At work, my coworker Chris started a chatroom dedicated to food. It’s by far my favorite chatroom to lurk on and see what interests folks in terms of eats. Initially, it was mostly about the universal love of the work caffe mac & cheese, which is damn good. Over time the chatroom has also become the means by which we report snack findings in various kitchens, as we’re vultures of the leftover bounty of other teams. At this point, I’m not even sure I really enjoy eating the snacks that we find (other than Nothing Bundt Cake, I truly LOVE this as a snack) and report, or am actually more enamored with the sport of finding snacks.
We’ve had many recent additions to the chatroom with international folks joining the fray while they were in town for training. I vaguely recall Jon bringing up the hot cross bun, and missing out on its deliciousness. Liz chimes in as well about how she also loves it, and she makes her own granola. Many more folks chime in about this tasty treat that I have not had and BOOM, I’m in fomo hell.
Thus beings the research phase of my curiosity with the “hot cross bun”. Ok Google, tell me what this pastry is all about.
hot cross bun – noun – a bun marked with a cross and containing dried fruit, traditionally eaten during Lent.
Ah, got it. This is why I’m unaware of it. I’m agnostic to religion, but by gosh not to delicious pastries. Being that the HCB is only served during Lent this made the finding of the hot cross bun time sensitive since it was the week before Easter.
I wanted to try it first before attempting to bake it to make sure that I had the consistency and flavoring right, so then I consulted Yelp and Google to find only old articles about where to find it and those pointed to either San Francisco or the East Bay. Bah hot cross bun! Why are you playing so hard to get? Deflated, I talked constantly about it to anyone who would listen and finally decided that this was how I was going to spend my weekend. I would have you yet, my difficult to find supposedly delicious bun.
Told SK about it at lunch the Friday before and ended up adding a companion on my Saturday journey. We met for brunch then called around asking different places if they had the bun. Ok Pete’s bakery in East SJ has it, and we were off. We get there to a giant line of people ordering various delicious pastries, their pies looked good too, but I was singularly focused on the HCB.
We order it, and I’m just not sure it looks right and here’s proof:
When I taste it, my response is “Blah! This is what people were raving about? I’m not sure if this is it, it tastes like those danishes that you buy from the store that are in the individual packaging.” I had expected this coveted bun to taste like eating a cloud and it ended up being this squished danish like thing with really yellow unappetizing custard for the cross. We call it a morning having technically satisfied the quest. I posted this photo on Instagram when I got home only to get teased by a brit coworker about its inauthenticity.
Sunday. CC and I were headed to Mount Tam for a hike anyway, so um… why don’t we make a pit stop at Arizmendi Bakery to continue my HCB hunt? I brief CC on the pastry which then we realize we both haven’t tried. During the ride up to the city, CC has more questions about the historic significance of the bun, which I can’t answer, and then we consult Google.
Arriving at the bakery, parking is the usual atrociousness in the city. Since it’s Sunday, churchgoers are allowed to park in the middle turn lane, oops I totally park here and wait in the car while CC runs in to finally get us some buns. CC texts me a photo from inside and they are beautiful.
CC tosses me a bag after returning to the car, and it’s warm. I eagerly open up the bag and do a fluff test squeezing the bun ever so gently. Oh, now this was the tactile sensation I expected. I take a bite and yes, it’s really good. The cross I don’t know what it’s made of but has a sweetness like the roti bun I LOVE from Honeyberry but without the heavier crust. CC thinks it’s just ok, compared to all the similar tasting Chinese buns which are far fluffier. I post a follow-up photo on Instagram and am fairly satisfied with this bun endeavor, even though my British coworker again comments on the inauthenticity of this bun and promises to delivery me an M + S HCB next year. DEAL!
Happily satisfied and quest over I return to work Monday morning thinking my life with the HCB was already over for this year. Then as soon as I arrive to work and log into the chatroom, Liz announces that all this talk about the HCB also never left her mind over the course of the week as well and she baked them over the weekend and brought them in to share. zOMG. Texting with SK about it, SK asks me to save an extra piece of Liz’s batch so they can swing by at lunch and pick it up to try. Liz’s batch even though she mentioned it might be dry was a bit moister and fluffier than Arizmendi’s HCBs.
By now my belly is now an HCB. Fluffy and moist. Ha. After doing a three for three days hunt of buns I have to say I’m seriously glad this only happens once a year as I’m HCB-ed out.
P.S. I also no longer feel the need to bake this anymore as well, maybe that’ll change in a year, or maybe I’ll just go back to Arizmendi.