If you want top quality hot cross buns at a good price, you may be best to make them yourself.
Sophie Gray, of the Destitute Gourmet wasn't impressed by the quality of most supermarket hot cross buns. And she said making them at home wasn't as daunting as it sounded. You should be able to make a batch within a couple of hours, including the time the dough will take to rise.
"You can make superb ones for a fraction for the price you'd pay for three or four good bakery ones," Gray said. A batch of her homemade hot cross buns cost her $6.47 to make, 27c each.
The difference between a good hot cross bun and a not so good one was in taste and texture, she said. The supermarket ones smelled good but they often didn't live up to expectations.
"Ones from the supermarket are pretty poor. The bread is super fluffy, they don't have that gratifying chew. They're not spicy enough, either.
"They're catering to the lowest common denominator, making something everyone can bear rather than something that some will love."
A home-made version would be denser and more satisfying, she said. People were more interested in quality than quantity, she said. "You might have less in order to have a special version."
And you could expect to pay up to $3.50 for an individual bun at some specialty bakers.
Pandoro bakery in Parnell ($2.90 a bun or $10.90 for six) has been selling hundreds of hot cross buns in recent weeks. A spokeswoman said they were different from the supermarket variety as they were dense, with fruit such as oranges, lemons and dates.
The bakery sold about 80 packs of six a day, had sold 120 the Friday before last weekend and expected to sell about 300 a day over this long weekend.
Andrew Kleine, at Ponsonby's Il Forno ($2 each), said whether a hot cross bun was satisfying would come down to whether it had the right flavour, level of moisture and fruit. "We soak our fruit. There's also no chemicals."
Kim Evans, of Little and Friday ($3.50 each), said shoppers could get an idea of whether a bun would be any good by looking at its shape and colour. "It should have a rounded top and a shiny glaze. You don't want it to be too pale."
Buns that were flat would be too stodgy, she said. Little and Friday would sell about 3000 buns over the Easter weekend, she said.
Gray recently asked her followers on Facebook what they thought of chocolate being added to hot cross buns. "The overwhelming response was there's nothing wrong with chocolate in things like spicy bread but people don't think hot cross buns should have chocolate in them."
She said people had "traditional views about traditional food" and would seek out hot cross buns that were what they were used to.
"I was disconcerted to find hot cross buns have been for sale since the end of January. This is an Easter tradition. The availability spoils it."
Butter once again feeling the love
New Zealanders are more likely to spread hot cross buns with butter this morning than in years past.
New Zealand butter sales are rising in value (up 7 per cent in the last year) and volume (up 3.1 per cent).
Butter has grown its share of butter and margarine category in the past three years, Nielsen supermarket research shows.
Peter Cullinane, of premium butter-maker Lewis Road Creamery, has noticed a big change in consumer behaviour.
"There was a fundamental shift in the 1970s and 1980s to margarine because of concern about fats, but now that's in full retreat."
A recent study showed no evidence to support the idea that saturated fat in butter increases the risk of heart disease.
People are watching more cooking shows on television, in which chefs reach for butter, and seeking natural food, he says.
"The lovely thing about butter is that it's a really simple product."
New Zealand had traditionally churned out butter that was less high-quality than it could be, as the industry looked to extract the most value out of every litre of milk, he said.
"The difference between ordinary butter and good butter is the taste and texture."
• Pandoro: $2.90 or $10.90 for six
• Il Forno: $2 each
• Bakers Delight: $8.99 for six
• Countdown: $3.79 for six
• New World: $4 for six
• Little and Friday: $3.50 each