Food and Drink
Posted by Dan Kuseta
18. Apr, 2011
Spicy, sweet and cute enough to put in your pocket, hot cross buns are in season, for another week at least. Dating back to the Saxons, who ate them to honour the goddess Eostre (with the cross symbolising the four quarters of the moon), hot cross buns have become a badge of honour among Melbourne bakeries.
This week we’ve been crossing town in search of the best, employing a team of blind (folded) taste testers to judge the hottest cross buns. Buns were judged against two parameters: the first bite, where the bun was sampled as is, and the toast test, where the bun was toasted and served with butter in the traditional method.
Baker’s Delight Traditional Hot Cross Bun – $1.30
Our everyday bun has good volume and a nice glaze. One of our testers rated this bun the best looking of the bunch, and during the first bite it was described as “light and sweet”. Once toasted the praise nose-dived however, with one reviewer stating it tasted more like “fruit toast than a hot cross bun”. Still, Baker’s Delight gets extra points for offering choc-chip and mocha varieties, plus at $1.30 it’s the cheapest of the lot.
Babka, 358 Brunswick St, Fitzroy – $2.40
The biggest of the buns of offer, Babka’s goliath (below) had a lot to live up to. Made with whole oranges, this bun scored well on the first bite, and continued to impress when toasted with its balance of density, spice and fruit filling. The only concern from our finicky testers was that the buns’ size “could make them a little hard to heat evenly.” A good all-rounder.
The Radical Grocery Store, 6 Wilson St, Brunswick – $10.50 a dozen
Selling organic, spelt buns from Healthybake in Lilydale, The Radical Grocery was the only place that didn’t bake on premises, which means they’re able to stock a wide range of organic, wheat and gluten-free buns. This also meant the buns we tried weren’t baked that day, but that didn’t stop them from rating favourably with our testers, who were surprised to learn they was spelt. The base, lighter than the wheat-based buns, went down well at the first bite, though tapered off at the toast test. To quote “I would have liked to try a freshly-baked version, and a little more spice.” For those keen The Radical Grocery receives fresh deliveries of buns on Tuesdays.
Baker D. Chirico, 3/149 Fitzroy Street, St. Kilda – $2.70
Daniel Chirico’s pint-sized bun (below) is the smallest of bunch, being dwarved by the Babka and Filou entrants. It’s also the densest of the lot, scoring low on the first bite though higher once toasted. The base was described as “satisfyingly chewy”, though our testers would have liked more fruit and spice, rating the bun “a little dry”. Nevertheless, this bun has a devoted following, so much so that Baker D. Chirico is opening a pop-up shop at 178 Faraday St, Carlton (the old Video Dogs) on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday this week, with a new bakery to open in July.
Dench Bakers, 109 Scotchmer St, Fitzroy North – $2.70
8.00am and the line at Dench was nearly out the door. Slightly larger and heavier than BDC’s entrant, Dench’s bun scored high on the first bite due to its spicy notes, being universally lauded as “yum”. Once toasted it sailed even further ahead, the hot butter softening the dense base and fruit filling proving a crowd pleaser.
Filou’s Patisserie, cnr Lygon & Fenwick Street, Carlton – $3.00
Big, bold and beautiful. Filou’s had an unfair advantage as it was fresh out of the oven when we picked it up, topping the charts on appearance with its still-shiny glaze. It also swept the first bite category, thanks to its abundance of plump raisins, sultanas and citrus fruits. Once toasted it dipped slightly, as the less sugary buns tended to come into their own. Nevertheless its formidable fruit filling saw it leap ahead of Dench and Babka to be our winner in a photo finish. A new king emerges.
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