You heard it from the nursery rhyme, and you’ve had it every Easter. Learn the story behind the hot cross bun and find out where to find this festive treat in Hong Kong.
Known to the Western world with strong association to Christianity and significance, the hot cross buns are said to be created in the 14th century by a British monk at St. Albans Abbey named Brother Thomas Rodcliffe. The monk would bake these buns that became known as Alban buns, and give them out to the underprivileged in the area. Centuries later, the white crucifix pattern remains, but the variations on each hot cross buns vary from bakery to bakery.
A hot cross bun is traditionally baked with a yeasted bread dough, filled with dried fruits such as raisins, or currants. The definitive characteristics of the festive baked bun also includes an icing crucifix typed across the top of each bun. The sweet treat is enjoyed around the world during Easter, and is beloved not only for its religious significance, but also for the well-balanced flavours. Large-format bakeries aren’t the only ones to ace the humble hot cross buns in Hong Kong, so we’ve looked into the following bakeries to see how each is imprinting its mark on the hot cross bun.
With two more bakeries set to open later this year in Causeway Bay and Stanley, Bakehouse stops at nothing to refine the traditional Easter classic. The popular local bakery gives the hot cross buns an upgrade, elevating the fruit to dough ratio. The raisins are rehydrated in a mixture of citrus and spices, but no alcohol to fit a wider spectrum of bread lovers. “We also incorporated better quality candied orange peels into the mix, and it makes all the difference,” shared chef and co-founder Gregoire Michaud. The hot cross buns are topped with a light glaze made with citrus fruits and spices such as cardamom, Ceylon cinnamon, and star anise, creating a lightly sweet exterior to allow the candied citrus and raisins to shine. Michaud suggests the buns be slightly warm and served with butter and marmalade. Bakehouse’s hot cross buns are available at the bakery’s various locations, together with selected Marketplace outlets packaged under Bread Pantry.
Bakehouse, various locations
As part of the Arcane Collective, Moxie is home to a vegetable-forward menu with an abundance of local produce. Moxie’s executive chef Michael Smith is recreating the British classic with a slight twist. Smith flavours his hot cross buns with golden raisins as the dried fruit of choice, together with a mix of allspice and ground cinnamon. The baked buns are beautifully glazed with apricot jam, Smith’s personal favourite. The buns are evenly golden, with a soft and fluffy texture with just the right touch of orange zest and vanilla added in. The Easter classic is available for both dine-in and takeaway at the restaurant.
Moxie, Shop 203, Alexandra House, 18 Chater Rd, Central; +852 2718 8211
THE BAKER & THE BOTTLEMAN
On its first Easter since its opening, The Baker & The Bottleman is presenting the Easter hot cross bun. Created and refined by the team of bakers led by Charlie Watson, the team creates an enriched brioche dough, adding spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves into it. Raisins are soaked in spice rum before they are incorporated into the risen dough. The buns are baked with the cross piping and are glazed with a rum syrup. The Easter hot cross buns are available from now until April 18, priced at HK$35 per piece, or HK$490 for a tray of 15 buns.
The Baker & The Bottleman, Shop No. G14 and G15 G/F. and Shop No. F15A, 1/F Lee Tung Avenue, 200 Queen's Rd E, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Happy Valley’s Proof is adding a special twist to the Easter classic treat. Instead of a traditional bun with raisins, the bakers at Proof give the yeasted bun a different flavour profile. The bakery begins with a yeasted milk bun dough with spices added in. Dried cranberries are added for a touch of tartness, one that compliments the richness of chocolate chips. The chocolate chips melt slightly during the baking process. The result is sweet and rich, with a touch of maple glaze that forms a nice crust topping against the soft piped icing. The Chocolate Cranberry Hot Cross Buns are HK$30 each and are available from now until April 18, 2022.
