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Patisseries/Bakeries/Cakes

In a recent positive review, and subsequent discussion, of a new neighbourhood place on the Danforth, Chocolate Heaven Cafe, some people weighed in how terrible cakes were at Sweet Tooth (also on the Danforth), how the goods available at Chocolate Heaven were homemade (apparently a bad thing to some folks, though not to me), and that Clafouti's crosissants were made from frozen dough, Only Bonjour Brioche escaped major criticism (though it has been resoundingly criticized elsewhere for it's attitude).

So my question of the day is (recognizing that the above is hardly an exhaustive list, but does seem to reflect a general willingness to criticize without offering alternative positive suggestions), where DO chowhounders go across this great and diverse city of ours go to get:

a. Pastry
b. Bread
c. Cake

Are we all slaves to outlets for Ace and Dufflet? I'm hoping that if people critique a place they will offer at least one positive alternative suggestion...

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  1. Generally I make my own desserts since I love to bake. Having said that, I have had some great cakes from Altitude on Queen E., in particular a cappucino cake that I can't buy anymore because I can't stop eating it when it's in the house. For bread I love the selection at All the Best on Yonge. Their in-house baker makes great bread, his Farmhouse loaf is my favourite, but the 4 Grain with Flax is really good too if you want a healthier option. And they carry Celestin, Thuet and the other big bread guys in the city, so you can get pretty much whatever you want there. For pastries I ususally treat myself to a raspberry twist from Stonemill when I'm at the market.

    I like to know about bad experiences, but agree that a positive option is great to get.

    1 Reply
    1. re: cheesymama

      I agree about Altitude. Around the holiday season we fill up on their cranberry walnut tart (think pecan pie but way, way better) but they are equally effective year round. Although Dufflet seems to be under some criticism around here I have always had a soft spot for their Chocolate Banana Layer Cake. Although I haven't had it in a while, I remember it as dense and delicious - not quite as sweet as some of Dufflet's other creations. Phipps on Eglinton is also pretty reliable.

    2. a) I buy savoury pies at Healthy Butcher and Cumbrae - but I prefer HB's. Clafouti has very nice tarts - lemon, pear, etc. And there's a pretty good place on the north side of Bloor in Bloor West Village; their name escapes me. Lemon Meringue?
      b) Pusateri's for Gryfe's bagels and Gryfe's pizza bagels, Ace baguette, and Fred's Breads; Whole Foods for Ace baguette; Healthy Butcher for Fred's; Celestin for butter croissant and pain au chocolat.
      c) Pusateri's for assorted cakes. Nothing I deeply love, but I don't love cake. I bought a tarte tatin once on Queen in the east end (not at Bonjour Brioche but some place whose name escapes me, further east towards the Beach, with lime-painted walls) - it was amazingly good.

      Senses is okay, particularly for fruit mousses, but not spectacular. I don't like Dufflet; either they or I have really changed in the past ten years and I find them leaden and too-sweet. Cobs is bland and boring, Thuet didn't knock my socks off, Wagamama is always dusty and often closed, Jules is pretty good, and The Cupcake Shoppe is a travesty.

      My two cents :-)

      2 Replies
      1. re: spigot

        Lemon Meringue has been gone for awhile(catering only now).I like Queen of Tarts on Roncevalles(their coconut cream tart is very good and they have quite a few unusual varieties).Also. I like Wanda's Pie in the Sky (on Six Point Rd in Etob.). Nice scones, brownies and cookie dough to take out by the pound(so you can lie to your friends if ya don't bake and take all the credit...)

        1. re: spigot

          Maybe the place you're thinking of on Queen East is Konditor?

        2. My favourite cakes and pastries are those that contain whipped cream. I've gotten some great whipped cream pastries at Amadeus on Bathurst just north of Steeles.

          I also like the cream pies (banana chocolate is great), fruit tarts and cakes made by Whole Foods (from their own bakery only).

          I'm not a fan of the cakes at Pusateri's. Large selection...nothing great.

          I'm very particular about the sweetness of my desserts, and I find Dufflet, Phipp's and Wanda's to be excessively sweet.

          Personally, I don't find any of the so-called artisanal breads available in Toronto to be anything great. But in Montreal,...

          1. Apart from the places mentioned, I quite like the selection at Le Gourmand near Queen and Spadina. Their croissants, particularly the chocolate ones, are delicious. Often they're gone by the time I make it there. The pastries I've had aren't heavy or overly sweet. I used to be a Dufflet's fan, but I find their pastries that are sold in the markets are simply too butter-heavy. I heard extra butter makes the pastries last longer, but it's a turn-off for the tastebuds.

