Where the Food Network’s Baker Sisters go for biscuit sandwiches, birthday cake doughnuts and sourdough bread in the east end
Rachel Smith and Jean Parker, the hosts of Food Network Canada show The Baker Sisters, are hyped for their east-end food crawl—or maybe it’s just all the sugar they eat (they also own butter tart company Maple Key Tart Co.). The sugar high may work to their advantage, though, as the real-life sisters have a lot of projects on the go, including a new series of cookbooks for kids. “We’re both moms, and we discovered that some of our biggest fans are children,” says Smith. “Our one and only rule for these cookbook recipes: no veggies allowed.”
Speaking of veggies, there were none to be found on the sisters’ food crawl through Riverside and Leslieville. “We love the east end,” Parker says. “The streets are wider here and you can always find parking!” Both Smith and Parker recently moved to North York, but they lived in Leslieville for 10 years. “With the little ones and our business, we just needed a bit more space,” says Smith. “But we visit at least twice a week because of our community roots and the many great relationships we have with fellow bakers here.”
Lazy Daisy’s Cafe
1515 Gerrard St. E., 647-341-4070, lazydaisyscafe.ca
Smith was out wandering the neighbourhood when she discovered this family-friendly spot. “Being a mom is incredible but it’s stressful too, so this gem was our salvation—especially when we discovered that they serve beer! That’s a big mom win. And the kiddies love it for the toys in the back area, especially the train table. There’d be a riot if they ever got rid of it!” Owner Dawn Chapman says that she and her staff are all about community. “When I was a new mom, I’d have to walk all the way to the Beaches for a coffee shop,” says Chapman. “And then, when you finally got to that Starbucks, everyone would give you dirty looks if your baby made any noise.” That’s why she opened a welcoming and safe space for parents and their tots.
Go-to item 1: The Veggie Rise, a breakfast biscuit with avocado, egg and aged white cheddar.
Tasting notes: “This biscuit is king. It’s buttery, salty and high as hell,” says Parker. “It’s tender but sturdy enough to hold all the fillings. You can see and feel butter—not in that greasy sense but more like in taste and texture. Overall, this is just one dreamy dreamboat.” Chapman explains that one of her “daisies” (that’s what she calls her staff members) created it and that it’s become a customer favourite. As for the recipe, it’s top secret, though she reveals that all of the ingredients need to be extremely cold. Otherwise, it’s primarily about the technique. “Every batch is handmade,” says Chapman.
Go-to item 2: Cinnamon swirl pancakes.
Tasting notes: “They’re so pretty! Aside from the gorgeous swirly-look, they’re like cinnamon buns in pancake form. There’s a great balance with that tangy cream cheese drizzle, and with each bite you get subtle cinnamon notes,” says Parker.
Go-to item 3: Nanaimo bar.
Tasting notes: “I generally don’t like Nanaimo bars because each layer is far sweeter than the next, which makes it hard to finish a whole one,” says Smith. “They’re usually what we call ‘singer sweet,’ so sweet it makes your teeth sing. But not these ones. The Rice Krispie base makes it lighter in texture, and gives a pleasant chewiness to it. I’m really digging the ratio and balance of sweetness—especially that custard. It’s so silky.”
Go-to item 4: Chocolate salted caramel brownie.
Tasting notes: “It has this fudgy, stick-to-your-teeth-toffee, chewy texture all at the same time,” says Smith. “The pops of salt from the caramel really awaken the palate. This is a perfect brownie. And perfect brownies don’t need icing.”
Go-to item #5: Butter tart.
Tasting notes: They first check the tart’s “bum”. Smith explains that it’s an unconscious habit. “The crust reveals all,” she says. “I’m looking at their technique and whether there’s an even, golden-brown bake.” As butter tart experts, the sisters love Lazy Daisy’s version for the sticky-chewy edges and sweet, runny interior. “We love the ratio of goo to pastry—it’s perfect. And the filling tastes more buttery than sweet,” says Parker.
Glory Hole Doughnuts
1505 Gerrard St. E., 647-352-1505, gloryholedoughnuts.com
“Years ago, our sister, who was a preteen at the time, was visiting from Tucson. We took her on a doughnut crawl of the city, determined to find the best one—we made scoring cards and everything! After visiting 15 locations, Glory Hole was the clear winner,” says Smith. “It was an interesting conversation with her mom that night as to why her daughter was posing in front of a sign that read ‘Glory Hole’ without any context provided.” So the sisters were thrilled when the west-end favourite opened an east-end location. The majority of the doughnuts are yeast-raised, but there are two cake-style doughnuts currently on offer and there are even a few vegan options.
Go-to item 1: Birthday cake doughnut holes.