Proof, G/F, 14 Tsun Yuen St, Happy Valley, Hong Kong; +852 6542 9786
LE SALON DE THÉ DE JOËL ROBUCHON
The pastry arm of Hong Kong’s three Michelin-starred L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon is celebrating Easter with a beloved treat, developed by Norihiko Takei, the restaurant’s chef boulanger, and executive chef Julien Tongourian, both of whom worked closely with the late maestro Joël Robuchon. Takei ops for a no-alcohol-added soaked raisins, combined with orange zest and cinnamon in the yeasted dough. The plump buns proof under room temperature for three hours. A generous helping of icing is piped into a cross atop each bun before they are baked, creating a wider crucifix imprint. The hot cross bun is available at Le Salon de Thé de Joël Robuchon for a limited time, from April 1st until the 18th, and are priced at HK$34 apiece, available at all three retail locations across town.
Le Salon de Thé de Joël Robuchon, various locations
DANG WEN LI BY DOMINIQUE ANSEL
Celebrating the festive Easter season this year, Dang Wen Li by Dominique Ansel is adding a new tradition of hot cross buns to its roster of viennoiseries. Created with a milk-rich brioche, the buttery dough is packed with a wide range of fruits, from raisins to candied citrus including mandarin, orange and lemon peels. A hint of spice, particularly cinnamon and nutmeg, gives the bun a spicy touch. Each of the Dang Wen Li hot cross buns are created with Dominique Ansel’s own recipe, with the cross pattern piped after they were baked. The hot cross buns are best served slightly warm with butter spread in the middle. Dang Wen Li’s hot cross buns are priced at HK$28 per piece, and HK$158 for six pieces.
Dang Wen Li by Dominique Ansel, various locations
FEATHER AND BONE
A bestseller on its first-year run, Feather and Bone’s popular hot cross buns are making a comeback this year. Created and refined by executive chef Michael Bolam, the yeasted bun is prepared with a dough started with warm milk and yeast, followed by a wide range of fruits such as currants and golden sultanas, both well-rehydrated, together with a handful of candied orange peels and candied stem ginger. The fruity dough, combined with a spiced glazed after baking, is best enjoyed piping hot. According to Bolam, the popular sweet treat is best shared with lashings of salted Pepe Soya Butter. The Easter hot cross buns are available at HK$20 apiece, or in packs of four ($68) or six ($100). Box sets also include a complementary pack of ‘Pepe Saya’ butter medallion.
Feather and Bone, various locations
ESSENTIA BY HOLGER DEH
Former Rosewood Hong Kong’s executive pastry chef Holger Deh is creating ripples in the plant-based pastry market in Hong Kong with Essentia, his new brand featuring plant-based sweet treats including his popular mille-feuille and cakes. His newly-launched hot cross buns are a special treat for the Easter holidays. Deh began his creation with a meticulous preparation—creating his homemade candied orange and lemon peels, which took several days to allow the syrup to permeate into the citrus peels. The dairy-free bread dough is made with oat milk and without butter. A hint of cinnamon and brown sugar are added to the citrus-flavoured dough, and the baked bun is glazed with a Madagascar vanilla syrup. The hot cross buns are available in a set of two pieces and are priced at HK$48 per set.
Since its opening last summer, Frenchies Bakery and Coffee on Hollywood Road has delighted the city with its neighbourhood bakery viennoiseries in the Soho dining district. Aside from its sourdough loaves and the popular espresso cinnamon roll, Frenchies is presenting a Hot Cross Bun this Easter. Available just short of a week, from Wednesday April 13 to Easter Monday, the spiced sweet bread dough is flavoured with a handful of spices such as cinnamon, ground ginger, and nutmeg, while orange zest and Cointreau doubles up on the citrus zing, together with soaked dried cranberries and raisins to sweeten the dough further. The buns, priced at HK$20 each, are lightly glazed with a syrup made with the fruit soaking liquid, icing sugar and vanilla. The hot cross buns are best enjoyed freshly out from the oven, or toasted with butter with an in-house latte served on the side.
Frenchies, G/F 39-43 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong; +852 5267 9403