Food Opinion

Hot cross buns early and all sorts a hot topic

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Hot cross buns are an Easter staple but shops now sell them months earlier (Image supplied)

Large grocery stores are selling all manner of hot cross buns early to entice consumers, but if pickle as a flavour doesn't grab you, perhaps try Megan jane de Paulo's Hot Autumn Buns instead.

YOU MIGHT BE forgiven for having no idea that Easter is next week, considering one of the main food items involved in the celebration – hot cross buns (HCB) – went on sale on 26 December last year, before the Christmas leftovers had even been finished off.

Despite the general public outcry, Coles predicted they would sell 2.5 million of them before 1 January. Woolworths followed suit by also offering hot cross buns from Boxing Day but Aldi held off until mid-January, as did a few bakery chains.

In fact, Coles started making hot cross buns available all year round in 2020. Of course, spiced fruit buns are available all year round anyway – but there is some kind of mysterious lure about those with the crusty flour design on them.

In 1592, Queen Elizabeth I decreed that hot cross buns could no longer be sold on any day except for Good Friday, Christmas or for burials, forcing HCB-enthusiasts to slink underground to their kitchens to make their own outside of these times — under the threat of having to give all their buns to the poor if discovered. The popularity of making them at home and basically ignoring the decree resulted in this ruling eventually being rescinded.

Since the novelty factor of a seasonal treat has been erased by constant availability, mega stores have introduced various versions of hot cross buns to entice consumers – from chocolate to red velvet, raspberries and white chocolate, Vegemite & cheese, gluten-free, brioche and sourdough – but this year’s winner of the revolting stakes definitely goes to the Coles Special Burger Sauce Hot Cross Buns — because nothing says Easter like raisins, cinnamon and dill pickles!

It’s not restricted to buns — like the ubiquitous U.S. pumpkin spice, there are attempts to hot cross bun-ify other products. Kellogg’s has HCB sultana bran; T2 sells a hot-cross-bun-flavoured tea; there is chocolate and gin and Heinz UK is producing a limited edition 100 jars of Hot Cross Bun Mayo ( jars of mayonnaise which should probably never be opened).

The most common spice used is cinnamon, the most common fruit raisins and the citrus element is frequently orange. It’s just a yeasted spiced bun which we might call a spiced or currant bun at other times of year. Not really names to excite marketing departments. But that’s all they are.

So, in the spirit of seasonality and inclusion, here’s my recipe for Hot Autumn Buns – since, in autumn in Australia, pears and figs are in season and wattleseed is harvested in February and March, then roasted and ground into powder – a combination of autumn seasonal produce in Australia to be warmed up and topped with fig jam and some crumbled blue cheese, if you like.

This recipe makes six large buns or eight smaller ones.


Hot Autumn Buns with Pear, Figs and Wattleseed | Decorative paste | Glaze

Hot Autumn Buns with Pear, Figs and Wattleseed

  • 150g dried figs, roughly chopped
  • 30ml chocolate liqueur (coffee liqueur also fine)
  • 2 pears, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 420g plain flour
  • 8g instant dried yeast
  • 40g caster sugar
  • 6g wattle seed, ground
  • 20g butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • salt, pinch
  • 150ml milk
  • 40ml water

Soak chopped dried figs in liqueur for at least an hour.

Put flour, yeast, caster sugar, yeast, salt and wattleseed into a stand mixer bowl.

Have dough hook on mixer. Slowly mix dry ingredients.

Add in figs and chopped pears. Mix through slowly.

Place milk, water & butter & microwave (or heat in saucepan) until lukewarm (about 38℃). Whisk in egg.

Pour into stand mixer bowl with dry ingredients. Mix at a slower speed for about five minutes until dough comes away from side of bowl.

Add more flour if the mix is too sticky.

When dough is formed to window pane level (that’s when you can stretch a piece of dough so that you can see light through it but it doesn’t form a hole), place it in a bowl, cover it with wrap and proof in a warm place until doubled in size (can take around 1.5 hours).

When risen, punch the dough down and on a floured surface, roll dough into log shape.

With a dough cutter, divide into six large or eight medium-equal pieces.

Roll into a rough ball, flatten slightly and then fold the sides underneath so you end up with a smooth surface on top and a tucked-in surface underneath.

Place balls near each other on a tray covered with baking paper.

Spray a piece of plastic wrap with oil and lay the oiled side down onto dough. Proof again until balls increase two-thirds in size.

Preheat oven to 180℃.

Decorative paste 

  • 50g flour
  • 40ml water

Now it’s time to add a design. Mix the flour and water, which should be runny. (However, too runny and you can’t pipe a design; too thick and it will crack off during baking.)

Place into piping bag and pipe on a design.

Bake between 25 and 40 minutes, depending on size. Top should be a deep brown colour (but not burned!).


  • 30g apricot jam
  • water

While the buns are still warm, microwave the jam and some water to form a runny glaze. Brush over the buns and then let them cool.

Proofing tip

You can place a warmed heat pack under a bowl to help or proof in an off-closed oven with the dough on a higher shelf and a pan of boiling water on the bottom of the oven.

Megan Jane de Paulo is a Melbourne-based, inner-city latte sipper and social media provocateur. You can follow Megan on Twitter @gomichild.

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