‘Easter is a time to remember . . . to remember, amid all the distractions of life’

5:26 am on 29 March 2024
Nico Bonnaud, Sue Cosgrove, Brent Hughes

Chocolatier Nicolas Bonnaud, Sister Sue Cosgrove, baker Brent Hughes. Photo: Supplied

By Denise Irvine*

Baker Brent Hughes: 'You won't find mixed peel in my hot cross buns'

Brent Hughes, hands-on owner of The Grumpy Baker, Hamilton

Baker Brent Hughes: "I don't accept second best." Photo: The Grumpy Baker

Brent Hughes is the hands-on owner of The Grumpy Baker, Hamilton.

"Easter for me has always been about the warm scents in the kitchen of cinnamon and mixed spice and dried fruit. I'm a third-generation commercial baker, my father had a bakery in Hawke's Bay, and I remember the smell of Easter from childhood.

It's the same nowadays at Easter in my own business, The Grumpy Baker, which I opened in Hamilton in January 2020. The grumpy name comes from the fact that I can be a little bit grumpy around wanting things to be done correctly, not cutting corners, using top quality ingredients. I don't accept second best.

I use sultanas, currants and spices in my hot cross buns. We've changed the recipe in recent times and added some fresh citrus based on what our customers were saying. It is kind of a trade secret; it gives us an edge on flavour profiles. I hate mixed peel. You won't ever find it in my hot cross buns.

I don't believe Easter starts on Boxing Day, it takes the gloss off hot cross buns when they're in supermarkets straight after Christmas. There are also multiple flavours now and I think it all loses its charm, and loses sight of what Easter actually means.

Hence there is a need for us to make our buns special and traditional: we start doing a few packets about four or five weeks out from Easter and we make sure our customers are happy with them. We slowly build up, send the word out to our wholesale and in-store customers, and begin taking orders. Then we just go for it.

The dough is mixed in our big mixer, we mould them by hand, hand-make the crosses on top, and do an apricot glaze. In the last three weeks you just don't leave. I start work at 1am each morning, we will have proved a batch overnight and it's ready to go, and more to follow.

We've just had an order from a commercial customer for 1000 buns. We are a tiny little bakery but last Easter we did about 8000 buns. We make the last batches for Easter Saturday, we close on Sunday and Monday and that's it, we don't make them again until next year."

Sister Sue Cosgrove: 'Easter, for me, is an invitation to pause'

Sister Sue Cosgrove

Sister Sue Cosgrove: "Every part of the world has similar Easter rituals and pauses for reflection." Photo: Supplied

Sister Sue Cosgrove, of the order of the Sisters of Compassion, is based at the Home of Compassion, Island Bay, Wellington.

"I have been a member of the Sisters of Compassion for 52 years, I was professed when I was aged 20, and I am currently among seven sisters in our Island Bay community.

These days Easter, for me, is an invitation to pause and to get involved in the various liturgies and rituals in our community. These are timeless, they have their own beauty; they are part of the rhythm of Easter.

As I have got older I have become so aware that every part of the world has similar Easter rituals and pauses for reflection. We are not alone.

On Holy Thursday we observe the aspect of service, the symbolic washing of feet and then breaking bread together at the communion table. I will be at St Anne's Church in Newtown for this. I will be at St Anne's again on Friday as we continue to follow Jesus's story on the Way of the Cross.

On Sunday at 9am, we will have a Māori mass, celebrated in te reo, at the Home of Compassion. This is for our sisters and a few friends. Then at lunchtime we will gather for kai, and it will be something like a traditional roast.

I am always mindful during these times of the need for us to pause long enough to be aware of anyone among us who doesn't feel comfortable or welcome. How can we stretch ourselves to engage with them, to widen the tent and make it a space where everyone feels at home? To offer a sense of hope, that we can move forward together and provide manaakitanga for everybody, Christian nor not. It is the little encounters that are so important.

A lot of our work in the order is unseen and some wonderful sisters have been part of my story. They stand on my shoulders and keep me well grounded. I feel a sense of gratitude that I am surrounded by a circle of people who I identify with. We have our prayer time together and it is the spaces in between, sometimes just small things that are so important, that we translate into action.

Easter is a time to remember . . . to remember, amid all the distractions of life."

Chocolatier Nicolas Bonnaud: 'The last week before Easter is always crazy'

Chocolatier Nicolas Bonnaud, of Honest Chocolat, Matakana Village, and son Charlie

Chocolatier Nicolas Bonnaud and son Charlie. Photo: Honest Chocolat

Chocolatier Nicolas Bonnaud owns Honest Chocolat, which has two shops and a factory in the Auckland region.

"I am a pastry chef, originally from near Bordeaux in France, my wife Emily is an interior designer, from the UK, and New Zealand has been our home for about 18 years.

We began hand-crafting chocolate in our garage at Snells Beach, we outgrew that, and we now have our Honest Chocolat shop at Matakana Village, a factory nearby, and a chocolate boutique at Commercial Bay, Auckland.

Easter is a key season for us, along with Christmas, our two busiest and most important times. But Easter has emphasis on chocolate, and it is fun getting to do Easter bunnies and eggs. This seasonal range gives us an opportunity to be creative. Our Easter treats cater for everyone but kids are really into them.

Our Night Sky Easter eggs are a signature product. They are an iteration of our salted caramel bonbons and we made them for our first Easter in business, eight years ago. The inspiration comes from the beautiful New Zealand night sky. People can't get enough of them.

We start planning our range six months ahead, and they're made from February onwards. Easter is a bit earlier this year, at the end of March, so everything around our speciality products is crunched, with Christmas, Valentine's Day, then Easter all falling close together.

It is a team effort here. Emily is the designer, she puts it all together with the packaging and she is the chief taste tester as well. There is a long waiting list for that role. We have a high focus on quality, and we use single origin chocolate from ethical sources. Knowing the origins of the cacao beans is paramount for us.

We have two children, Charlie, 5, and Annabelle, 1, and Charlie likes to help us a little bit. On Easter Monday, we will do an Easter egg hunt for Charlie and his friends, ahead of Charlie's birthday.

In my home country, France, there is an ancient tradition of chocolate treats being delivered by flying bells rather than the Easter bunny. But we are doing the Easter bunny for Charlie.

The volume of sales has been good so far but the last week is always crazy. Easter Saturday in Matakana Village will be huge. If you buy too early there is the temptation of eating them before Easter."

*Denise Irvine is a Waikato-based journalist.