Sunday, 31 March 2013

Hunting for Hot X BUN(nie)S.

The culinary palate at this time of year calls for two things: Chocolate (obviously) and Hot Cross Buns. Fearing an impossible task in trying to discover the best easter eggs and inspired by the glorious features of the Denizen I opted to hunt down and critique the BEST Hot Cross Buns Auckland had to offer.  
Let the hunt begin...

Using their leads, one sunny Friday morning I directed a stroll toward Newmarket via two possible contenders. Heart of Flavour is a boutique dessert and cake shop run by the talented duo Frank and Michelle. Gunning for the best first –(according to Denizen) I purchased a couple of their fresh and still warm buns to continue en route. The scent instantly filled me with joy and as a examined the buns’ sticky glaze spread over the signature white cross my mouth dribbled a little. Gems of dried fruit peeping out through the dough meant I indulged immediately. Bliss. Light and fluffy in texture, perfectly balanced between fruity and spicy but moreish and moist enough to chow down without butter or heating. Unsure how any other could come close I continued the search…
HBC Contestant # 1.

Next stop was the infamous Sabato Deli. The buns here are delivered fresh every morning from the award-winning Wild Wheat Bakery. Fellow foodie and I meandered around cleansing our palate and filling our intrigue with the latest and greatest olive oils, vinegars and chutneys. After ooing and aahing at every new product we made our purchase and prompt exit. With a darker colour tinge and slightly more dense texture we barely reached the end of the driveway before giving them a try. Slightly less sweet than the first, this one carried a strong citrus tone and although chewing required a tad more vigour it was a pleasure all the same. Vouching as slightly heavier on the spice sector I wandered home to devour them both hot. Both were delicious in their own right and mental notes were reserved for judging later.
Critical analysis underway.

The next two contenders were found on Dominion Road. Pandoro Panetteria has a series of retail bakery branches throughout Auckland and Wellington. Their bun was the most expensive of all purchases. But one taste-tester had it as her ultimate ‘fave’. I found this one to be particularly lemony and sweet with big chunks of zesty orange peel, it was relatively light but a pleasant texture all the same.

The contenders continued...
The second D-road purchase was from Nosh Food Market - the boutique supermarket who house the brand Loaf; Handcrafted breads created by Sean Armstrong. This little number was much darker on the colour palate, rather dense and almost cakey in texture. With its strong gingery undertones I likened it to a gingerbread loaf (fancy that) studded with raisins and currants. But the particular bun chosen by the Nosh cafĂ© staff was a crusty corner, nearing the stale scale. Putting it at a slight disadvantage from the get-go and meant it demanded to be consumed at home with its’ dear friends heat and butter. 
Chocolate vs. Original - battling it out at Tart Bakery.

After three failed attempts to taste-test Little and Friday’s version of the HCB. I resorted to finding another contender. My next entry was Tart Bakery a relatively new addition to the Grey Lynn suburb. As I watched the super-friendly, super-passionate lady at the counter sprinkle fresh white dust over a customers’ Raspberry Brioche I knew this would be a strong contender. Trays of both classic and chocolate Hot X Buns adorned the top of the cabinets and for research purposes I ordered one of each. The cheapest of the haul I headed home to taste test and both did not disappoint. The chocolate version was to be expected – sweet, sticky and delicious. Call me old-fashioned but it was only the spiced versions that had a shot in this race. Having the highest fruit ratio of all meant it upped the sweetness stakes, complemented by just a touch of spice all together it made for a pleasurable mouth experience (with the right amount of chew!). Extra points for the flavour and texture of their white cross.
Most fruit & best cross.

One final stop lead me to losing my Whoopie Pie virginity. And what better way than with an Easter Hot X Bun inspired version. Spiced, orange, fruity cake domes filled with orange buttercream and topped with a white chocolate cross of delight. Needless to say I enjoyed it very much. Although when a girl wants an HCB no matter how whoooop the pie might be. Simply nothing else will do. 
The Hot Cross Pie.

So the verdict…this is one of those horrible moments where no winner is announced and like the PC nation that we are we applaud everyone for their high-quality buns. Got ya! It is true though – all buns were tasty and enjoyable in their own right and most non-food-obsessed individuals would be happy as larry with any of these Hot Cross Buns. As long as they are served slightly warm with lashings of butter and jam. This festive treat is a winner for everyone. However…
The jury voted.

I have a winner in my mind – possibly skewed by a certain family connection, but I am not afraid to celebrate it…. Heart of Flavour wins my palate vote. The passion and pride in this business runs from the store name to every last crumb of cake. The perfect amount of class (the only entry served in a white cake box), flavour, texture, spice, sweetness, zest, balance, bready-ness and true to its traditional roots. I felt like the HCB had been individually crafted for my tastebuds, as opposed to being mass produced to feed any hungry mouth it lands in. I have my stash ordered for Easter and am looking forward to devouring this one all over again. Happy Easter everyone. X 
My winning Hearts of Flavour.
Note: Unfortunate circumstances meant that on my Easter Sunday I was deprived of consuming my winning buns of choice. Resorting to the trusty Te Puke Bakery, my point was proven that served with warm and buttered any Hot Cross Bun devoured on Easter will be satisfyingly delicious. 


  1. You must live close to me as all these places are local to me too. Excellent round up and judging and it must be hard to sample so many good but similar buns while still keeping up enthusiasm.

    The whoopie pie one looks pretty funny. I think I'd pick that one on ingenuity alone.

  2. So sorry I have just discovered this now - thanks for your comment. :)

    Hot X Buns seemed like a life time ago, but I am would happily do it all again in the name of research :-P