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And so it starts … Hot cross bun tour 2009

So many hot cross buns. So little Lent … only 40 days (officially 44)

I started with two favorites from previous years
- Hopkins Street Bakery
- Virginia Bakery

HOPKINS STREET BAKERY
2 for $1.50 or 85 cents each.

The new owners changed it and it loses its number one ranking and drops currently to fourth place. It is still a fine bun. However it is bordering on a good raisin bun. The assertive cardamom spicing saves it from that though. My mouth is still pleasantly cardamom flavored a while after eating the bun.

There are just whole raisins, golden and black. The amount of raisin is just right though. No citron or candied fruit. The soft texture is nice and it is pleasantly yeasty

They do make one swell hamantaschen to switch to another religious pastry

VIRGINIA BAKERY

$1
Better than 2008 but not as good as a few years back.

Two types of crosses - lemon and custard. Light white sugar glaze.

The bun was more like a soft Danish There was less citron and candied fruit and it was finely chopped which is a great improvement. .

The custard cross while tasty, had A LOT of egg yolk in it turning it an alarming color like the blocks of medium cheddar cheese at supermarkets.. Lemon was fine

THE PERFECT HOT CROSS BUN

Over the years I’ve mellowed in terms of requirements.

In the past, I had standards … white icing cross, generous raisins, restrained candied fruit, not spiced with cloves.

The heck with it … some of the best buns didn’t meet those standards

Given how the buns seem to change over the years, I’d appreciate any current sightings and recommendations. I would however, be reluctant to try some of the buns at the bottom of my list though without multiple thumbs up reports.

Emporio Rulli is an exception because one year it was perfection and then dive-bombed to the bottom. I keep hoping the original returns.

Which is why I torture myself every year with Boudin which once had the perfect bun and then seemed to do the impossible by making them worse each year. Just when I think they hit an all-time low they dig the pit deeper. Maybe … maybe … someday they will see the error of their ways and return that perfect bun.

List of hot cross buns I have tried
http://www.chow.com/lists/1138

List of hot cross buns to be tried or re-tried
http://www.chow.com/lists/1245

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  1. Do you think you'll try to visit the much recommended places that you didn't make it to in the past couple of years? Destination is what comes to mind.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Atomica

      Yes. That is one of my prime targets. I might have a little more time to fool with my crawl this year and I'm really going to make it a ... uh ... destination.

      1. re: Atomica

        Yeah, finally made it a destination. Someone else ... maybe you? ... described it perfectly ...

        " ... about three inches across. Studded with raisins, it has a real taste of citrus zest, and in fact, you can see tiny flecks of orange zest in the dough. Topped with a nice vanilla icing cross, it's quite delicious. To make it perfect, I would wish for a slightly lighter, yeastier dough" ,

        The icing cross in very generous and it seems also to have some orange flavoring to it, as well.There is no other spice or flavoring other than orange. I agree that the roll is slightly off and this comes as close to being a raisin bun as possible without crossing over the line. If the bun was closer to a real hot cross bun and there were a few less raisins ... as pleasant as they are ... this orange based bun would be pretty steller, the orange zest probably being more appealing to people who don't like other candied fruit.

        This is currently in no 11 place, just above Emporio Rulli. Not because it is not tasty, but because it strays too much into raisin roll territory.

        I went in the afternoon and after 2pm Destination Bakery has a special of 2 breakfast pastries for the price of one. At 2:30 there were still quite a few hot cross buns left.

        Cant's say how much they were as I also bought an apricot hamantaschen to be ecumenical in my baked goods eating. It is not part of the 2 for one deal. My total tab was $3.15.

        This was really nice. I had an excellent hamantaschen recently at Virginia Bakery in Berkeley and was thinking that was better, but I got more and more into this. It is a more elegant version and that apricot filling is just swell.

        1. re: rworange

          The Destination hot cross almost remind me of Sticky Buns at first glance, which is what that bakery was known for before it became what it is now. I wasn't impressed with their chocolate chip cookie, but I'm intrigued by your hamataschen report. If I recall, your preference was for a harder well done cookie with hamantaschen right?

          Also, this is not a recommendation so much as just a Hot Cross sighting to report, but I spotted some promising looking ones only just yesterday that caught my eye, at West Portal Bakery. Once in a while they make a few things that stand out, but by and large most of their goods are odd. If for some strange reason you find yourself out in that part of town, it's worth taking a look.

          1. re: sugartoof

            Just tried Arizmendi's hot cross bun this morning. (They will have it today and this weekend).

            I've also tried Acme, Destination, West Portal' Bakery's version this year.

            Acme I could eat every day, a good breakfast bread, but I think Destination is more what I expect from a hot cross bun, and I like it. The icing makes it special. I don't remember Acme's having any icing.

            My husband and I both did not like West Portal's compared to the others --- dry. Ok, wasn't terrible, but Destination and Acme were better.

            Arizmendi -- ok too. But here's what I'm getting. I love Arizmendi's products, but now I see that their special seasonal items are very similar! ie. Pan De Muerto, King Cake, and not hot cross buns... all have a very similar yeasty dough with fruity elements. I like them all fine but I don't think they go for what they are supposed to be like. The King Cake was too yeasty for what I expected (King Cakes in NO are really more like cake, or drier, or pastry.) Arizmendi's is definitely higher quality, don't get me wrong, than the typical King Cake I've had in NO (like a danish), but it's seems to be Arizmendi's standard special dough.