            1. In Scarboro East and West Durham, there is an excellent bakery, The Breadhouse, at 893 Bayly St, (one block east of White's Rd.) The proprietor, Terrance has good cakes and pastries, but I go there for the breads, especially rye, and Austrian round loaf. Pot pies and sausage rolls are worthy snak items, as well as pizza. Prices are reasonable, e.g. $3.10 for large rye.

              Ace baguettes are now sold frozen, in a box at Costco. A fine convenience product. I suppose a lot of restaurants are buying these. Cost is about $1.20 each when purchased by the dozen.

              1. I swear I am not on their payroll, but again, I love the pastries and some of the breads at What-A-Bagel!

                Love the rugies, pastries and cinnamon buns and bagels.

                I'm old-school, my favourite bread is still the caraway rye from Open Window Bakery though lately I've been having it from WAB.

                I like the way Ace sells it's dough -- so I can get a fresh olive fougasse from The Chees Boutique, still warm from the oven.

                I'd love to know what desserts folks like from Dufflet, I'm just not sharing the same palette with their chefs and haven't yet found anything from there that I like -- so take my preferences in that context

                2 Replies
                1. re: orangewasabi

                  re: Dufflets, their carrot cake pretty much sets the standard for me (this could be a nostalgia thing). Their lemon tarts are decent - not best in town or anything, but I've had worse. Their packaged chocolate tart is not a bad option for the price either. They are not my favourite for anything except the carrot cake, which I eat rarely. But for their level of distribution I think they are the best, way better than Larocca. I also ordered my wedding cake there after a bad experience with a much-acclaimed baker who had a lot of attitude, so I appreciate their professionalim/lack of elitism.

                  At the same time, that success is their downfall. So many places that buy their stuff are not ensuring freshness.

                  1. re: julesrules

                    The carrot cake by WOW Desserts is dynamite - hands down better than Dufflet's, Carole's, Loblaws, Whole Foods, and many others we've sampled over the years. Enjoyed a slice tonight and was delighted again. We go to Faema - Dupont and Christie - for a slice. When we want the whole cake - for a birthday, for example - I make the trek to their outlet (Finch and Dufferin area, as I recall).

                2. Great breads can be found at Artisano on Islington.
                  San Remo makes amazing stuffed corn bread sticks amongst other great pastries and breads.
                  Thuet is great for rye breads.
                  Best lemon tart in the world is at Queen of Tarts (yes world) ; )
                  Apple Strudel at Churassco Villa on Eglinton is the best strudel going - non glaze.
                  Alchemy in Kensington has excellent shortbreads and breads.
                  Dessert Trends on Harbord - pretty much everything
                  Harbord street bakery has some jewish old school goodies

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: deelicious

                    Harbord's challah is amazing, and I love their brownie cookes and mandelbroit. Their traditional Jewish breads, like seeded rye and pumpernickel are really good, and they have great meusli bread and pumpernickel with raisins (weekends only, I believe). Wonderful cheese danish and cinnamon loaf, too.

                    Another good bakery for seeded rye and pumpernickel is Health Bread/Open Window. And the artisanal breads at Haymishe Bagel on Bathurst just south of Lawrence are excellent, too.

                    1. re: FlavoursGal

                      Agreed to all. I just had a PB+J sammo on Harbord's pumpernickel. Their challah is just gorgeous as are those brownie cookies; oh baby. Their mandelbroit is decent but nothing beats homemade. I also love their almond danish.

                      I adore pretty much anything Health Bread/Open Window ever baked.
                      World Class Bakers on St. Clair have the best croissants I've had in the city, easily.

                      Ok, a BIT of negative:

                      Dufflet is just awful. Only thing I ever liked were the chocolate tortes (if warmed, cold....not so much). Also, I don't care for the term 'Ruggies'. It's Rugalach!! :)

                    2. re: deelicious

                      Harbord St Bakery bear claws are delish! good call.

                      (we might have to come to blows over the lemon tart though)

                      1. re: orangewasabi

                        lol let me tell you why. The crust is good and sure you can find good tart crust in many places. BUT the lemon filling is made in a lab somewhere. It is perfectly congealed when you buy it, but when it hits your tongue it dissolves into tart lemon juice. Delicious tart lemon juice. So this ends up being such a light treat with sharp flavour. Personally I dislike thick, gooey, cloying tart filling.

                        So orange, your posting begs the question...where are they better? Given the fact that Vienna Home Bakery closed (they were a very close second for me), I am very curious to know!!

