It seems like we've been eating hot cross buns forever, given they went into stores not long after Christmas, and this was a late, late Easter. But who's complaining. Our self-appointed expert hot cross bun panel tasted its way through some of the buns on offer from Canberra's bakeries this year. Hop to it and get them while you can.
The Flute Bakery
The Flute has a tried and tested recipe that is always popular. A generously sized roundish bun, it's light and fluffy and there's a distinct citrusy smell to them. They use orange oil instead of peel so there's no tough bits. Our sample was a little sparse of fruit, but perhaps that was just bad luck.
$3 each, 8 Barrier St, Fyshwick
Three Mills Bakery
A homely, rustic looking bun packed with plenty of fruit - sultanas, mixed peel and currants. Baked to golden brown, offset with a good glaze and generous cross, the texture is not too dense and the bun, on a whole, is very satisfying. Neatly presented in a white box of six. They're available at the Three Mills Bakery in Majura, or from most IGAs ($15.90 for a six-pack), Wiffens in Fyshwick and the Cook Friendly Grocer. This week they'll be doing a special flavour - sour cherry and pistachio with a spiced merlot glaze - and some chocolate ones as well. You can pre-order them online.
$3 each, 5 Lancaster Place, Majura
Sonoma's traditional "not cross buns" - there's an S, not an X piped on top - were sold out mid-morning on the day of our testing so we tried their chocolate version. Full of sour cherries, cranberries and chocolate chunks, they were flavoursome and not too chocolately. One tester thought he could eat half a dozen himself without much trouble. Sonoma's first entry in our guide and they may well be the winner.
$3 each, 21 Lonsdale St, Braddon
These vegan offerings looked hard and dense, a little like a damper perhaps. But they smelt good and there was a shiny glaze. Made fresh every morning, they've been selling well to the converted but the taste testing panel thought they needed a good slathering of butter. But that's not allowed.
$5 each, 18 Lonsdale St, Braddon
The Knox Made in Watson
The Knox's traditional bun gave the Sonoma bun a run for its money. All that was lacking was a little touch of spice. We like the non-traditional cross and there was a good amount of fruit. The chocolate one also impressed, with a good portion of chocolate chunks, it tasted more like a chocolate croissant. Another impressive debut entry.
$2 each, 13 Watson Place, Watson
An offshoot of the stalwart patisserie at Belconnen Markets, and the popular Tinker Tailor venue in Casey, Knead Bakery, near Teddy Pickers and The Pedlar in the new Campbell Precinct is somewhere we will revisit soon. Great customer service and all we were after was a hot cross bun. There was a nice spice to dough ratio but ours was a little light on fruit.
$2.50 each, 65 Constitution Avenue, Campbell
Silo Bakery and Cafe
Silo's buns tasted a lot better than they looked. They were quite flat and dense looking but the eating was a pleasure. Full of spice - we couldn't determine if they were Easter spices or Christmas spices, is there a difference? - the dough was light and flavourful and there was lots of fruit.
$4 each, 6 Giles St, Kingston
A dense bun without a lot of flavour, good for those who don't like too many spices. Remy's buns shone with a glaze that was thick and syrupy, a touch of honey perhaps? Contact the Fyshwick bakery for availability and pre-orders. They're also available from some Supabarns around town.
$2 each or six for $10, 8 Townsville St, Fyshwick
And for something different ...
Frugii Ice Cream
John Marshall has teamed up with Three Mills Bakery for this year's hot cross bun ice cream, rich and creamy with just a touch of spice. He's been doing the Easter treat for about 15 years and it has built a firm following. On the menu in Braddon for the entire Easter break, plus a day or two after if stock is available. Frugii is open Good Friday and right through the break.
28-30 Lonsdale Street, Braddon
Enigma Fine Chocolates
Enigma is offering two hot cross bun inspired items. The first is a truffle with a ganache made with Sonoma's not cross buns and a hot cross dome which is a larger piece made with a 64 per cent dark chocolate from Madagascar and layered with their burnt honey caramel, hot cross bun ganache and a shortbread biscuit base.
30 Lonsdale St, Braddon
How good does a fluffy little steamed bao bun sound, filled with Nutella, sultanas, choc bits and Easter spices. Only $3.50 each or six for $15, but be quick, they're available they're only available until sold out.
No Name Lane, Canberra