Globally-inspired spots for the love of carbs, fresh bread and pastries.
The best cake I’ve had in recent memory was made by a baker who specializes in macarons, the notoriously difficult-to-master French confection.
The cake was a moist and pillowy chocolate that came with instructions to let it sit at room temperature for four hours before serving. I’ve eaten a lot of cake, in many parts of the world that take cake very seriously, but I’d never had one come with a user manual.
But I did what I was told, and they were absolutely right. The icing was a loose kind of silken at that temperature that would have been lost had it been served right out of the fridge.
Christopher Siu, who loved watching his father make cheesecakes for special occasions growing up, got on MasterChef in his last year of pharmacy school, and after making it to the top 5, decided to open a bakeshop in Midland Court, a little strip mall in Scarborough’s Brimley Forest. It went well, and he opened a second location in Kensington Market.
Daan Go is now part of the community of excellent, often idiosyncratic pastries and baked goods on the Toronto scene. Like Marvelous by Fred, on the Queen West strip at the corner of McCaul.
The company was founded in 1982 by Frédéric Vaucamps in Lille in the north of France, named “marvelous” (merveilleux) for a kind of cake made from two meringues covered in whipped cream and traditionally, chocolate flakes.
At Marvelous, they come bite-sized and full-sized, alongside many other northern French tidbits, like the cramik, a leaner sort of brioche and vergeoise waffles, a little-seen version of waffle made with sweetened butter, vergeoise sugar (aka cassonade) and rum.
In Harbord Village, there’s Dessert Kitchen, which specializes in various Asian takes on sweets. There’s Taiwanese shaved ice, waffles and ice creams in flavours like durian and kyoho grape, but in the realm of baked goods, you really should try the Japanese brownies, which come in tiny squares wrapped in rice-flour mochi skins.
But you also have to try the serradura, a sort of parfait-cake hybrid made of layers of whipped cream and crushed Marie tea biscuit. It originated in Portugal, but is at least as traditional now in the formerly Portuguese-occupied autonomous region of Macau.
Here are some of the best of the cornucopia of baked goods available around the city.
Pastéis de nata
The creaminess of the custard, the char on the baked surface, the flake of the tiny crust are all points of comparison that divide the Portuguese on just where to get the best nata. The great thing is that they’re small enough for you to do a little comparison shopping yourself through Little Portugal and environs to make up your own mind. Caldense, Nova Era, Golden Wheat, and Venezia are all contenders. (I recommend um café with each to keep you in fighting form.)
There are some who say there’s no such thing as a good croissant outside of France, where layers of laws govern exactly how to make the high-fat, multi-layered cornettes. These people have not visited Jules. But you should.
Montreal is where Canadian bagels come from, but in Toronto, the best ones—that is, the ones that most carefully reproduce the methods used in Montreal—are to be found at St Urbain in St. Lawrence Market, and the 105-year-old Gryfe's, which you can get at the bakery itself (no website; 3421 Bathurst St. in North York), or downtown at Pusateri’s. (If you’re already all carbed out, fear not: Gryfe’s makes tiny little mini bagels just for you.)
If you want to try big, thick, old-school Canadian-style pies, you’ll want to go to Wanda’s Pie in the Sky in Kensington Market.
Daan Go is brilliant, and possibly even the best in town but the classic Toronto cake is Dufflet’s (not pronounced like a French word, but like a little duffle). They’ve become big over the past few decades, with a factory and restaurant and grocery distribution chains, but they’re still good, and you can still stop by one of their cake cafes.
The flatbread, ubiquitous throughout the Middle East and as far west as Greece and Bosnia & Herzegovina, is one of the world’s great breads when done right, and it’s done well at Adonis, where they have a huge pita-making machine in the middle of the store so you can watch your pitas coming hot off the line.