17 Reasons To Fill Up on Bread

Exceptional boules, batards and baguettes are now being sold at brewery bottle shops, trendy wine bars and, of course, farmers' markets. Here, our picks for the city's best loaves

Sud Forno’s Pane Pugliese

1 This old-school-meets-contemporary-cool arm of the Terroni empire displays its loaves on rows of wooden pegs high above the room, like golden-brown trophies on a mantel. The specialties are rustic Italian staples, such as the pane Pugliese, an airy boule made with imported semolina flour and sporting a ridiculously crackly crust. Dunk hunks of it in olive oil or whipped ricotta, and enjoy the tangy, slightly creamy flavour the loaf inherits from its lievito madre—Italian bakerspeak for “mother yeast,” or the starter Sud Forno uses in its sourdoughs. $4–$7. 132 Yonge St., 416-955-1100; 716 Queen St. W., 416-504-7667, terroni.com/sudforno

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Burdock’s Beer Bread

2 Beer and sourdough are both fermented grain products, so why shouldn’t a brewery have its own in-house baking program? Head baker Adrian DiLena makes a selection of loaves available for sale in the brewery’s small bottle shop, and none are more on-brand than the beer bread. It’s a dark, dense loaf with a heady malt aroma that’s made with an Irish stout called April instead of water. Toasted bread and an extra bit of molasses folded into the dough bring out some of the beer’s sweetness. $6. 1184 Bloor St. W., 416-546-4033, burdockto.com.

Burdock’s head baker Adrian DiLena.

Burdock’s dark and dense loaves of beer bread.

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Petite Thuet’s Alsatian Sourdough

3 Restaurants and bakeries come and go—even some of Marc Thuet’s. But the popular French chef and boulanger remains the gold standard for an entire generation of aspiring bakers, and it’s clear why when you taste a slice of his Alsatian sourdough. The crust and crumb are perfectly crisp and chewy, and as in a glass of syrah, there’s a hint of sweet smokiness that makes the loaf unique among its peers. Thuet says the flavour comes from a sourdough starter that has been in his family for more than two centuries. $7.25. 1162 Yonge St., 416-924-2777, petitethuet.com

The key ingredient in the Alsatian sourdough at Petite Thuet is more than 200 years old.

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St. John’s Bakery’s Cilantro-Olive Sourdough

4 Run by the St. John the Compassionate Mission, this Broadview bake shop is a non-profit social enterprise whose small team of bakers trains some of the city’s neediest residents, including refugees and those struggling with addiction or mental health issues, in the methods of traditional French baking. A rustic cilantro-olive sourdough batard—piquant, herbaceous—is usually the first to sell out for the day. $7.25. 153 Broadview Ave., 416-850-7413, stjohnsbakery.com

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Prairie Boy Bread’s Double-Fermented Multigrain Sourdough

5 The longer a dough has to ferment before it’s baked, the more flavour the bread will have. So when you bite into the double-fermented multigrain sourdough from this College Street
bakery, you’re tasting the result of not one, but two time-consuming cycles: for the first, a mix of organic rye, oat, wheat and Kamut sits for 24 hours; it’s then added to a stone-ground wheat dough for another 24-ish hours before it’s time to shape and bake. It’s labour-intensive, but owners Grant MacPherson and Lainie Knox believe it’s worth it for the deep, nutty flavour of each oat-studded loaf. $6.75. 970 College St., 416-531-1211, @prairieboybread

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Adamson Bakery’s Beef-Fat Bread

6 When the team from Adamson Barbecue needed bread for their platters of Texas barbecue, they decided to bake their own, along with the desserts they were already making. Now they’re also running a standalone bakery making pies, cakes, squares and this hefty Pullman-style loaf, which will permanently ruin your taste for Wonder Bread. The secret ingredient: beef, of course. Specifically, the brisket tallow Dani DeRoo adds to the dough, which gives the beef-fat bread an otherworldly smoothness—and a not-insignificant whiff of smokehouse. $6. 176 Wicksteed Ave., 647-559-2080, adamsonbakery.com

The secret to Adamson Bakery’s white bread: beef fat.

Adamson Bakery’s head baker Dani DeRoo.

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Mattachioni’s Italian sourdough

7 Despite the gloriously ’70s red, yellow and orange moulding that hangs over the bar, it’s the massive orbs of Italian sourdough that first catch your attention inside David Mattachioni’s Junction Triangle pizzeria. The loaves are almost cartoonishly appealing, golden-brown all over with spots of char and a Dumbo-sized ear—the prized ridge that runs along the centre of the loaf where it was scored before baking in the 500-degree-Fahrenheit oven. Inside, the loaf is bright white and has a rich, challah-like texture. $8.1617 Dupont St., 416-519-1010, mattachioni.com

David Mattachioni and some freshly baked Italian sourdough.