                        1. re: deelicious

                          this is not a fair answer, since it's not really a daily option for us . . . but the world's best lemon tart, imho, is from Laudree in Paris.

                          It's been a while, but I do recall that QofT lemon tarts are much more tart/juicy than average. And since I've just returned from Paris, I am going to give Queen of Tarts another try. I'd love to be able to get a lemon tart fix again, I'd kinda given up on them in TO.

                          1. re: orangewasabi

                            And of course neither of us have travelled the world and every lemon tart baker....look forward on hearing how QofT stacks up against your recent indulgence!

                            1. re: deelicious

                              And of course neither of us have travelled the world and every lemon tart baker....

                              we should though, don't you think?
                              Lemon desserts are one of the ways I judge a locations foody-ness. Reasonable, n'est pas?

                              1. re: orangewasabi

                                Well yes of course we should! But for me it would be in search of the ultimate cheese danish. Maybe the there is a Lemon Cheese Danish waiting to be found in Lyon or Aix en Provence!

                                So where is a GREAT sweet cheese danish in TO?

                              2. re: deelicious

                                I dragged my husband out to QofT by subway to try the lemon tarts. I am so sorry to report that they just didn't cut it. Not lemony enough (now that my standard has been recalibrated to a completely unfair level). And the crust was way too hard for my preferences -- I like the crusts to be like a soft shortbread -- more butter please. It was a fun adventure though, I appreciate the tip.

                      2. i really don't think there's any comparison to home-baking, for cakes and pies and tarts and things.

                        where else am i going to find a crust made with lard? <-- produces superlative results

                        for bread, i generally really like the loaves produced by st. john's.

                        1. i also think the critique of chocolate heaven is that they look home-made in the sense that anyone could rip a recipe out of canadian living an produce the same quality of dessert, in which case: why would you go out and pay for it?

                          the flavour combinations are neither current or particularly well-executed, and the chocolate work is pretty amateurish.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: vox

                            As per my orginal request, critiques are great, and you are more than entitled to your opinion, but what DO you like then (other than st. john's bread). Where do you get cake/pastry etc.

                            Aside from this, I am happy to pay for a peice of well-executed "homemade" chocolate cake etc., as it saves me the trouble of baking it, and then having to eat it all before it goes bad. In addition this style tends to have less fat/sugar in it and is less of an assult on my body. I would rather this than, say Starbucks, which is one of the few alternatives in the neighborhood.

                          2. To my taste, the best rye around the GTA comes from Dimp's factory store on Advance just east of Kipling. Don't miss the addictive pretzels that are often hot from the ovens about 100 feet away. Expect crowds and demolition derby parking.

                            1. I like some of the bread from Fred's Bread. Also, St John's bakery makes some great bread - I happen to like the "Maria" ltalian style bread. It's available at Fresh from the Farm, and also from the store: http://www.stjohnsbakery.com/stjohnsb...
                              You will see other stores that sell their products in Toronto at that link.

                              1. Pastry: Celestin hands down (especially the croissants), but the ones from Rahier are also amazing
                                Bread: Challah from Harbord bakery and Grodzinski's on Bathurst, baguettes from Celestin, multigrain and other specialty breads from Thuet
                                Cake: Anything at Celestin, Lemon tarts at Frangipane, Chocolate Bobka from Harbord

                                11 Replies
                                1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                                  For challah, Harbord's is great but expensive (about $6.00), Grodzinski's isn't bad but it's not amazing. For me it's a toss-up between St-Urbain Bagel and What-A-Bagel.

                                  The absolute best is at Kosher Quality on Victoria Ave. in Montreal. It's an absolute madhouse there on Friday mornings - everyone grabbing for a hot challah straight off the cooling rack. I would always buy two - one for the car ride home, and one for Shabbat dinner.

                                  1. re: FlavoursGal

                                    If you like sweet challah, Lenchners is very nice (with and without raisins). Let it rise for 6 hours and bake. I get it frozen at Loblaws -- at their Gerrard ant Vic Park store of all places.

                                    I had a really amazing challah from Grodzinsky around Rosh Hashannah a couple of years ago. I don't know whether it was a special holiday thing or if they've gone downhill.

                                    1. re: embee

                                      Grodzinski's High Holiday challahs ARE actually better than their usual Friday challahs. They are slightly sweeter and a bit cakier.

                                      1. re: FlavoursGal

                                        I've never tried Lenchners. They sell frozen bourekas also, if I'm not mistaken. I should give them a try. There's nothing like the smell of challah baking in the oven...