            I also wasn't crazy about the prune or dates in the King Cake.

            The hot cross bun at Arizmendi is a good size, like a hamburger bun size, and as icing or cross, I think it's a pear slice, moist. The fruit is mized in well with the dough, almost not discernible.

            I love easter!!

            1. re: rln

              Has Acme changed? It was really a raisin bun and they didn't even call it a hot cross bun. They called it a not cross bun. Yeah, I love Easter food too ... although I feel slighlty guilty looking forward to Lent.

              1. re: rworange

                It is a not cross bun, but it also has candied peel in it in addition to currants. No frosting, no glaze.

                1. re: wally

                  Yeah, like a raisin bun.

                  I have a new favorite - had Downtown Bakery's from Healdsburg version at the Ferry Building this weekend. For me, all my preferred elements. Icing, moist but not overly wet/yeasty, distint fruit parts.

      2. Are there any hot cross buns in Marin? There seems to be a dearth of nice bakeries in our county.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Sharuf

          Emporio Rulli, Sweet Things, Boulange have them.

          I want to check out Fat Angel to see if they have them. IIRC, one of the vendors at the Sunday Farmers market carries them.

          I was almost going to Marin yesterday when I got sidetracked by Fonda's $9 brunch so went to Temescal Market where no one was carrying them with Feel Good acting like they never heard of such a thing though they carried them last year from what I read. I don't get too hopeful until the week before Easter. Everything before that is just a bonus.

          One year I did see them at Mollie Stone but read the ingredient list and ... ick.

          1. re: rworange

            I bought one from Feel Good last night ($2.75). It's made from some kind of non-white flour and had very little fruit -- just a couple of specks of raisin. The orange-flavored glaze over the top was augmented by a faint icing cross (brushed rather than piped). It was surprisingly tasty -- given the lack of fruit -- but not what you're looking for.

            The HCB at the Boniere is much more traditional, but had a yellow (lemon, I think) cross, not a white one.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              I like the Feel Good bun last year, though it was not traditional. It had the expected Feel Good chewiness and a nice flavor.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                Thanks !!!. I tried twice to get the HCB at Feel Good at Temescal but they only sell it at the bakery. I keep meaning to get over to Alameda to check out those two bakeries Easter or not.

                A few more I tried, the mention of specks of raisin reminded me of ...

                Fat Angel (Fairfax)
                This had a pleaseant bun but only specks of raisins. The white Icing cross looked thin, but was tasty and was one of the best. It made me think that is why bakeries that have custard or other types of crosses ... thank heavens pineapple seems to be less popular these days ... why those often include a glaze. It is to get that white icing cross taste.

                No spice. What was interesting about this was I thought I could be detecting a faint rye background taste. Miette, as much as I hated that bun, had a rye-based bun which I think is done in Ireland. If they are using rye at Fat Angel, they are doing it right. It doesn't overwhelm the taste and gives it an interesting note.

                A Great Harvest Bread Co. (Oakland)

                White cross, but it was more like buttercream, sort of messy. This is one of those variiations I like, cross aside. Excellent soft yeasty bun. I didn't realize until I got home that they make both a honey wheat and honey white. I'm guessing I got the honey white version.

                What elevated this bun is the fruit in it. Real pieces of orange peel, dried cranberries, choppewd white raisins, whole black raisins. The fruit was just about right, not too much or too little. Not traditional, but good.

                They also make a hot cross bread, about the size of a large round of bread. Cute, cute honey bunny bread shapped like bunnies and made out of their honey wheat bread.

                Will rank these later as it is the final day for me and I've got a few places to stop

                Places that definately don't carry HCB - Brioche Bakery and Katrina Rozelle.

                Places that were sold out and will have to wait till next year, Fioreli (Sonoma), Della Fratoria (Petaluma), Actually, DF dumped the batch on the day I stopped by. They thought they didn't come out right.

          2. If you get up to Healdsburg, I love the buns at the Downtown Bakery, even though I am not as knowledgeable as you obviously are. When I lived in H-burg, I used to beg Kathleen to keep them all year long as they were the perfect breakfast, not too sweet, very satisfying. She claimed that I appreciated them more when they only came once a year. I'm still not convinced!

            1. Maybe I read it too fast, but I didn't see John Campbell Bakery (the Irish place way out on Geary) on either list.

              They got 'em and I think they're pretty good...

              1. Has anyone had any good buns farther down on the Peninsula (around Menlo Park)? I thought I'd be surrounded by great food when I moved up here, but this part of the Bay Area seems to be lacking. Would love to try a good hot cross bun, but may not make it to one of the other bakeries during their seasonal run.

                2 Replies
                1. re: emily

                  Draeger's had a postivie mention in previous years. Also someone liked The Cakery. Descriptions and a few places to avoid in my 'to try' list

                  1. re: emily

                    To answer my own question, Mayfield Bakery's hot cross bun was great. I'm disappointed I only bought one. It was moist, slightly sweet, with candied orange and a white icing cross. Nicely spiced, too. Better than the ones I've made at home. I was told they'd have more tomorrow.