Bakery at O'Connor & Pape?
There are three significant bakeries: two Greek and one Danish.
- Hansen's Danish Pastry shop is a long established source of authentic, but not great, Danish pastries. This place was wonderful decades ago, but has since abandoned silly ingredients like butter, cream, and eggs for shortening and custard powder. They also do some Anglo style things, but not very well. All in all, it's edible but nothing special.
- Donlands bakery is a long established Greek bakery that also was once wonderful. I now consider it awful and won't go in there. They have variously sold me stuff with rancid fat, soggy filo, and stale nuts.
- Like Atahualpa, I prefer the mid eastern filo pastry style. My favourite is Patisserie Royale at Lawrence/Pharmacy. However, if you like Greek baking, Serano is probably the best on Pape. The filo products are fresh and decently done. The cookies are dry and many are tasteless, but I am assured this is authentic. Ditto their cream pastries, which are all artificial (but, I'm told, equally authentic).
Maybe it's Select Bakery that you mean? Select is at 405 Donlands, though.
Select is one of the best Greek bakeries that I've found. Very fresh and quick turnover.
And embee, I think you haven't had a real Greek cookie or pastry, my friend, if you were told or have eaten a tasteless one!
When a Greek cookie/pastry is done right, they are very far from tasteless or artificial. I don't remember them being tasteless from Serano, but I haven't been for a little while.
BTW, Greek "kourabyethes" (shortbread, icing sugar cookie) should taste of both almonds and slight ouzo flavour. "koulourakia" which are the semi-hard cookies (often in braids) should taste of vanilla and organge. As for the pastries, old-school Greeks like their 'pastess', as they were once called, and yes, many of them have that old school whipping cream, but far from "artificial". And of course, the "yalaktobouriko" the custard and filo, dressed in honey syrup is made from semolina, cream, and vanilla. Sometimes in Greece, they spike it with a little lemon juice to cut the syrup, equally delicious.
You are Greek, aren't you? My wife lived in Greece for many years. She said she often tasted good home baking, but that the cookies available for purchase where she lived (variously Rhodes and Kalymnos) were overwhelmingly dry and relatively tasteless. Butter was never used and vanilla seemed to be unavailable.
The Greek style cookies I've tasted in Toronto, from bakeries and from Greek homes, have never excited my palate. Some have had good flavours, but have still been sandy and dry. I tend to like buttery rich cookies in a French or Viennese style.
There's also expectation, of course. In my original hometown, Brooklyn, people went mad over "black & white" cookies. They still do. If you aren't a native, you'll likely wonder why. I am a native and, in hindsight, I wonder why.
I have been to Select and find it frustrating. Their pastries are fresh and look great, but the flavours usually disappoint.
All of the Toronto Greek pastries I've tried with "whipped cream" and/or "buttercream" have been fake. Maybe bad luck, but true. I do like galaktobouriko and bougatsa, though, usually from Athens.
Yes, I am Greek.
Huh. Really, it's too bad you've had not great luck it seems with the bakeries here. Actually, unless I'm in one of the bakeries buying something else, I rarely purchase anything sweet. My family of aunts and mother always have something around, so no need. However, I was recently craving a 'melamakarono' (honey soaked cookie) and bought 6 at Select. I thought it was excellent--perfect amount of cinammon, clove, and nutmeg, and perfectly soaked through with honey. Gave one to my mother and she didn't like it much. (honestly, hers are much better!). And you describe it perfectly, the ones my family makes (mother, aunts) have lots of flavour as well as butter, so the texture and flavour is much more pronounced, like for the koulouraki, they always use freshly squeezed orange juice, and even the rind. And, you may not be SO obsessed, but have you ever tried your local Greek church? Sometimes during the holidays and Sundays, the women's that volunteer there often bake and sell tiropites, loukoumathes (honeyballs), and also these cookies. Perhaps the bakeries are baking for profit rather than flavour?
Ah, picked up a large square of warm bougatsa from Athens yesterday, and pretty much devoured the entire thing. One of my all-time faves and they do it the best here in Toronto.
I love Select Bakery, I moved into the area in the middle of one of many storms last winter and found this wonderful gem.
I'm rather addicted to the Ekmek Kataifi, a rich custard with honeyed angel hair pastry on the bottom and topped with shaved chocolate, cinnamon and a wee bit of a rich whipped cream. Yum. Try to limit to twice a month, it's rich.
They also bake bread twice daily, a village loaf fresh from the oven around 11:00 am is marvelous. Olive bread is also great.
The apple squares are loaded with apples and the apple turnovers are light and delicious.
While I find the cakes too rich with whipped cream, the cookies and biscotti are great. They also have a full deli, great feta, spinach pies, I could go on...
See for yourself. I'm Irish, but loving my greek neighbourhood!
Another note, popped into Donlands Bakery also when I moved here and left without purchase, was not feeling the love. The Danish pastry shop is good, lots of strudels and always fancy wee cupcakes for festive seasons that are a cut above the usual grocery store fan fare.
This is a great neighbourhood, best breakfast is at Sammy's Eatery and Prime Rib Restaurant. Donlands and O'Connor $4.95 will fill you up for the day. I know the owner, followed him through 5 restaurants, including Rosemary and Thyme. But that's for another post.
If there are other bakeries I should be exploring please fill me in.
1. Donlands Greek bakery (yes, it really is called that -- they USED to be on Donlands)
2. Hansen's Danish Pastry Shop
As for if they are any good or not, I can't quite answer that easily.
I don't like ANYTHING from the Greek bakery. But, I can't ever recall really liking anything from any Greek bakery. Even for Baklava, I much prefer the middle-eastern (esp. Iranian) versions.
Hansen's does some things well (their "Old-Fashioned" (they have several types) Butter Tarts, some of their squares) but nothing for which I'd go out of my way.