By Treena Hein
By Treena Hein
The bakeries on this year’s ‘Who’s Who’ list, as in any other year,
demonstrate innovation and excellence – a willingness to do things
differently and go the extra mile. However, our choices for 2009 are
perhaps more varied than ever before.
The bakeries on this year’s ‘Who’s Who’ list, as in any other year, demonstrate innovation and excellence – a willingness to do things differently and go the extra mile. However, our choices for 2009 are perhaps more varied than ever before. You’ll find the following businesses strongly focus on the needs and wants of today’s consumer – a first-hand demonstration that the path to success lies in meeting niche demands for specific baked goods with consistency and flair.
DiSanto Foods Ltd:
Bringing back tradition
Many of us with Italian blood are familiar with taralli, a rustic pretzel that’s been part of the culture for generations. But those outside the Italian community are also beginning to fall in love with these simple peasant snacks – made with only flour, water, white wine, oil, yeast and salt – thanks in large part to Marco DiSanto.
“It gives me great pleasure to hear from clients who say the product makes them think of when they were kids in their grandma’s kitchens, making home-made taralli,” says Disanto, president of DiSanto Foods in Winnipeg, Man. “It’s something they’ve lost and now they can have back.”
It’s not just the traditional aspect of the product that makes it so appealing, however; it’s also the flexibility and all-natural ingredients. “It pairs very well with fine cheeses and spreads for gourmet snacking,” DiSanto says.
He began making taralli commercially four years ago after receiving encouragement from friends and family. Salted, onion, fennel and whole wheat-flax seed flavours will soon be joined by grape seed. Besides being sold locally, DiSanto tarallis line the shelves of the high-end, Minneapolis-based Lunds Byerlies chain, and smaller packages will soon be ready for vending machines, gift baskets and even airlines. In addition, an organic version is being served within a program that provides locally grown and locally made healthy snacks to day-care centres.
Being open to different opportunities such as these is an important part of DiSanto’s success. He also believes one has to be flexible, open-minded, passionate and goal-oriented. “The rest will take care of itself,” he says.
Artisano Bakery Café:
Quality is the key
Finding a café where the baked goods are made from scratch isn’t easy, but people in the Toronto and Oakville areas are lucky. Three Artisano Bakery Café locations serve a varied menu that includes everything from breakfast crepes, pizza and innovative sandwiches to soup, pizza and pasta. Artisano has built quite a reputation since its beginnings in 2006. “We are constantly on guard to keep our quality high and give value to the customer,” says corporate bakery manager Richard Crossman. “We’ve found that people are willing to pay for high quality when there is good value.”
Artisano’s newest line of products, launched at the end of June, includes a baguette made with grape-skin flour, cranberry almond bread containing cranberry flour and chia bread made with flour milled from the ancient Chia seed.
“We are constantly researching and developing new products to present to our customers,” says Crossman. “Artisano’s philosophy is based on providing new tastes and flavours combined with familiar ones to give our customers the best experience we can.”
Another good example of this philosophy is the new multigrain pizza crust made with grape-skin flour. This flour provides a hearty purple colour as well as beneficial nutrients, Crossman says, including the super antioxidant resveratrol.
“We are also about to implement a heat-stable probiotic culture in our line of new breads,” he adds.
Patisserie La Demi Calorie:
Providing a home chef experience
When you hear about something as ingenious and innovative as Galettine Moment, it’s hard to believe it came about by accident. However, Jacques Raymond – the owner of Patisserie La Demi Calorie in St-Hyacinthe, Qué., – can vouch for that. After all, he was there.
In an attempt to create a convenient premium home-baking product, Raymond had been experimenting with high-quality cookie dough. He’d hoped to hit on a cookie that could be baked with a short burst in the microwave. When he removed the cooked dough, however, he found it was too hot to hold, so he quickly draped it over a glass. When it hardened – taking the shape of the glass – Raymond knew he was onto something big.
Marrying flexibility (you can make cones, bowls and other shapes), convenience and high quality (all butter, three specialty varieties) together in an enjoyable experience for the home chef, Galettine Moment has been a smash success from the start. The box is six-sided to highlight how the product is flexible and creative. “People like to have fun with it and play with it,” Raymond says.
On its first day of sales in November 2008, Galettine Moment sold out at a Quebec Metro store. It won the 2009 Grand Trends and Innovations Award at the SIAL Montreal food show. Sales of the product and also the technology in provinces outside Quebec, in the U.S. and overseas are on the horizon.
