Holiday preparations are hopping over at Charlottesville’s Great Harvest Bread Co. As Easter approaches, the bakery’s Honey Bunnies are back this week.
As in years past, part of the price of each bready bunny – listed at $30 online – will benefit University of Virginia Children’s Hospital.
Aileen Magnotto, owner of Great Harvest Bread Co., said at least 100 bread bunnies were ordered in advance of Tuesday’s deadline, and many more will be available for immediate sale on a first-come, first-served basis.
Magnotto said that each bunny begins with dough crafted from only five ingredients: freshly ground whole wheat flour, honey, yeast, water and salt. Preservatives and dough conditioners are not part of the mix.
“It’s just five simple, healthy ingredients,” Magnotto told The Daily Progress. “We mill our own grains. We use local Virginia honey.”
Honey Bunnies can serve as festive centerpieces for holiday tables, with or without embellishments. Families and children can come up with creative ways to decorate them at home; Magnotto suggests jelly beans.
Before the pandemic, “we used to have the kids from the Covenant School come down and decorate them,” she said.
The rabbits also hop into action as appetizer and snack receptacles. Folks who enjoy bread bowls may consider slicing out a space for some spinach artichoke dip, for instance.
“What I do is carve out the back and put ranch dip in a little cup in the back of the bunny, and put carrots all around it,” Magnotto said.
For the less creative folks out there, one can also be simply tucked into an Easter basket. “Every child loves a bunny at Easter,” Magnotto said.
Four Great Harvest bakers are hard at work on the labor-intensive leporids, each of which is made by hand. Ears are individually cut out and shaped, and personalities emerge as facial features are built.
“Each one has its own personality,” Magnotto said. “They just do an amazing job.”
There don’t seem to be any time-saving shortcuts for holiday hares.
“It is definitely a labor of love,” Magnotto said. “I keep leaving two Honey Bunnies together and hoping they will reproduce, but it doesn’t work,” she added with a chuckle.
Hot cross buns and dinner rolls also are among the bakery’s spring holiday dinner options.
Up next on the bakery’s culinary calendar is a creation fit for a king.
Magnotto said the bakery will bring back king cakes, typically reserved for the Mardi Gras celebration, in time for the coronation of Great Britain’s King Charles III on May 6.
The cakes will be complete with tiny crowns, she said.
“We love doing bread art, and we love doing creative things,” Magnotto said.