Best Bet: Hot cross buns

Hot cross buns at La Baguette French Bread and Pastry Shop. Michael DonahueThe Commercial Appeal

Hot cross buns at La Baguette French Bread and Pastry Shop. Michael DonahueThe Commercial Appeal

Somewhere I have an old recipe on a package of yeast for hot cross buns, a traditional pastry during Lent. It's like another recipe I have for a fruit cake with 20 ingredients. For 25 years I've been saving both of them with the intention of making them.

In the meantime, I discovered the hot cross buns at La Baguette French Bread and Pastry Shop. I had not had a hot cross bun since my mom or dad brought some home from somewhere around Easter when I was younger.

The ones at La Baguette are round and taller than the ones I had years ago. I remember them being square-shaped like a honey bun, but flatter. The not-too-sweet taste of La Baguette's version was reminiscent of the ones I remember. I couldn't stop eating them. I love the cross shape made with icing on the top.

I remembered the little song: "Hot cross buns, hot cross buns. One a penny two a penny hot cross buns."

The ones at La Baguette are one a penny plus 124 pennies.

I asked Chris Watson, who was at the store, if he'd ever eaten a hot cross bun. He said no. And then he said, "What's that little children's song? 'Hot cross buns. Hot cross buns. See how they run.'"

He got the song wrong, but Watson liked La Baguette's hot cross buns. After taking a bite he described it as "sweet, raisiney, but not as messy as a cinnamon roll."

La Baguette's hot cross buns are made of flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, yeast, ginger, orange zest, water, raisins, butter, nutmeg, honey, vanilla, milk and cloves, said Gene Amagliani, general manager of the La Baguette in Chickasaw Oaks Plaza.

"To my knowledge we've made them since day one -- 1976 when we started," Amagliani said. "I don't know of a time when we didn't make them.

I like seasonal food like king cake around the beginning of Lent and fruit cake at Christmas. If you want hot cross buns from La Baguette, you'd better get them in the next several days. They begin making them during Lent and continue until Easter, Amagliani said. "Good Friday is by far the biggest day for us. We sell more then than at any other time. Some folks give them as gifts."

If you want something like a hot cross bun during the rest of the year, La Baguette does have a substitute: "We do a raisin brioche a lot of times, which is similar, but it's not going to have the glaze on top. ... It's not exactly identical, but it's close."

La Baguette French Bread and Pastry Shop is at 3088 Poplar in Chickasaw Oaks; (901) 458-0900; and inside Gift Horse at 2095 Exeter Road in Germantown; (901) 754-8000.

Michael Donahue: 529-2797; donahue@commercialappeal.com

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