Tasting notes: “These doughnuts don’t put sweaters on your teeth,” says Parker. “It’s the worst when a dessert is so cloyingly sweet that all you want to do is brush your teeth because they feel woolly. These doughnut holes have a beautiful crunchy exterior, thanks to the sprinkles, but they’re moist inside, thanks to the use of sour cream. They actually remind me of those birthday cakes at Metro we’re all secretly guilty of enjoying.”
Go-to item 2: Toast and Butter doughnut.
Tasting notes: Owner Ashley Jacot De Boinod explains that this is one of her year-round staples because it’s one of the best-sellers. The signature yeast doughnut is coated in American buttercream and sprinkled in breadcrumbs. “It’s one of the OGs and it’s a great doughnut because I’m all about no-waste, and the toasted crumb topping is actually from the ugly doughnut children that didn’t make the cut,” says de Boinod. The sisters love it because it’s the doughnut they first fell in love with. “It’s addictive and you always want one more,” says Smith.
Go-to item 3: Ferrero Rocher doughnut.
Tasting notes: De Boinod explains that many of the flavours she dreams up—this one included—are her renditions of nostalgic desserts. “One of my favourite parts is biting into the gigantic chunks of toasted hazelnut,” says Parker.
Go-to item 5: London Fog doughnut.
Tasting notes: For this popular stuffed doughnut, De Boinod steeps Earl Grey tea bags from Sloane for the pastry cream filling. Smith and Parker love the doughnut’s sophisticated profile. “You bite into this cushiony cloud and are treated to silky pastry cream that’s followed by earthy and floral notes. We especially love the flecks of Earl Grey tea on top of the glaze,” says Smith.
Blackbird Baking Co. Riverside
635 Queen St. E., Unit 101, 416-465-0043, blackbirdbakingco.com
Simon Blackwell opened his new 7000-square-foot facility this past December—it’s a wee bit bigger than the 1700-square-foot flagship bakery in Kensington Market. The new Riverside location is now Blackbird’s office and wholesale baking space, as well as a retail bakery. Blackwell took the sisters on a tour of the sprawling space, first introducing them to Murray, the famous eight-year-old sourdough yeast starter, who was the first Canadian starter to be inducted into Belgium’s Sourdough Library. “I started Murray using local organic flour and grapes from Niagara,” says Blackwell. “He’s fed twice a day. And 365 days a year, we never skip a beat.” Parker first heard about Blackbird Baking Co. back in 2016 while shooting a commercial. “One of the producers was fawning over Parisian baguettes, but said that she no longer had to smuggle them home because Blackbird’s are just as good. That’s a big statement! But we totally agree that Blackbird can rival any boulangerie in France.”
Go-to item 1: Cinnamon roll.
Tasting notes: “That aroma! My goodness. The cinnamon-sugar combo just grounds you and makes you feel at home,” says Smith. Head pastry chef Jordan Gordanier oversees the production of all the sweets at Blackbird, and Blackwell gets all of the spices they use from Carlos’ House of Spice in Kensington.
Go-to item 2: Cannelé.
Tasting notes: “The eggy interior kind of reminds me of the inside of a Yorkshire pudding,” says Parker. “But the exterior has this deep, dark caramelized look. It’s toasty and chewy all at once.” At this point, Blackwell tells them that the mixture also contains rum and vanilla. “That’s why I love them so much! They bring out the pirate in me,” says Parker.
Go-to item 3: Kouign-amann
Tasting notes: “Yas, queen! It’s fatty, buttery and filled with love,” says Smith. The sisters also take a moment to appreciate what they call the “queen’s backside.” “Just by looking at the bottom crust, we can tell what type of fat was used and if it was baked evenly. This one is perfection: there’s no shortage of butter here,” says Parker.
Go-to item 4: Pain au raisin.
Tasting notes: Smith grabs the pastry wheel, extracting and eating the centre. “Yeah, sorry not sorry,” she says. “That’s the best part.”
Go-to item 5: Tofu banh mi.
Tasting notes: “Chef Lori Marucci is in charge of our savouries department,” says Blackwell. “She creates all of the different sandwiches we feature on our menu each day.” The sisters love her veggie take on a classic banh mi. “It’s seasoned tofu that’s baked then topped with hoisin mayo, pickled carrots, napa cabbage and cilantro—all nestled in a chewy baguette. It’s fresh and hearty, and I love the vibrant acidity from the sauce. It’s light but filling. I could eat this for breakfast,” says Parker.
Go-to items 6 and 7: Loaves of Kensington Sourdough and Baldwin Sourdough.
Tasting notes: Before they leave, Parker stocks up on sourdough. “It’s so great for breakfast,” she says. “I’ll slice off a thick piece, toast it then slather it with homemade whipped feta, sliced avocado and rainbow radish. Simon’s bread brings avocado toast to the friggin’ next level. Mind: blown.” And Parker has one more bread-based life hack: “I never toss the heels of the loaves. I save them and use them to make a killer tomato bread salad.”