The origins of the humble Hot Cross Bun date back to pre-Christian times and were thought to be medicinally potent, perhaps the spices were thought to ward off disease?
Growing up in a strict Catholic family, Easter was all about lent and going to lengthy church services and having unsightly ashes smudged on my forehead at some point and my mum not letting me wipe it off.
I used to associate the cross on the deliciously sweet buns my mum would bring home at that time of year as a strange spectre and I never really warmed to them.
As I have grown into something akin to an adult, however, I have grown to love the spicy, soft aroma-filled pillows of delight that descend upon us at this time of year.
I am personally a non-traditionalist (don't hate me), but I have sought the advice of wise hot cross bun lovers from far and wide to compile the five best hot cross buns in Auckland. Oh, and if you are like me and love baking we have some DIY hot cross bun recipes for you.
Ima owner Yael Shochat's signature vanilla bean custard cross hot cross buns are world-famous and out-of-this-world scrumptious. The team averages selling out 300 in under an hour so best to get in early. 53 Fort St, Auckland CBD
Pt Chevalier's sourdough experts slowly ferment their sourdough hot cross buns for a bun rich in flavour, and springy and moist in texture. They're also packed with fruit and spices and finished off with a sticky glaze. We advise pre-ordering online to avoid disappointment. Point Chevalier, Auckland CBD, Newmarket, Ponsonby, Belmont.
Pioneers of sourdough bread in Auckland, Wild Wheat's award-winning and handcrafted buns come with fruit, spice, and all things nice. Mt Eden, Howick, and Belmont
Bread & Butter Bakery and Cafe
Bread & Buttery Bakery make glazed bun standouts, which benefit from a slow fermentation process, and organic ingredients. Grey Lynn, Ponsonby Central and Milford
La Voie Francaise
The shiny beauties from Balmoral's favourite French bakery are light, fluffy and packed with fragrant spices, and citrus peel. Shop 4, 875 Dominion Rd, Mt Roskill
Baking your own
If you are feeling the knead to make your own hot cross buns this year (knead, get it?) we have a selection of recipes to suit everyone and even a few clever ways to use up leftover buns - on the rare chance you don't eat them all.
The recipe below, shared by the team at Ironclad, mixes up the fruit choice in these buns, which might be just the perfect thing if you are looking for something different, we also have ideas for the traditionalist below too.
Ironclad Super Spicy Cranberry and Currant Hot Cross Buns
Sticky and almost crunchy on the outer with a chewy fruity centre, the spices in these buns create the most glorious aroma. They should be served straight from the oven with lashings of butter.
¾ cup milk plus a little extra
1 t black cardamom seeds or 8 cardamom pods squashed
3 inch cinnamon stick in bits
2 star anise
5 black pepper corns
1 Tbsp yeast
1 Tbsp flour
¼ cup brown sugar
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup dried currants
½ cup glazed mixed peel
2 small eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
100 g soft butter
3½ cups strong white flour
2 Tbsp mixed spice
½ tsp salt
For the paste:
½ cup water
1/2 cup flour
¼ tsp salt
For the glaze:
2 Tbsp maple syrup
Bring milk, cardamom, cinnamon, star anise and black pepper to the boil in a small saucepan. Turn off the heat and let steep for 15 minutes.
Blitz the milk and spices in your bullet on high speed till the spices are finely ground. Measure the milk and spices mix and top up with extra milk to make ¾ c in total. *** you can blitz the whole green cardamom pods.
Heat milk and spices to just warm and sprinkle yeast, 1 t of the brown sugar and 1 T flour on top and leave in a warm place for 5 – 10 minutes till frothy.
Beat in the egg then add dried fruit, peel and vanilla and leave to soak for 10 minutes.
Stir the softened butter, 3 cups of flour, salt, and the mixed spice into the wet ingredients.
Sprinkle remaining half cup of flour onto the bench and tip sticky dough onto this and knead for 10 - 15 minutes till dough is shiny and elastic. Add more flour if the mixture is sticking to the bench.
Form into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl covered in a tea towel. Leave to rise in a warm place till doubled in size. This might take a couple of hours depending how warm the day is. If it's cold, place the bowl in the oven with just the light on. This will provide enough warmth for the dough to prove.
Tip dough onto a lightly floured bench and knead for 10 minutes. Poking in any dried fruit that escapes! And adding more flour if it gets to sticky. The dough should never get dry and crumbly.
Form the dough into a ball and chop into 4 equal quarters. Place one quarter to the side. Chop remaining 3 pieces into 4 pieces each to from 14 equally sized dough balls. Arrange 12 of these balls in your lightly greased Ironclad Pan. And add the leftover two balls to the quarter you put aside earlier.
Mix flour and water paste together, stirring well to remove all lumps and pipe a cross pattern on top of the buns.
Leave to rise for an hour in a warm place
With the extra dough, form into large dough ball, place on a greased baking tray or Lil' Legacy Pan, pipe a cross on the top and leave to rise for one hour.
Bake at 180C for 30 minutes for the little buns and an extra 5–10 minutes for the larger bun.
Remove from oven, brush with maple syrup and serve immediately with lashings of butter.
More bake-your-own bun inspiration
For the traditionalists and the fruit haters we have more hot cross bun recipes to please.
For the leftovers, if there are any.
Happy Easter everyone!