Why is one of our top-tier baked goods only available sometimes? Sam Brooks rages against the seasonal availability of the hot cross bun.
The first three-to-four months of the year are my favourite. I can wear shorts, I can hang out in the sun for longer, and I can make full use of my paper fan collection. I can do those things at the end of the year too, but there’s one thing those glorious summer months are missing: warm, well-buttered hot cross buns.
Hot cross buns exist at a perfect yeasty intersection. They’re pure, sweet carbs with a little spicy kick. They absorb butter like a goddamned sponge. One can be a snack, two or three can be a whole breakfast. They can even be adapted to include chocolate rather than the traditional raisins and other spices, should you so choose.
Some might suggest that fruit bread is a good substitute for hot cross buns. As someone who has eaten more than his share of fruit bread because it is available all year round, I disagree. Fruit bread doesn’t have the same softness, and the same joy about it that a hot cross bun does. Spice buns are also available year round, but they’re not the same either – they’re more bread-y, and they don’t have that beautiful, waxy cross on top.
Look. I don’t want fruit bread. I don’t want a spice bun. What I want is a hot cross bun, whether it’s January, June or September!
Hot cross buns are, of course, traditionally tied to Easter. They mark the end of Lent, and the different ingredients of the hot cross bun have meanings tied to Christianity. The cross represents the crucifixion of Jesus (bleak!) and the spices inside the bun symbolise the spices used to embalm him at his burial (bleaker!).
It’s not wild to me that seasonal foods exist. That’s the natural way of the world. You eat berries at this time of year because they’re ready to harvest at this time of year. What is wild to me is that there is a baked good that is seasonally available based on a pagan holiday (it’s true, look it up) with a date determined by when the first full moon after the vernal equinox is!
Pretty much every ingredient that is in your average hot cross bun is available year round, and are staples of the home baker’s cabinet (according to me, who has never baked). Yeast, sugar, flour, butter, milk. The bits that aren’t – sultanas, cinnamon spices, orange peel if you’re fancy – are readily available in supermarkets. These are not weather based ingredients! Let them roam free, into the baking tin, then the oven, then my stomach.
I get the argument as to why hot cross buns shouldn’t be in supermarkets year round. A seasonal food, even one based on an event in the lunar calendar, being available year-round would lessen how special it is for those few months leading up to Easter. You wouldn’t get that moment where you first see a hot cross bun in its own little special place in the supermarket aisle or bakery cabinet, realise it’s been maybe eight or nine months since you’ve had one and go “Holy shit! I want a hot cross bun!”
I understand that. But if you feel that way, you don’t have to eat them all year! Keep on eating them in your preferred season, but please don’t put your seasonal food desires onto me.
It could be that the reason they’re only available seasonally is because people only want them seasonally, and that’s just economics. I am but one man, I do not have the ability or financial freedom to single-handedly support the hot cross bun industry. I am also aware there’s technically nothing stopping me from learning to make my own.
Don’t steal my joy because you only want them three months out of 12. I want to be able to reach into my pantry, slice a hot cross bun in half, toast it, drown it in butter, and eat it every single day of the year, should I so choose. And deep down, in your carb-devouring soul of souls, I think you want to be able to do that too.
If you are an intrepid baker who wants to make hot cross buns year-round and is looking for a reliable source of very little income, you can reach me at email@example.com