasting made that sweetness more obvious.
Not exceptional, but not bad either.
#6: Woolworths mocha (with Darrell Lea chocolate)
This one comes pre-packaged rather than from the in-house bakery, and is marketed as “premium”. Both Jo and I were skeptical about this variety, but Woolworths and Darrell Lea have made believers out of us.
Despite the bready texture, it was delicious. The chocolate and coffee flavour was very strong, and toasting intensified the coffee flavour. There were a good amount of choc chips, and it looked pretty too. Darrell Lea lives on!
#5: Woolworths traditional
The Woolworths traditional hot cross bun was springy and very soft. It was less sweet than the Coles hot cross bun which won it points, and it looked pretty too. Plus, it was good when toasted.
It would’ve benefited from having more fruit in it, but this is a good hot cross bun.
#4: Coles chocolate
Oh boy!! This one was just okay out of the bag, but toasting it made it ten times better. It looked unassuming, and the bun itself was dense, but it had a nice, not-too-sweet chocolate flavour and a heap of choc chips that when toasted, went slightly melty.
Even Jo liked it (though she called it a “pudding” again).
#3: Bakers Delight choc chip
Now we’re in the top three, I just wanted to say that the scoring was incredibly close, and these finalists are all number one in my heart. But this is a ranking, so on we go.
Bakers Delight’s choc chip hot cross bun was excellent. It wasn’t as light as some of the other buns, but it had heaps of choc chips, and a hint of cinnamon flavour, which was a nice touch. It held up well when toasted too.
#2: Brumby’s traditional
This is the fancy shit. It cost a whole $2.20, but for that, you get a big, beautiful bun. It looks like what you imagine in your head when you think “hot cross bun”.
Past the lightly glazed crust, it was soft and bursting with fruit. The flavour was solid but also subtle. When toasted, it maintained its lightness. I have nothing bad to say about this bun.
#1: Bakers Delight traditional
Is this the right time to reveal that I actually have never liked dried fruit? I just have never understood what the appeal of shrivelled up fruit is, sorry! Just eat choc chips instead!
But wait, before you yell at me, just know that this ranking has changed me. After eating more dried fruit in one afternoon than I have in my entire life, I’ve decided that dried fruit is okay in hot cross buns. In particular, Bakers Delight’s traditional hot cross bun.
The bun was soft, the fruit was juicy, the spice levels were just right, and it crisped up well when toasted.
The winner is Bakers Delight, but the real winner is all of us, because this ranking is finally complete. Now I just need to work out what to do with 40 leftover hot cross buns.