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Online News | What makes a hot cross bun?

Hayley Linton
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Fresh batch of buns  Supplied by Wayne Rewi

Confused about what actually makes a hot cross bun? Is it the hot... is it the cross... or is it the bun?

Well neither... don't be bun-boozled, but what makes these buns so special is actually the fruits and spices. 

Hot cross buns date as far back as the 12th century. According to legend, the buns were prepared by an Anglican monk in remembrance of Good Friday and marked with a cross. They gained popularity over time and eventually came to represent the Easter holiday.

Each year bakeries across the country take part in the NZ Hot Cross Bun Competition, allowing bakers the creative freedom to produce any flavour or style they want.

Cantabrian bakeries dominate the bun business winning three out of the last five years. So, if you are looking for delicious tasting buns, best bake your way to Christchurch. 

The 2019 award-winning Michael's Bakery is known for its superior buns, pies, cakes, and pastries. The business is family-run where the crew makes a variety of mouth-watering baked goods by hand. For more than 30 years, Michael Meaclem has owned and operated Michael's Bakery in Hillmorton.

He believes the difference between lots of different bakers and their buns is the spices and fruits they choose. Every baker has their special way of conditioning the bun. This means they will soak it in something to make it taste better, softer and more delicious.

“The biggest thing about a bun is its softness.”

Meaclem is busy baking it up making sure his buns continue to be the best on the market.

“I’m very much a traditionalist and make fruit ones only. Chocolate ones are to order for a special occasion.”

Hot cross buns can be eaten any time of the day, whether you have them for breakfast, lunch or dinner. If you're a true fan every hour is bun-o-clock and a whole bag could be gone by the end of day. They are perfect whether you like them toasted, fresh or accompanied by a cup of tea.

Bun 2 min
So many buns... so bun-licious Supplied by Wayne Rewi

The two-time winner was Artisan by Rangiora Bakery. It was named the best hot cross buns for both 2020 and 2021. The crew have spent years perfecting their recipe for customers to enjoy.

Production Manager Wayne Rewi is in charge of making sure the buns are looking their best and making sure they are all up to standard.

“There is a lot of effort that goes into the production, it is quite labour intensive.”

He said it can take up to three people on the bench to produce the 150 packets needed for the store front. In efforts to make the buns bunderful, the fruit has to be soaked and weighed, and the glaze can take hours to reduce.

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Bakery is busy baking it up in the morning Supplied by Wayne Rewi

In comparison, the owners of Copenhagen Bakery produce up to 8000 buns a day and will sell out by 2pm. 

John and Donna Thomsen have been in the bun business for 35 years and are not afraid to try new things. This year they have created the ‘why not have it all bun’ which placed them 3rd in the competition.

“It's a fond favourite of the shop.”

John has converted the English version of the hot cross bun by making it with a sourdough starter, this is packed full of fruit, cranberries, and Belgian chocolate.

They said the competition does increases awareness of their bakery, but they still have their loyal customer base. Die-hard bun fans come back year after year because they know where the best buns are. 

So, if you're still confused about what makes a hot cross bun… go try one!