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Hot cross buns: the Easter treat that seem to appear on the shelves earlier and earlier each year.
Gosh I sound cynical! I love me a hot cross bun, so much so that they have their own acronym in our household and I take them very, very seriously. You have to have the right balance of fruit (lots), spice (lots) and structure (not too light, but not too dense) to make the perfect bun. And please know that you can do better than the soulless HCB mass-produced for the supermarkets. Sure, they cost a little more – ok, sometimes a lot more! – but buying someone made by an actual person at an actual bakery just feels so much more life affirming.
And they always, always taste better.
But if you’re travelling at Easter, coming to the Byron region for a little warmth, a little blues and a little relaxation, where will you find the best buns? Regardless faith or family ritual, my bet is that many of you grew up enjoying HCBs, whether on Good Friday or Easter Sunday and you’ll want to do the same on your holiday.
With that in mind, we selflessly went about researching the Northern Rivers’ best buns. We put a call out on Facebook and Instagram asking fellow locals to nominate their favourite bakeries. While there were a few quirky outliers, there were eight that came up often enough that we decided to road test. You can thank me later!
We took a simple approach: traditional only (no wacky peanut butter choc-chip maple glazed fruitless buns allowed!). We warmed and lightly toasted them in the oven, and then added a bit of salted butter.
Notes were made, thoughts were shared and lips were smacked in preparation of this set of reviews.
Spoiler alert: there isn’t one bun that sits atop the list. As a Table family, we were split on what were our favourites because all three of us have quite different preferences. What follows instead is a rundown on eight great options to suit any preference, any budget and any location in the region.
Let the drooling commence!
There seems to be something in the air (or maybe the water) at Bangalow because there’s two cracking good options to be had in town. Butcher Baker ($7.50 pack of six) are rolling out a few flavour options and their traditional bun is simply delicious. The right balance of fruit and spice with a nice caramel overtone in the cross. Highly recommend it. Meanwhile, Choux Choux have a huge following for their pastries so there’s no surprise that their HCBs will please plenty of palettes ($1.80 each).
In Byron itself, there’s plenty of options well worth checking out but we went with two. Sunday Sustainable Bakery is rocking a slight tweak on the traditional, with apricots as part of the dried fruit component ($20 pack of six). It works really, really well. The Bread Social is known to makes a great sourdough, so it follows logic that they can make a great HCB too. Bigger and more airy than most, they’ll be flying off the shelves ($4 each).
Elsewhere in the region
Elsewhere in the region, lots of visitors will make the pilgrimage to Harvest for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I say go for the HCB if nothing else ($15 tray of six). Pretty as a picture and packed with flavour, I’ll be getting more. Or for a traditional bun that ticks all boxes, try Henry’s ($2.35 each). Lovely old-school service and as an aside, my daughter highly rates the lamingtons!
If you really, really have to
For many visitors, I know your priority may not be road-tripping in search of a hot cross bun. The good news is that even if you can’t make it to a bakery and have to combine your bun shop with a supermarket shop, there are alternatives to the standard Coles or Woolworths fare.
That means you can have your bun and eat it too!
Almond Road is a wholesale bakery in Mullumbimby which is stocked across the region in lots of independent or smaller supermarkets. Their HCBs are a solid option. Hefty, which always makes me happy. Sol Breads Byron Bay do a HCB that is high on the squidge factor – and that’s a good thing. Soft and sweet and we enjoyed it. Also widely available in independent or smaller supermarkets.
Did we miss some?
Now there’s only so many hot cross buns any family can taste test, so we had to call time out after those. Other options that were highly recommended by fellow HCB aficionados that we ran out of time and stomach capacity to test included Holy Grain in Byron, Scratch Patisserie in Mullumbimby and 100 Mile Table/The Bay Grocer in Byron. My bet is you’d be well placed with any of these. And a word for Heart Breads, our sourdough supplier of choice. Simon’s fruit buns are available year round and I’ve been known to eat more than my fair share of those!
Whatever HCB you decide to toast up over Easter, just make sure you’re supporting real people making real food at real places.