Saturday 19 April 2014

Marks & Spencer Best of British Baking: Toffee fudge & Belgian chocolate hot cross buns

Product name: Marks & Spencer Best of British Baking: Toffee fudge & Belgian chocolate hot cross buns
Purchase details:
Two packs of four buns for £2.50 (Marks & Spencer Simply Food)
207 per 68g bun
Country of origin:

I’ve been wanting to try a more exciting hot cross bun for a while but I’m from a more traditional family who just don’t do things like that at Easter. Imagine my delight, then, when I found this packet of new Marks & Spencer Best of British Baking: Toffee fudge & Belgian chocolate hot cross buns in the freezer! I know these were purchased on a multibuy offer but, since I didn’t get them myself, I don’t know how much they would have cost for a single pack. 

These hot cross buns contained 8% ‘dark Belgian chocolate chips’ and 17% fudge and toffee pieces. They were presented on a cardboard tray in a simple clear plastic wrapper which allowed their standard appearance to be viewed clearly. Whilst these looked like ordinary hot cross buns, though, the dark bits were the chocolate chips rather than raisins. The buns’ outer appearance was mid-brown with a sticky-looking gloss and, inside, they were like brown bread rolls that had been flecked with chocolate.

The buns were sticky and moist to the touch and had a cinnamon cake scent that was strengthened when heated. There weren’t actually any serving instructions on the packaging and, whilst I enjoy microwaved hot cross buns, I know a lot of people toast them, so I decided to try them both ways. I also wasn’t sure whether or not to add butter (they already contained 2% unsalted butter and I expected the chocolate and fudge to be luxurious enough!) so I had each bun ‘half and half’. (This additional butter obviously wasn’t included in the above calorie count but I wasn’t worried about that on this occasion!)

I found it difficult to fit a bun’s halves into my toaster but their doughy texture did mean I could squish them in – they did get a bit stuck when I tried to remove them again though! I toasted them on the second lowest setting which resulted in a slightly burnt chocolate smell and, I thought, a hint of sweet raisins. However, I think this may have been my brain making a connection with the presence of cinnamon. The chocolate pieces looked a little burnt rather than melted but I could see where the toffee and fudge pieces had become molten.

The plain toasted half bun had remained surprisingly doughy and moist but had an added crisp too. Its flavour was familiar and not dissimilar to standard hot cross buns but there was an extra sweetness that was more like brioche. I definitely could have eaten a whole bun like this but I just had to go the whole hog in the name of research! The only downside was that I didn’t find either the chocolate or toffee fudge flavours were very noticeable as distinct elements.

On spreading the other half of the toasted bun with unsalted butter, its surface felt a little crispy, like actual toast. The butter melted in quickly and, understandably, added an extra level of flavour to the bun. However, this seemed to go beyond the butter itself, and actually brought the dark chocolate’s flavour out a little more – possible due to providing a greater contrast for the slight bitterness.

I microwaved my other bun on full power for 20 seconds. This made the chocolate look a lot more melted than burnt (you can see the mess it made on the plate!) and the dough just tore apart. This texture was just as enjoyable in the mouth – it was so soft and doughy that it stuck to the roof of the mouth beautifully. I still didn’t find the toffee fudge’s presence to be obvious but I did find the chocolate’s flavour more noticeable in this format. The bun was very sweet but this chocolate added a welcome undertone.

The butter melted in even more quickly on the microwaved bun and this was my favourite method of consumption. The texture was truly incredible. It was the same as the plain microwaved half, really, but it was just that little bit more special due to the butter making it slightly more dense. The chocolate’s flavour remained relatively subtle but it did add an enjoyable warmth too.

One thing I really don’t like about standard hot cross buns is the presence of mixed peel so the absence of this in these buns was an added bonus. Aside from that, these hot cross buns were very pleasant in their own right. The flavours weren’t as powerful as I’d expected (particularly the toffee and fudge pieces) but the separate elements presumably added to the overall warming sweetness on offer.

I probably enjoyed these more than normal hot cross buns but I know this was down to personal preference (more so than normal). My Dad also tried one of these buns and didn’t really enjoy it at all. He felt it lacked the spicier flavours that are present in the traditional version and, since this variety did taste very similar to brioche, he felt he may as well have been eating one of those instead. However, I would argue that the superb texture provided by these buns made them superior to brioche!

Appearance: 7/10
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