West Finch Bakery:
Inspiration set free
In 1992, at the age of 25, Joseph Montinaro decided to join his father Brizio at his bakery. “Initially, I just wanted to help my father continue to create a stable and loyal clientele enticed by our traditional Italian pastries, cookies and cakes,” he says. However, a trip to an international pastry convention in Italy in 2003 changed everything for Montinaro.
“It completely opened my mind and eyes to a new world,” he says. “Upon my return, I rid the bakery of 90 per cent of the products we’d been offering, and focused on new flavours, new techniques, and new fashionable plated desserts.” He and his wife Maria opened a second location called Dolcini by Joseph in Kleinburg, Ont., in 2007.
Montinaro constantly comes up with new ideas, enjoying the inspiration that stems from creative customer requests. “Some of the new techniques and products that we now use include velvet sprays using cocoa butter and couveture to beautifully cover desserts, and liquid nitrogen to quickly freeze sorbets,” he says. “We use algaenates and xantham gums to uniquely gel our purees.” Always concerned about delivering the highest quality, Montinaro uses various imported freezing machines to capture ingredients at their peak of freshness.
“I love baking as an art form because there are no boundaries,” he says.
“There is unlimited knowledge out there for me to continue learning and growing, and there are always new techniques and applications.” He says that even if it sounds cliché, it’s true that his greatest joy comes from seeing how much his clients enjoy and appreciate his work.
“I try to create things that are not just dessert but are visual and sensory experiences as well,” Montinaro says. “I get to travel more now, and see what my colleagues are doing, experience different things that motivate me, and work alongside some of my peers.”
Kootenay Bakery Café:
Co-operating for Success
Although the products made at Kootenay Bakery Café Co-op in Nelson, B.C., are much the same as those found in any bakery, “Our ingredients and methods are often different,” says member-owner Cynthia Olivas. “First of all, we source all ingredients according to the main criteria of being organic and local,” she says. “The fact that we use a lot of alternative grains such as spelt, kamut, oat and rice flours also means we have to use different baking methods.”
Spelt pie crusts and danishes, for example, start with a traditional formulation, but then specific adjustments must be made. “More and more, we’re being asked to produce wheat-alternative products,” Olivas notes.
That the eight year-old bakery and café is a co-op also sets it apart. “Our guidelines allow us to work as a group, even though we are individuals with diverse opinions,” she says. “This co-op aims to provide sustainable employment, contribute to the local economy through purchasing locally and providing nutritious food, be active in the community, and support fair trade and sustainable agriculture.”
Community enthusiasm for the venture has been tremendous. “Locals not only shop and eat here regularly, but have lent capital through the purchase of Preferred Shares,” says Olivas. “The staff members at KBCC are also very involved in the business. Their participation in creating any profit is rewarded through regular profit-sharing.”
The Kooteny Bakery Café Co-op continues to explore new ways to meet its mandate. For example, this year it became a member of a local Grain CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) group, through which it will purchase a ton of locally grown grain. In the near future, the co-op might also purchase the building it currently operates in. “Whatever the future brings,” says Olivas, “we’ll encounter it together.”
Baked treats for furry friends
Hearing about baked goods made with organic grains, fruit, veggies, cheese and spring water can certainly make one’s mouth water – and even more so if you’re a dog or cat! In Clam Harbour, N.S., you will find Katie’s Farm, Canada’s only certified organic dog and cat treat and dog food bakery that grows ingredients such as eggs, garlic, herbs, and vegetables right on the premises.
The pet treats and food contain no meat, wheat, salt, sugar, corn or soy – instead, they’re bursting with organic grains such as spelt (purchased from a local mill) and organic fruit, veggies, cheddar cheese, cashew butter, sunflower seeds, oil, milk and more.
Owner Jude Major started the bakery in 2002. “I had been making treats and food for my dogs for years,” she says, “and one day when I was walking, I thought ‘why not?’” She sells at the Halifax Farmers’ Market and wholesale to stores, and ships the product across Canada.
Major has also been approached to create specialty products. “Through the power of the web, I was contacted and now manufacture private label parrot treats for Avian Organics in Crofton, B.C.,” she says. “These don’t have any milk or cheese, but have everything else. They’re a pretty rosy colour, and made in a bagel shape so the parrots can hold them.”
Treena Hein is a freelance writer based in Pembroke, Ont. She won the 2008 Star Prize awarded by the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists.