Hunting for Easter Eggs

Alright, so this is probably a little late for most of you, but my sister has demanded this one.

My introductory blog post mentioned palm oil, and it’s such a big, hairy, issue that I was planning on saving my ranting until you’d all decided you liked me so I didn't scare anyone off!

However, with Easter impending, and the minefield that is palm oil free chocolate and hot cross buns, I've put together a bit of a cheat sheet for you (I’ll save the ranting for later).

I’ll start with the easy bit – chocolate. All of the following are palm oil free;

  • Cadbury plain (unfilled) eggs & bunnies
  • Cadbury Crunchie eggs
  • Lindt bunnies & plain eggs
  • Haigh’s plain (unfilled) eggs
  • Sweet William bunnies – also sugar free if that’s your thing.

As a general rule, Cadbury & Lindt chocolate are palm oil free, but the fillings (aka the delicious bits) are not. So any plain, unfilled egg or chocolate is ok, but as soon as it’s filled, that’s where the palm oil creeps in – think Lindt balls (drool…), Caramello Koalas, MaltEaster bunnies, Crème Eggs, etc. There are more than listed above, but as a quick guide, they’re the easiest to find & the easiest to remember.

 An early sourdough Hot Cross Bun attempt. A little flat, but delicious

An early sourdough Hot Cross Bun attempt. A little flat, but delicious

And now the challenging stuff… Hot Cross Buns. You would think this would be the easy bit, but that darn palm oil sneaks in everywhere. If you’re buying the ‘traditional’ kind, the problem is usually with the yeast. If you are the kind of blasphemer who eats the choc chip ones, the choc chips are a problem too – in more ways than one. Most, if not all, commercial yeast comes with a smidge of emulsifier in there to stop all the little yeasties sticking together. This emulsifier is palm oil derived. So even if there is no ‘palm oil’ (or ‘vegetable oil’ – more on that another time) listed in the ingredients, it’s still in there, hiding as emulsifier 471.

Where does that leave your Hot Cross Bun addiction you ask… well. If you are a hard core anti-palm oil consumer, you are left with artisan bakery, sourdough Hot Cross Buns. As the yeast is derived from the atmosphere in all sourdough breads, that sneaky emulsifier is not present (providing the bakery doesn’t use palm oil elsewhere, of course). Palm Oil Investigations Australia has listed a few bakeries they have confirmed make palm oil free Hot Cross Buns on their Facebook page, but all are on the east coast, so I cannot comment on their quality.

I’ve seen many people commenting on that Facebook page that they’re just going to make them themselves; however, that’s not so straightforward either. The yeast you buy at the supermarket is exactly the same as the yeast the bakery is using, so it’s much of a muchness, with a lot more effort on you part. Unless, of course you’re lucky enough to be married to an amateur sourdough baker, who can whip up sourdough hot cross buns as fast as you can eat them (Yes, that’s me. No, you can’t have him). It’s also worth checking the dried fruit you’re using, as it usually has a small amount of oil mixed through, again to stop everything sticking together. Both Coles brand and Sunbeam dried fruit are palm oil free, if you do go that route.

Both Coles and Woolworths Hot Cross Buns contain palm oil as the vegetable oil. However, the Woolworths Hot Cross Buns use certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO - more on that later), although I think the yeast is still as mentioned above. Bakers delight does not use palm oil in the buns themselves, but do have the yeast emulsifier issue. I believe the Heston for Coles Lemon Myrtle Hot Cross Buns are completely palm oil free. But they are quite expensive, and not that great (and I am a diehard Heston fan!)

My personal recommendation, if you don’t have a wonderful artisan baker nearby you can harass about ingredients, or a friendly amateur sourdough baker you can lean on, is go with the traditional Hot Cross Buns from Bakers Delight. While they are not strictly palm oil free, the small amount of palm oil in the emulsifier, and the small amount of emulsifier in the yeast, and the small amount of yeast in each Hot Cross Bun, doesn’t add up to a lot. And I personally feel that that is a better choice than the quantity of CSPO (plus the possible emulsifier) in the Woolworths ones. Also, they taste better.