Hot cross vs 'not' cross: Have the variations on Easter buns gone too far?

Added fudge, chocolate and ginger, hot cross bacon butties ... Rebecca Armstrong and Chloe Hamilton battle it out

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Toffee and cherries? Leave it out

By Rebecca Armstrong

I popped into the shop nearest to the office after work this week to buy some cheese to supplement my planned dinner of cheese-on-beans-on-toast. As I queued up to pay for my cheddar, I spotted a packet of hot cross buns by the checkout and went to add them to the conveyor belt. I glanced at the packet, hand outstretched… and froze. They were Belgian chocolate and toffee fudge hot cross buns. Not cross buns, more like it. I withdrew my hand in disgust. The majority of the time I have no problem with either Belgian chocolate or toffee fudge as sweet flavourings. But I don't believe that these dairy interlopers have any place in a hot cross bun.

Sultanas, peel, a bit of cinnamon; these are the sort of cautiously flavourful ingredients that have made these traditional British bakes great. Tossing in gobbets of chocolate is vulgar, and I dread to think what it'll do to the insides of a toaster. I can understand why M&S has been mixing up its recipes – presumably no one under 30 would actually think of a hot cross bun as a treat unless it's larded with confectionery – but it doesn't mean that I agree. As for the unholy hot cross bacon combo that Sainsbury's has been advertising, I feel like manning the barricades. Ban that bun!

Marks & Spencer’s St Clements buns are heavy handed with the peel

I'm not totally averse to a bit of Easter evolution – I think that apple is just about OK (goes with the cinnamon) and Marks' St Clements version counts as merely being heavy handed with the peel. But its cherries and berries buns sound torrid and horrid. In fact, despite getting hot and indeed cross about retailers messing with an almost perfect design, there is one thing I would change about the classic bun – why not make the cross out of icing? The weird white dough on top has always been a bit of a disappointment, edible representative of the True Cross notwithstanding. But otherwise I don't want none, unless you've got proper buns, hun.

Bacon hotties do it for me

By Chloe Hamilton

I've never really been one for tradition. Or for raisins. As a result, I don't hold the hot cross bun in particularly high regard. Hot cross buns are, of course, steeped in religious meaning. The anaemic crosses dribbled over the top represent the crucifixion of Christ and the aromatic flavourings signify the spices used to embalm Christ's body at his burial. Yum!

In reality, these plain little rolls swing from overly sticky to mouth-dryingly bland and every time I eat one I feel like I'm chowing down on dusty, old-fashioned Christianity. Not for me. So I welcome the news that Marks & Spencer has decided to liven up its buns this year with new flavours, including stem ginger and Mocha. Anything to resurrect Easter, which – as we all know – is Christmas's drearier, holier older sister.

And M&S isn't the only one "raisin" the bun bar. BBC Good Food suggests swapping traditional sultanas for chocolate chips; perfect for those of us who gag every time we bite into what appears to be a chocolate chip muffin only to find it jam-packed with double-crossing little currants. Don't forget, too, that these saintly snacks slathered in butter are meant to signify the end of Lent, when Christians the world over are finally allowed to indulge in whatever gluttonous delights take their fancy. Why choose a tarted-up bread roll which symbolises death when you could be stuffing your face with other treats such as chocolate, cheese, or bacon?

Speaking of bacon, Sainsbury's has offered up a recipe for hot cross bacon butties, something I'm very much on board with. The combination of sweet and savoury is a popular choice in America, but we Brits have long regarded it with an almost patriotic suspicion.

For me, though, there's something deliciously disobedient about cramming sizzling bacon into one of these otherwise overrated buns. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Bacon, after all, is the real food of the gods.