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Buyer beware: From caramel to cheese, new hot cross bun fillings could be ‘the devil at work’

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Hot cross buns are decorated with a cross – B Aldridge / Alamy Stock Photo

Supermarkets and restaurants are doing “the devil’s work” by desecrating warm croissant buns with chocolate, caramel and cheese fillings, the Queen’s former honorary chaplain has said.

Dr Gavin Ashenden, who served as the Queen’s chaplain at St James’s Palace for nearly a decade, said they had forgotten the Christian origins of the scones, which are traditionally eaten on Good Friday to commemorate the crucifixion.

He said retailers were “increasing appetites” by adding novel and unhealthy fillings to the buns, thus distorting their symbolism of fighting and saving those same appetites.

He noted that, for Christians, “it is no accident that they have been deformed” and that this could be seen as “the devil at work”.

Dr. Gavin Ashenden served as the Queen's Chaplain at St. James's Palace for nearly ten years.

Dr. Gavin Ashenden served as the Queen’s Chaplain at St. James’s Palace for nearly ten years.

Hot cross buns are decorated with a cross typically made of flour dough, said to represent the cross on which Christ died. Some say that the spices represent those used to embalm Christ after his death.

They have unleashed a wave of innovation in recent years. Gail’s, the bakery chain, recently dabbled with a “bacon butty hot cross bun,” while KFC launched a chicken and cheese hot cross bun. Last week, Aldi launched a hot cross bun gin liqueur, which is flavored with notes of caramel, raisins and spices.

Dr. Ashenden said the scones “weren’t just a cultural accessory for Good Friday.”

“It’s a big deal in a multi-layered way,” he said. “Christians are sad that the symbolism is lost, but it is also the loss of the narrative of the struggle.”

“Hot cross bun represents the struggle between the world as it is and the world as we want it to be,” he added. “We’re making a lot of money by fueling those appetites.”

Tesco puts an innovative spin on hot cross buns

Tesco announced this week that it has launched six new varieties of hot cross buns in time for Easter. The supermarket said it had taken “hot cross bun innovation to the next level” after unraveling new flavors: blueberry, salted caramel and gluten-free apple and cinnamon. It has also launched “hot cross buns,” a hot cross bun bread and butter pudding, and a gluten-free “hot cross bun chocolate bar.”

It will also open an “Instagrammable” hot cross bun pop-up cafe on April 5, with breakfast, lunch and dinner options. It comes after sales of hot cross buns jumped a fifth last year.

The supermarket said: “Every dish and cocktail served will feature Tesco products with an innovative twist on the hot cross bun, including vegan ‘Hot Cross Bangers and Smash’ at brunch, Hot Cross Scones at afternoon tea and Hot Cross Bun Espresso Martinis and Hot Cross Bun Steak Tartare at dinner To ensure everyone can enjoy the experience, plant-based and gluten-free options will be available at each session.”

Tesco's new twist on the Christian classic: hot cross scones

Tesco’s new twist on the Christian classic: hot cross scones

The supermarket also has 32 exclusive chocolate egg creations such as; Kit Kat Biscoff Giant Egg, Lindt Salted Caramel Egg, Cadbury Chocolate Fingers Egg, and Bounty Giant Chocolate Egg. As with other supermarkets, the products largely exclude any reference to Easter on their packaging, a situation that often rankles Christians.

Hot cross buns now incorporate such a wide variety of ingredients that some manufacturers say their products can’t be heated in toasters. Marks and Spencer is offering a new range of “extremely cheesy” and “extremely chocolatey” hot cross buns, but tells customers to heat them on the grill because the fillings could melt and damage toasters.

Waitrose offers warm white chocolate lemon cross buns, while Sainsbury’s sells a variety of caramelized onion and cheddar chutney. A disappointed customer wrote on the Sainsbury’s website: “A hot cross bun just wasn’t worth this treatment! The relentless pursuit of novel flavor combinations is one thing, but this… is not.”

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