The Telegraph 2024-03-16 01:00:38

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Tesco and Asda accused of ‘playing fast and loose with culinary tradition’ over hot cross buns

Rows over scones are almost as old as time, but few would expect hot cross buns to become the latest flashpoint.

Two of Britain’s leading supermarkets have been accused of “playing fast and loose with culinary tradition” by serving the Easter favourite with clotted cream and jam.

Advertisements placed in newspapers by Tesco and Asda picture the buns alongside jam – an unusual choice of topping for a treat that is usually only served with butter.

Critics have accused the grocers of trying to “mimic” scones, which have been the subject of years of controversy in Devon and Cornwall over whether the jam should be spread before the cream.

In an Easter advertisement this week, the new “Tesco Finest Strawberries & Clotted Cream Hot Cross Buns” with pink crosses were shown being plastered in clotted cream and jam – in that order.

Meanwhile, Asda promoted its hot cross buns by showing them being slathered in butter with jam on the side.

It could well be an advertising ploy to avoid the mundane look of melted butter, but some scone lovers are not impressed.

“Some might say these supermarkets are playing fast and loose with culinary tradition, attempting to slap a scone label on hot cross buns,” Michelle Milton, the editor of the High Tea Society, told The Telegraph.

“Cream and jam on hot cross buns? It’s enough to make a purist’s scone crumble.”

Ms Milton added: “So, are they guilty of appropriation or simply spicing things up? That’s a question as hotly debated as whether to put the jam or cream first on a scone.”

She founded the High Tea Society to publicise quality recipes and venues when she moved from London to Australia and found it difficult to find nice tearooms in Melbourne.

‘Shocking news’

Sarah Merker, 50, who completed a challenge last year to taste scones in all 244 National Trust cafes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, accused hot cross buns of trying to “get in on the act”.

“This is shocking news – you have to take it as a bit of a compliment to the scone and the cream tea that the hot cross bun is trying to get in on the act a little bit,” she said.

“The scone is untouchable – we can all accept a bit of mimicry and nothing will beat a scone in a cream tea, but if the hot cross bun wants to get in on that act I can’t blame them.

“Without a doubt, there can only be one cream tea and that’s the scone, the cream and the jam – hot cross buns are a bit Johnny-come-lately in that regard; it’s not the same.”

Ms Merker, from Isleworth in west London, questioned the “odd” combination of strawberry jam and the spices found in hot cross buns, but said she was “all for innovation” and would need to try it.

She previously stumbled across a similar idea on her scone tour, with multiple National Trust tearooms offering “hot cross scones” – hot cross bun-flavoured scones – which she ate only with butter, as she felt strawberry and cream would just not fit.

British supermarkets have stoked a series of controversies in recent years for cooking up increasingly wacky hot cross bun flavours such as Sainsbury’s cheddar and caramelised onion chutney recipe, Asda’s tomato and red Leicester version and Waitrose’s Earl Grey tea and orange zest flavour.

Aldi also rolled out strawberry and cream hot cross buns in 2022 and this year is selling Jaffa Cake flavoured versions.

Tesco was contacted for comment and Asda declined to comment.

Battle of the buns: Our taste test verdict

By Silvana Franco and Amber Dalton

Hot cross buns – that quintessentially British seasonal treat that requires nothing more than a light toasting (use the grill, unless you want to be pulling pieces of bun out of the toaster past Pentecost) and a generous slathering of salted butter. 

That is, until now. 

News that Asda is advocating a layer of jam in addition to butter in its recent print advertisements has been made only slightly less egregious by the appearance of the latest offering from Tesco.

The supermarket’s Finest Strawberries & Clotted Cream Hot Cross Buns (yes, you read that correctly) have been photographed toasted and topped with enough creamy-yellow Rodda’s to sink a battleship, the whole topped by a dollop of vivid crimson strawberry jam. 

“Easter in abundance” indeed. Even if you wait until Lent is over to dig in, one calorific mouthful would surely be enough to induce guilt, if not pre-diabetes. 

