The hunger for artisan breads peaked early in the pandemic with an explosion of home bakers trying their hand at creating the perfect loaf. Here’s some pros that have conquered the dough demons.
By: Nicole Richie
The sourdough explosion didn’t just overtake home kitchens over the last two years, bakeries from across our NEXT Three Cities are baking up some of the tangiest, crunchiest and crustiest loaves in the country.
Sourdough became the hobby of many during the darkest parts of pandemic, but this month, we’re taking a moment to celebrate the mighty loaf and give it the praise it deserves. Sourdough bread is a fermented art form perfected by many bakers and home cooks alike. Because sourdough starters are alive, you have to look after them in order to ensure fantastic bread. Sourdough has a lively, bright and tangy affect on your favourite loaves and it also helps to get that airy interior and perfect bubbling crunch. These bakeries from across the country are kneading some of the most delectable, classic and creative binge-worthy breads.
This Hamilton-based bakery recently opened its Ossington Avenue location and it’s quickly grown a cult following among Torontonians. The Super Seeded Loaf is coated in a layer of black and white sesame, pumpkin, poppy, sunflower, millet and flax seeds to give it that craveable nutty flavour. With a mix of three different organic flours — including dark rye, light spelt and sifted wheat flour — this dark and malty loaf is one of the most desirable breads in Toronto. After one slice, you’ll understand why Dear Grain is slowly becoming a breadhead destination.
MATTACHIONI, Italian Sourdough 1617 Dupont St. & 1501 Gerrard St. E. mattachioni.com
Mattachioni is known for its pizza and pasta, but throughout the pandemic, this bakery was slinging out some of the city’s best sandwiches made on its Italian sourdough bread. This light and fluffy loaf is not your typical sourdough: the exterior is thinner than the crust of a traditional loaf, but it’s chewy and crisp and always spotted with pockets of char for an added smoky flavour. The bread itself has a great sourness and tang contrasting the rich texture.
EMMER’S COUNTRY WHITE LOAF, Country White Loaf 161 Harbord St. emmertoronto.ca
This Harbord Street bakery is a newcomer on Toronto’s bread scene, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t already made its mark. With praise in the media for its patisserie and viennoiserie, it’s no surprise its sourdough is also off the charts. The Country White loaf is a classic white sourdough made mostly from bread flower with a little wheat flour for added texture, colour and a slightly malty flavour. This is a deliciously traditional loaf and a must-try for sourdough lovers.
This super traditional, buttermilk, batched bread is a constant sell-out at Rustic Sourdough. The crunchy peaks of crust, accompanied by the super moist interior, make this top-tier bread. The added use of buttermilk enriches the already tangy notes of the fermented yeast and helps to add a little density to the loaf. Enriched with a combination of organic flours, like unbleached untreated wheat flour, organic dark rye flour, rye sour culture and flax seed, this loaf has a great texture and nutty flavour.
SIDEWALK CITIZEN BAKERY, Red Fife Sourdough Bread 618 Confluence Way SE; 340 13th Ave SW; 338 10 St. NW sidewalkcitizenbakery.com
Since 2009, Sidewalk Citizen’s sourdough starter has been alive and well, helping the bakery to produce dozens of loaves daily for hungry Calgarians. Done in a three-day cold fermentation process, Sidewalk takes very good care of its bread, hand-cutting each loaf. Red Fife Sourdough is Prairie bread that dates back to the late 19th century. Sidewalk Citizen is working with this ancient grain and uplifting it with the sour and lively starter to give it a great bubbly texture and fantastic chew.
This Okotoks-based bakery may be a bit of a drive from downtown Calgary, but French 50’s picture perfect loaves are worth the trip. The Pain Maison is cool-proofed and naturally raised and made with toasty bread flour. This beauty is decorated in traditional sourdough scores, making for foliage-derived designs to cover the breads exterior. Inside the thick and toasty crust lies the airy and flavourful centre. The Pain Maison is a classic white sourdough and one of French 50’s most desirable breads, selling out almost every day.
A Bread Affair is deeply rooted in the sustainable, non-GMO, “West Coast values” that make its bread some of the best in Vancouver. A Bread Affair handicrafts its loaves from wheat and grains that are native to British Columbia and use the breads to help celebrate the agricultural past and bring it into the present. The Cheeky Sourdough’s culture dates back to 1986 and was started in California wine country. The flavours of Napa are intertwined with the natural tang from the yeast and express wonderfully in the Cheeky loaf.
The French-inspired bakery in Vancouver’s Grandview-Woodland neighbourhood, better known as the city’s Little Italy, is known for its creative, fermented loaves of chewy sourdough. The Caramelized Onion sourdough is a smash hit and is one of the bakery’s most ordered breads. An iteration of The Bench Bakehouse’s Country Loaf, an 18-hour-fermented white sourdough, this version sports layers of ooey-gooey caramelized onions, giving it an added savoury component. This bread is perfect on its own, toasted with butter or sliced up to make the world’s best grilled cheese.
LIVIO FORNO E VINO, Buckwheat & Oat Sourdough 1399 Commercial Dr. liviasweets.com
The Buckwheat and Oat Sourdough is not a staple on Livio Forno’s menu, but on the weekends, Vancouverites line up for this nutty and hearty bread. Because of the heavy grains, toasted oats and the natural fermentation process, this bread has a velvety texture and a crispy crust, making it an ideal choice for a stacked sandwich. This rich and dark, textural loaf is an awesome sandwich bread, but because of its roasted buckwheat flavour, it’s also a hit with butter and jam.