The ultimate taste test has been carried out so you know where to buy your hot cross buns for Easter.
According to a recent hot cross bun consumption survey carried out by Too Good To Go, the world’s largest surplus food app, we will each buy 4.5 hot cross buns over the Easter weekend.
Unfortunately, we will also waste nearly 10.5 million of these delicious buns, so to avoid exacerbating this statistic, SWL has done some research to find the best high street hot cross buns, so you won’t have any leftover this Easter.
Traditionally, hot cross buns are eaten on Good Friday and signal the end of Lent.
Certain parts of the bun have a unique meaning, including the cross which symbolises Jesus’ crucifixion, and the spices inside which represent the spices used to embalm him at his burial, so there is a reason why they are only eaten at Easter.
We’ve seen that lockdown lends itself to enjoying baked goods. So, what else is there to do on a Friday night but walk down your local high street and pick up six packets of hot cross buns and run a taste test?
I embraced my inner Mary Berry (and tolerated my Paul Hollywood partner) and focused on the challenge ahead. I was finally vindicated for buying a four-slice toaster – it came into its own and was outstanding.
There were in fact a lot of concerns with doing what I thought was a straightforward taste test. Would I try flavoured hot cross buns? Would I add butter and jam? Would I toast or grill them? I discovered people have strong feelings towards these humble spiced currant buns.
For pure transparency, this test is one for the hot cross bun purists.
Absolutely no flavours were considered – thanks but no thanks Marmite and cheese hot cross buns, Sainsbury’s strawberry, white chocolate and cream hot cross buns and Aldi’s rhubarb and custard variation.
If these weren’t offensive enough, the myriad of recipes inspired by hot cross buns is now ludicrous: another Aldi clanger of chilli and cheese hot cross bun with chicken and slaw for brunch; snack on some carrot cake hot cross buns, and finally ITV’s This Morning think Phil Vickery’s double decker hot cross bun ice cream sandwich is the real winner this Easter. I think we can all agree, it is not.
Walking down my local high street, the buns were purchased from five supermarkets and one artisanal bakery chain:
The buns were toasted in the mighty four-slicer for one minute 30 seconds for a perfect golden finish with a good bite. They were spread with unsalted butter, and no jam.
They were ranked from first to sixth and the criteria they were scored against was taste, quality, size and value for money.
In last place, disappointingly, was Tesco Finest. Given it was their ‘finest’ range, the judges had high hopes but were let down. They were the biggest in size by far but that was all they had going for them. There was not a huge amount of flavour and it left Paul and Mary underwhelmed.
In fifth position, just, was Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference. Unfortunately, the judges could not taste any difference. Bland taste and a shrug of the shoulders was the reaction. The quality was similar to Tesco but due to noticeably symmetrical white crosses, Sainsbury’s slightly edged ahead.
In fourth was Lidl Rowan Hill Bakery. The easy winners in terms of value for money – the only six-pack and the cheapest at 79p. Slightly on the smaller side but they made up for it with an attractive golden finish. Paul and Mary finally started to taste a little bit of spice and it didn’t just taste like a fruity roll, like the previous contenders.
Third position was a pleasant surprise with Gail’s. The judges were caught off guard as it was a much darker bake with the cross almost blending into the bun. However, Gail’s had a variety of currants, sultanas and cranberries which made for an enjoyable sweetness. Mary felt it was quite doughy, but the sweetness of the berries lightened the bun. At a fiendish £1.80 per bun, this is for the extravagant Easter revellers amongst you. The judges didn’t think it was worth the price.
In second position was Waitrose Essential. Paul and Mary didn’t have high expectations as the finish was very light brown and didn’t look the prettiest. However, the taste was excellent and had a nice bite before you reached the soft centre. At £1, the judges were impressed with the quality.
Drum roll please, first place was awarded to M&S Luxury. Delicious. Perfect golden bake. The right balance of sweet juicy currants and spiced dough. It ticked all boxes and was a faultless hot cross bun. It sits at the pricier end of the scale, but Paul and Mary unanimously agreed it was worth the £1.75. Well done M&S, these HCBs certainly deserve their ‘luxury’ title.