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Hot Cross Buns

Herald Photographer Tamara Dean went along to Black Star Pastry in Newtown to watch hot cross buns being made.

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NOT even centuries of religious custom have spared the hot cross bun from reinvention.

This Easter, as well as the conventional bun filled with spices, candied sultanas and rind, you can choose mocha, choc-chip, sour cherry, gluten-free, miniature and even fruit-free varieties.

But some re-creations are inspired by tradition. At Black Star Pastry in Newtown, the hot cross buns are topped with a frankincense glaze.

Frankincense infused hot cross buns made by head chef Buster Brown at back right at 'Black Star Pastry' in Newtown, Sydney. 30th March 2012.
On the nose ... Black Star Pastry in Newtown makes hot cross buns with a hint of church. Photo: Tamara Dean

"I wanted to re-create that smell you get when you step into church," the bakery owner, Chris The, a pastry chef with 17 years' experience, said.

The chefs grind up the resin, which is chewed as well as burnt in Middle Eastern cultures, and boil it into a glaze. The buns' centres are filled with currants and raisins. They cost $3.50 or $18 for six.

Other chefs offering adventurous alternatives include the Sydney patissier Adriano Zumbo, whose chocolate-dipped hot cross cakes are filled with cinnamon and raisin mousse, orange gel, and a bread and butter pudding insert.

These are examples of what the Sydney food blogger Melissa Leong calls "haute cross buns".

Even supermarkets are expanding their ranges. This year, Woolworths is introducing a white chocolate and cranberry bun variety.

"They're at the more indulgent end of the hot cross bun spectrum," Benedict Brook, a company spokesman, said.

Woolworths expects to sell 17 million hot cross buns in NSW this Easter. Sales peak on Maundy Thursday, when the company expects each of its stores to bake an average of 10,000 buns.

Between Woolworths and Coles alone, an estimated 90 million buns will be sold across Australia over Easter.

Despite the proliferation of choices, Woolworths says more than half of all hot cross buns sold in its stores are the standard variety.