Shameful Hot Cross Buns

It’s the season of the Hot Cross Bun, at least for Christian types. I’ve noticed over the last six or seven years a number of Vancouver bakeries proclaiming their HCBs to be the best. Maybe.
The bun has suffered at the hands of mass production and in need of chest beating but I’m holding fast to my ideal (it’s not what you think).

Mine is a version I think of as sixties style. Just about everything sixties is considered cool, but not the food. However, I will argue for this hot cross bun like people will argue for Kraft Dinner. Like the sausage roll, it is getting harder to find because the bakeries that make them are next to non-existent.

The sixties HBC is studded with fake candied citrus peel and raisins. That citrus isn’t real peel at all but turnip that’s been chopped and dyed to emulate citrus – if peel were actually lurid green or orange. I can’t explain the overcompensation here, but there has to be some argument for using high fibre turnip, no?

The other contentious component is the cross, a pretty essential part of a hot cross bun. My bun has the elasticy plasticy cross with the vanilla flavour. It’s a custardy gel-like thing, piped on after baking (I think). The origin is a mystery but I figure it has more credibility than a cross made of icing, which is something the English would run out of the country.

The English – the bun is theirs dating back to the 1600s – use a plain flour and water dough for the cross, which is placed over the rich dough of the bun and baked together.

A hot cross bun is a voluptuous, celebratory food for the end of Lent. It’s in direct contrast to the plain pancakes that begin it. My version is hardly voluptuous, but if you want to try your own hand at such a thing, who better than Nigella to provide instruction?

Even though my HCB scores a big zero on the authenticity scale, the spicing is right – a bit of cinnamon, cloves, some allspice and nutmeg. It’s made for toasting and a good slather of butter. For a couple of weeks this side of Easter they’re breakfast. On Easter Sunday I bring on the coloured eggs and eat without shame.

Photo: These are Monarch Bakery’s hot cross buns, 1823 Lonsdale Ave., North Vancouver.