                                      2. re: embee

                                        Leshners is also available at the No Frills @Wilson/Bathurst

                                      3. re: FlavoursGal

                                        Agreed that St Urbain has the best bagels in town (the closest I've had to the ones in Montreal)-will definitely try Kosher Quality when I'm in Montreal at the end of the month. Thanks.

                                        1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                                          Actually, the best bagels in town are at Bagel House. Two locations - one on Avenue Rd. and one on Bayview.

                                          Here's the info for Kosher Quality. Just make sure to put the hot/warm challah into one of the paper bags that are supplied. One of the things that's so amazing about this challah is the crust - you wouldn't want to "soggify" it. And, an important note, this "extra special challah" (as it's called) is available only on Friday.

                                          Kosher Quality Bakery Ltd
                                          5855 AVENUE VICTORIA
                                          MONTRÉAL
                                          514) 731-7883

                                          1. re: FlavoursGal

                                            PLEASE - no offence...but lets not turn this into bagel wars again !!

                                          2. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                                            Bagel House's are far more true to Montreal style bagels that St. Urbain. St. Urbain's are not bad, but man oh man, Bagel House is pretty much just like Montreal.

                                      4. I swear, if this becomes another "who has the best bagels" debate I will scream.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: downtown

                                          As the person who started this thread, I hereby request that all "BEST BAGEL" comments be taken outside. With respect, please limit comments to breads, cakes and pastries. For those of you who argue that bagels fall under this category, I HEREBY declare that, for the purposes of this thread, they do not!

                                            1. re: bluedog

                                              Amen, I mean we all love our bagels but there's a limit....

                                          1. Maybe the place you were thinking of on Queen East was Konditor?

                                            1. For cakes I have been going to Noisette Pastry Works for several years and have never been let down. They made our wedding cake and several birthday cakes for my son over the years. I have never tried their pastries and would be interested in hearing if anyone has tried them? They make one of the best banana breads I have ever tasted. Noisette is located at Warden and Steeles and as a current resident to north Etobicoke I have found it worth while to make the "trek" over there for special occasion cakes.
                                              http://www.noisette.ca

                                              I also enjoy cakes from Carole's Cheesecake Co. - particularly the brownie cheesecake and the carrot cake. There is a small dessert outlet that sells only Carole's products in the Exchange Tower and my office has ordered from there numerous times - particularly the strawberry cheesecake, which I find to be very light and delish! I used to live relatively close to Carole's Cheesecake cafe (Eglinton & Dufferin area), and there is a cute picture of the shop at their website:
                                              http://www.carolescheesecake.com/back...

                                              For bread I can only think of one place that stands out - the Village Italian Bakery and Deli located at Old Kingston Road and Hwy 2 in Scarborough. I used to enjoy their sandwich buns tremendously (I would eat them sliced with butter and nothing else - that's how much I enjoyed them!!), but have not been back in some time given that I have been living away from Scarborough for many years now. If anyone has been there recently, please let me know if the buns are still as good as I remember?

                                              In terms of pastries, I do enjoy a good Napoleon from Furama, although I used to enjoy them more from another pastry shop in Markham, although it has since moved locations and I cannot for the life of me remember the name. Towards that end, if anyone knows of a good bakery that is similar to (but not) Furama I would be happy to have the name and location. I will travel pretty far and wide for good pastries of this type.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: wheresthafood

                                                If you like Napoleons, you should definitely try the Mille Feuille from Celestin. OMG, the best I've ever had. Warning: you HAVE to order them, they don't carry them in house.

                                              2. All, I just looked at my post again and realized how long-winded I am!!! SORRY!

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: wheresthafood

                                                  wheresthafood, when "long-winded" posts are well thought out and well-written, we are delighted to read them.

                                                2. Bake Dessert Co. makes the best chocolate cake - with a layer of meringue that adds some crunch and texture. The icing is divine. (They have lots of other cakes on their menu but all I've tried so far is the chocolate). They're in on Dufferin between Eglinton and Lawrence.

                                                  1. I used to enjoy Dufflet's pastries more than I do now. Maybe because they were the only gourmet treats around. I like their lemon meringue tarts, but that's about it. I find their desserts to be too butter-heavy. Maybe that's because butter extends the shelf life of desserts. I once had a wedding cake by Dufflets, and though it was tasty.
                                                    In the meantime, I'm pleased as punch that Le Gourmand opened up a stand at Yonge and Bloor. They have the same lovely selection of pastries as their King and Spadina location.