Black Star Pastry hot cross buns
Health fad: Frankincense-glazed hot cross buns from Black Star Pastry. Photo: Tamara Dean

Callan Boys

The hot cross bun is under attack. It's impossible to walk into a supermarket and not be bombarded by a baker's dozen of bun choices, each less traditional than the last. Coffee flavoured? Nutella infused? Or, egads, fruitless? No, thanks.

A penchant of Anglo-Saxon monks to slice crosses in fruit-studded baked goods gave rise to the hot cross bun we know today. The trend really took off in 19th century London and hot cross buns are now one of the cornerstones of the countries of the Commonwealth. When oven-warmed on Good Friday, they should fill homes with the smell of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves (not chocolate, quinoa and soy).

But what started off as a choc-chip here, a pinch of chilli powder there, is now an all-out assault. The conservatives are still strong, fighting the good fight to have sticky, spice-laden, fruity buns this Easter. But throwing gluten-free grenades with increasing force are a ragtag bunch of radicals, launching their misguided missiles of marshmallow and molasses onto the public.

Sourdough hot cross bun
Radical: A sourdough hot cross bun. Photo: Karleen Minney

For some bakers it's a question of health. There's a huge demand for gluten-free, grain-free, sugar-free (and some may argue taste-free) foods. Christopher The of Black Star Pastry responded to requests and created a vegan-friendly version of his frankincense-glazed hot cross buns this Easter. "Both vegans and non-vegans have been loving it," he says.

The other reason these bun crimes are being committed is the contemporary cooking adage that "if it ain't broke, prod it until it is". Chocolate hot cross buns are breeding like rabbits and orange-mocha-frappuccino-style nonsense is rampant from Bakers Delight to The Cook and Baker in Bondi Junction, where the bakers infuse their version with Earl Grey tea.

Bowan Island Bakery's Jason McMenamin suggests another reason for this silliness is "to entice the younger generation, choc-chip for the kids, traditional buns for the parents".

"What you're really after in hot cross buns is perfect aeration, properly weighted dough, a good mix of spice and the use of premium ingredients."

Amen to that.