It’s a story as old as Easter itself: just as Christ did die on a cross and bunnies bounced around dropping chocolate pellets, so too did Auckland media sit down with the fanciest of artisanal breads and busily rank them. We at Ensemble are not immune from the charms of a hot cross bun challenge. But we conducted ours in a true ‘blind’ fashion for a truly impartial verdict.
Our testees, three food obsessed visitors from the States, not only don’t know their Daily Bread from their Bakers Delight, they’ve also never had a hot cross bun before.
“I don’t know,” one pondered mid-challenge. “What even is a hot cross bun supposed to be?” The result? Completely unbiased results that hang off the hook of one question: Does it taste good?
It’s a serious business trying to get around Tāmaki bakeries the week before Easter. The first day we tried, Ima and Amano were sold out. We pre-ordered from several places the following day.
Such foresight was however unnecessary at the supermarket and cheaper places. Due to the logistics involved in sourcing buns, we conducted our test on buns that had been purchased the day previously. We paid full price for all buns.
We are hot cross bun purists and believe chocolate and fruit should not combine and as such, were ineligible for this challenge.
A note on butter
There is a Danish word, tandsmør, which translates to ‘butter spread so thick you can see teeth marks when you bite into it’. Tandsmør shows that the Danish have an inherent grasp on hot cross bun philosophy, and for that reason it was crucial we had a Dane (albeit LA-based) in our test pool. The butter we used was Lewis Road Premium Seat Salt Crystals Butter.
The results (from worst to best)
“This one has a pretty cross.”
“Not my fave.”
“Neither here, nor there. This one feels store bought”.
6th place: Amano hot cross buns 6 pack, $20
“Smells very spicy, like Christmas.”
“Dense. Not as fluffy.”
“I like a little fluff where the butter can easily penetrate. This doesn’t have that”.
“It looks appealing.”
“I’m not mad about it. A little dense for my liking but the flavour is good.”
“Feels too cakey. Too dense, and the flavour’s not amazing.”
“Hard, fluffy, delicious, chewy.”
“A good ratio of raisins.”
“A bit bland. It’s a pinch doughy. But has a quite nice, sweet flavour.”
4th place: Ima hot cross buns 6 pack, $36
“This has a good cross”.
“It’s too much. I like the fluffy bready kind. This is too much and too dense. There’s too much going on inside. And on top.”
“Big whopper. Easily the most spices. Most fruit too. Feels fruit cakey. Dense and heavy. Quite delicious flavour though”.
“Again, it’s more of a fruitcake than a bun for me.”
“The flavour is good but it’s a little crumbly. I like the fluffier ones.”
“Very good. Not too dense. Nice flavour.”
“This one has a rounder and somewhat crispy shell.”
“More cinnamon, more flavour.”
“Way fluffier. More spices coming through. More raisins. I really like this one. It has a nice look to it as well. Just perhaps a little dry.”
1st place: Daily Bread hot cross buns 6 pack, $22
“Easily my favourite.”
“Lots of raisins, a good texture, nice and doughy with good layers, a good ratio of raisins and a good level of spice that’s not too overpowering.”
“Chewy outside with a fluffy interior, has a body to it, but is not too dense”
“Flavour is amazing and it has the right distribution of fruit and spice.”
“A complex and nuanced flavour profile. My favourite.”