We put different combinations to the test using Tesco Finest Four Extra Fruity Hot Cross Buns (£1.60 for four)

Hot cross bun with butter

Though we find the dough somewhat claggy, the sweetness of both the dough and the generous amount of plump dried fruits is nicely offset by a pool of melting salted butter. A simple pleasure.

Hot cross bun with butter and strawberry jam

We spread some Tesco Finest Strawberry Conserve onto the toasted bun. Even a thin layer has the effect of cancelling out any zestiness from the dried mixed peel in the dough. We’re left with a pappy, overly sweet mouthful.

Hot cross bun with clotted cream and strawberry jam

Now for the unholy trio. We spoon clotted cream onto a toasted bun and top it with jam as in the advertisement. It is not vastly different to eating scones in the same way, if a little sweeter, but the problem is with the size. 

The hot cross bun is about 50 per cent bigger than a classic scone and we give up after one solitary bite.

Hot cross bun with clotted cream and blackcurrant jam

Undeterred, we opt for a tarter jam (Tesco Finest Blackcurrant Conserve) in the hope of cutting through the richness. It’s slightly better, especially since the blackcurrants provide some welcome texture along with a blast of acidity. 

If we had to eat hot cross buns with jam and cream, this is the one we’d choose.

Tesco Finest Strawberries & Clotted Cream Hot Cross Buns (£1.60 for four) with clotted cream and strawberry jam

There’s the faint taste of confected strawberries, like strawberry laces, to these buns that are “enriched with strawberry conserve, clotted cream and rich white chocolate chips”. 

In reality, they contain just 2.5 per cent strawberry jam and 2.5 per cent strawberry pieces “for extra decadence”. But we’re struggling to taste any fruit – only nuggets of cloyingly sweet white chocolate. 

Once we add jam and clotted cream on top, the overall effect has us feeling slightly bilious. A bit like going on a Waltzer ride after stuffing your face with Mr Whippy and candy floss.

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‘Nanny cam’ footage of prison boss abusing her husband will be shown in documentary

A former prison boss who beat her husband in a sustained campaign of abuse was finally exposed by a “nanny cam” that captured the behaviour, a documentary has revealed.

Sheree Spencer made her husband Richard Spencer’s life a living hell with physical attacks and verbal humiliation at their seven-bedroom home in Bubwith, East Yorkshire.

On one occasion, the former prison reform chief beat him with a wine bottle so hard it permanently disfigured his ear.

Spencer was jailed for four years at Hull Crown Court in March 2023 by Judge Kate Rayfield, who said: “This is the worst case of controlling and coercive behaviour I have seen.”

Unknown to Spencer, her abuse had been captured on a security camera that the couple had installed to monitor their three young children.

The footage is now being released for the first time in a Channel 5 documentary My Wife, My Abuser: The Secret Footage, in which Mr Spencer is sharing his story.

He told MailOnline: “Sheree tried to stop the documentary being broadcast in the crown court but failed, then she applied for a prohibited steps order through the family court, which luckily was rejected and thrown out at the first hearing.

“The broadcast has been delayed due to the legal challenges for about six months, but now it is finally going to be shown.

“I’m hopeful that the film will be well received and will make a difference.”

For years, Mr Spencer secretly recorded video and audio of his wife’s wine-fuelled tirades, in which she would call him “a p—y” and “dumb dumb”, and caused bruises and scratches that he would cover with make-up before taking their children to school and nursery.

Some of the attacks were caught on two cameras in the playroom and bedroom of their home and Mr Spencer would also take photographs of the injuries he suffered.

Recorded her violent assaults

He would email the pictures and videos to himself and delete them from his phone so his wife did not realise he was recording her assaults.

After police were called to the family home in 2021 by a concerned welfare worker, he handed over 43 images of his bruised face taken on different dates.

Speaking after Spencer was jailed, he said: “I have become resigned to the fact that I will never fully recover from her abuse and that it will have a permanent damaging impact on mine and my family’s life.

“Sheree’s abuse towards me evolved and escalated over time. She used repeated acts of physical assault, threats, verbal abuse and humiliation to punish and exercise control over me.”

My Wife, My Abuser: The Secret Footage will air on Channel 5 on Monday night at 10pm.

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