As an Easter Monday treat, I decided to splash out and get some of Waitrose's limited edition Heston Blumenthal hot cross buns. After last year's Earl Grey and mandarin buns, this year's interesting combination is ginger and acacia honey.
All of the supermarkets are increasingly offering more adventurous and less traditional hot cross buns, with variations including Kentish apple, golden syrup, double chocolate and even fudge and choc chip.
However, when it comes to seasonal food, I like to play it conservatively. I would try any of the above variants but they do all sound a little sickly or too far removed from a traditional hot cross bun for me. This Heston bun was a little more closely aligned to the ones my family traditionally bought in at Easter however, featuring all the traditional spices and no flavours that are more suited to confectionary. As many morning goods and traditional teabreads use ginger or honey, these seemed better suited to a hot cross bun whilst still promising an interesting twist.
At £1.69 for two, they do cost considerably more than other offerings. However, these are positioned as a premium product and really are no more expensive per bun than anything from a fresh in store bakery. And with treats I'm happy to pay for quality over quantity. Better to have 2 really satisfying eats than 6 dry and average eats (plus it reduces the risk of over indulging!)
These certainty look premium. Tall, puffed up and proud buns that look more similar to a muffin rather than a sad, squashed and flat traditional bun. They look very inviting with their plump exterior and juicy raisins rising from the golden bake.
Pulling the buns out of the packet further showcased further attention to detail. The base is a dark jet black with silver Heston signatures that make these feel like they were handmade rather than produced on a conveyor best. And indeed, according to the Waitrose Weekender, these buns are made without high speed mixers and the crosses are piped by hand.
As I removed one from the packet, a very faint aroma of honey tinged with the spiciness of ginger wafted up but for the most part, it was the sweet sultanas and raisins and traditional hot cross bun that dominated.
The buns felt gorgeously soft and squishy but still hold their shape if you give the plumptious beauties a squeeze. The buns are made with real butter and this shined through their golden crumb, adorned with the distinctive cross. They also have a wickedly sticky glaze that gleams in the light and leaves a sticky and sweet imprint on your fingers when touched.
Cutting in half revealed many more plump and fat pieces of fruit and the base is a mellow golden hue. Appearance wise these tick all the boxes. As said, their sheet size gives them more in common with a scone or muffin than a hot cross bun and they look and feel more indulgent.
Taste wise, they were very indulgent too but failed to deliver on the intriguing concept. That isn't to say it wasn't a very high quality bun. I grilled mine as they're so big that they wouldn't fit in the toaster. They turned a lovely dark hue with a bit of toasty crispness but still soft, doughy and melt in the mouth, especially smothered in butter!
The buns have one of the best textures I've tasted in a hot cross bun - really buttery and sweet and not too bread like unlike other buns. However, they failed to deliver on the honey and ginger taste. The taste was in the background, though very subtle, and there was some warmth from the ginger but ultimately they tasted like a standard hot cross bun - albeit a premium one. The fruit was sweet, generous and juicy and this was a really satisfying eat so would still be recommended for that alone.
Price: £1.69 for two
Available: Waitrose (limited time only)
Pros: Thick, generous size with plenty of fruit, buttery and sweet. Subtle spiciness and high quality dough. Very indulgent tasting.
Cons: Pricey and doesn't deliver on the ginger and honey promised