In Australia, it would not be Easter without two staples; Easter eggs and hot cross buns. As the weather cools, there isn’t an experience much better than popping a couple of Hot Cross Buns into the oven, slathering it with butter, and taking it in.
What though, defines a good hot cross bun? In general, it would be (in no particular order):
- the sweetness level
- elements of spice
- a good glaze that adds that appetising sheen
- a soft and fluffy bun
This Easter, we’ve decided to do some of the ‘hard’ work for you and scoured the city so that we can now report back Coco & Vine’s top five favourites HXBs! BUT, before you rush out, there are just a couple caveats. Firstly, as the Easter rush goes into full gear, you may need to ring ahead and pre-order if you want to take any home with you. Secondly, if you are going to roll the dice and head out, make sure you do so early. On our trip, we quickly learned that bakeries were selling out of their hot cross buns by 11am on a Tuesday morning!
First on our list is a perennial favourite, and that is Newtown’s Black Star Pastry. For Mavis and I, it’s a special place as right next door is Oscillate Wildly, and it is where we had our wedding celebration. So it’s always special to drive down Australia Street and walk up to Black Star.
This time, I had little Sammi with me, and while she tucked into a flaky croissant, I settled on the seat outside with a flat white and my hot cross bun. It’s bulbous, with a beautiful sheen. Taking in that first bite, I took in a mouthful of sweet fruity flavour of raisins and sultanas, which then yields to a more acidic citrus flavour. It’s soft, sticky, and fluffy. In a nod to the significance of the season, the bun is laced with frankincense which accentuates the citrus notes. Black Star Pastry’s buns definitely meets the brief of an outstanding hot cross bun, and exceeds it!
Next stop, and second on our list, I sense a little bit of rebelliousness as I walk into Sonoma Bakery Cafe in Glebe.
Their’s is a not cross bun, rather it’s emblazoned with a cheeky ‘S’. Luckily though, it tastes divine. Filled with raisins, with little chunks of apricot, highlights of cranberries, and candied citrus. It too is soft, and that can be attributed to the Tangzhong water roux method. While it’s a slightly more tedious method it yields a bun that stays softer and fluffier for a longer period of time.
Number 3 on our list is a longtime favourite, Brickfields, with their breads and pastries among my favourites in all of Sydney. Their hot cross bun contribution is of that same standard.
In fact, when I brought it home, it was hard to prise the buns away from Mavis. Firstly, there is that beautiful glaze, with cranberries adding that dash of inviting red. It’s fluffy and sweet but superbly balanced with the citrus peel. As Mavis puts it, “it’s moist and squidgy”, so you can be assured that even when warmed through, it will stay perfect.
Fourth on our list of favourite hot cross buns bakers in Sydney is the offering from Bourke Street Bakery in Surry Hills. It is the bakery that keeps on keeping on. Despite the calamity that’s the Sydney light rail project, which has decimated businesses along Devonshire Street, the lines at Bourke Street Bakery have hardly diminished. If you are a sourdough or sausage roll connoisseur, well this Sydney bakery sits right at the top of the list.
Now, you can add hot cross buns to the list as well. When I walked in at 10am, the traditional hot cross buns had sold out, so instead, I was lucky enough to secure the mother of all hot cross buns, the hot cross bun loaf. A slice of the hot cross loaf introduces a good spice kick, and the fruity sweetness layers on to balance perfectly. Toast it lightly for a couple of minutes, and it will quickly fill the kitchen with a beautiful aroma. While the glaze is not as prominent as those listed above, there is still a beautiful caramelisation on the crust. Definitely one for the family.
Last, but not definitely not least, is a hot cross bun from Infinity Bakery in Darlinghurst. Along with Bourke Street Bakery, Infinity is renowned for their sourdough, and bakes a mean offering of hot cross buns to boot!
Infinity’s offering may present paler than the photos of previous hot cross buns, but don’t let this fool you. It’s soft and pillowy, with flavours of the raisins, cinnamon, and citrus coming through. Its lightness means that you may just be making a couple of extra trips to the kitchen to warm up more, as it has that addictive quality to it.
Hot cross buns are generally accessible with many of the big chain supermarkets stocking them by the half dozen. But, if you really want something special with an emphasis on the methods used to bake them and the quality ingredients in each bun, you would be hard pressed to find better than the five the Coco & Vine team have curated for you. Happy Easter everyone, and Happy Hot Cross Bun eating!