Hot Cross Buns: Class vs. Tradition

Sandbox Bakery (left), Dianda's (right).

You have two days left before Good Friday to source your annual hot cross bun breakfast. I went looking this week, and came across rworange's 2009 Bay Area hot cross bun ranking on Chowhound, the kind of obsessive act that validates the existence of the Internet (bonus link: the buns she hated). Unfortunately, rworange moved to Guatemala before she could update the full list this year, but most of the bakeries she rates are still around, presumably using the same recipes.

If only to honor the season, I picked up a couple of hot-cross buns over the past couple of days, and exposed a few of my roots in the process. I took a couple of polite bites of the elegant bun from Sandbox Bakery in Bernal Heights ― look at that even glaze! the precise lemon-curd cross! the bits of raisin and house-candied citrus rind peeking out! ― and then set it aside. (Did you know that Sandbox has melonpan in addition to its croissants and negi-miso challah knots? Now that's a real find.)

The buns from Dianda's Italian Pastry in the Mission, displayed by the sheet pan and often purchased in the same quantity, are loosely marked with piped custard, shiny with sugar glaze, and packed with neon-hued candied fruits. They taste like the (hot) cross between an Entenmann's danish and a slice of Trader Joe's stollen ― in short, just like the ones mom used to buy. I devoured the whole bun before I left my parking space, fingers sticking to the steering wheel as I drove away.

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