Jules Patisserie’s Rye-Whole Wheat Sourdough

8 Even for the most hardened of bread cultists, it’s nearly impossible to pass up a perfect croissant or pain au chocolat. So don’t—but make sure to also grab a loaf of this patisserie’s picture-perfect rye–whole wheat sourdough. It’s as big and round as a decorative throw pillow, and the exceptional crust, scored with a dramatic flour-dusted X, shatters like an eggshell to reveal a light, grainy crumb that is, in its own way, just as craveable as one of the more buttery baked goods on offer. $8.95–$10. 617 Mount Pleasant Rd., 416-481-1666, julescafepatisserie.com

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Bar Raval’s Baguette

9 While most of its kind are light and airy, the baguette at this College Street pintxos bar was created to be denser, the better to sop up the Spanish spreads and conservas on the menu and at Bar Raval’s sister restaurant, Bar Isabel. And who needs tradition when the result marries a blistered crust and a crumb that practically melts in your mouth? The trick is a blend of hard white and all-purpose flours, a sourdough starter the bakers named “Adam” (seriously) and the use of a “poolish”—that’s a mix of flour, water and fresh yeast that gives the dough more strength and the end product an unbelievable crunch. $4. 505 College St., no phone, thisisbarraval.com


 

Blackbird Baking Co.’s Seeded Sourdough

10 Freshly baked bread is already one of the world’s most intoxicating aromas, but the seeded sourdough from this Kensington bakery is an olfactory all-timer. Slice open one of these crusty, dark-brown loaves—made using a mix of wheat, spelt and Red Fife flours—and a savoury note (think roasted onion and oregano) slaps you in the face. It’s from tiny black nigella seeds that are mixed, along with flax, sesame, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, into the dough. Their aroma seems to follow you around the kitchen, commanding you to have another slice. $6.50. 172 Baldwin St., 416-546-2280, blackbirdbakingco.com

A bunch of busy bakers at Blackbird Baking Co.

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De La Terre’s Potato and Olive Oil Sourdough

11 How can you make a loaf of bread even more appealing to carb addicts? Call on the king of starches. This Vineland bakery—which makes weekly appearances at a dozen Toronto farmers’ markets—studs its potato and olive oil sourdough with spuds, adding both a sweet, earthy flavour and moisture. The result is one of the most pillowy slices in the city just begging to become part of the sandwich of your dreams. $6. Various markets, including the St. Lawrence Farmers’ Market, Leslieville Farmers’ Market and Midtown Market, delaterre.ca

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Drake Commissary’s Buckwheat Sourdough

12 The loaves behind the counter at the Drake Commissary are beautiful to look at. But as we’re all taught about judging character, it’s what’s inside that counts, and that’s where the bakery team at the Drake’s Sterling Road hub excels. Cut open a crusty loaf and the crumb is open and airy with irregular bubbles and a custard-like texture—the trifecta of qualities sought by artisan bakers everywhere. The buckwheat sourdough, with a moist, silken texture and lots of grainy goodness to match, practically belongs in a bread museum. $6.50. 128A Sterling Road, 416-432-2922, thedrake.ca/drakecommissary

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Emmer & Ash’s Secret Pop-Up Bread

13 One of the best loaves in the entire city comes from a bakery that doesn’t even formally exist yet. For the past year, Philip Haddad has been testing bread recipes at the site of his forthcoming Emmer & Ash, and putting the extra loaves up for grabs. The resulting stampede is a local foodie Hunger Games, with the likes of Cory Vitiello clamouring for a loaf—and a victorious Matt Galloway posting a photo of his. The only way to get one is to follow @harbordst.bread on Instagram and hightail it to Harbord and Borden when he posts a shot of whatever astoundingly photogenic loaf he’s testing. (Or wait for the place to open next year.) 161 Harbord St., @harbordst.bread.

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Robinson Bread’s Seeded Multigrain Sourdough

14 The most eye-catching object behind the bar at Paris Paris, the city’s trendiest new wine bar, isn’t a bottle: it’s a pair of wooden trays filled with bread. Baker Patti Robinson does all her baking in the restaurant’s kitchen. Her seeded multigrain sourdough, a dark and sturdy boule with hearty helpings of spelt and rye in the dough, has a preternatural tang and cinnamon-like aroma that Robinson credits to her flour supplier—and a sourdough starter pampered so meticulously she’s even brought it with her on vacation to keep it properly fed. $7.50. 1161 Dundas St. W., 416-535-5656, @robinsonbread

Patti Robinson of Robinson Bakery, pictured with some soon-to-be bread at Paris Paris.

And the after shot.

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Forno Cultura’s Filone Al Cacao

15 There’s a bustling laboratory vibe to this King West bakeshop that produces some of the most innovative baked goods in the city. The breads combine old-school Italian sourdough traditions with an avant-garde aesthetic that wouldn’t be out of place on a molecular tasting menu. There are long, narrow loaves made pitch-black and briny with squid ink; others burst with colour from saffron and turmeric. But the loaf we can’t stop thinking about is the filone al cacao, a savoury number made with grape must, bitter chocolate and poppy seeds. $6. 609 King St. W., 416-603-8305, fornocultura.com

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Cliffside Hearth’s Pana Rüstika

16 Crust fiends flock to this Scarborough strip-mall bakery for burly, almost muscular loaves of old-school sourdough. (And as anyone over the age of seven knows, the crust is the best part.) Tearing off a hunk of the Pana Rüstika feels like trying to rip a flour-dusted phone book in half, but with a much tastier payoff. It’s made with a nutrient-rich blend of whole-grain rye, whole-grain Red Fife and all-purpose wheat flours, giving it a salubrious, nourishing flavour that begs to be slathered with cultured butter. $6.25. 3047 Kingston Rd., 416-261-1010, cliffsidehearth.com

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Humble Bread’s 100 Per Cent Rye

17 This is definitely not the rye you buy at the grocery store. This P.E.C. bakery, a regular at the Evergreen Brick Works farmers’ market every Saturday, bakes a super-dense 100 per cent rye, naturally leavened and sized like one of the tablets of the Ten Commandments. It’s baked in a wood-burning oven two days before market to give the loaf time to cure—like how a steak finishes cooking after it’s off the grill. All you have to do is slice it thin and make your own smørrebrød. $20. 550 Bayview Ave., no phone, humblebread.com

This story originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of Toronto Life magazine. To subscribe, for just $24 a year, click here.