Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bunners Bakery

Bunners Gluten free and Vegan delight

This wasn't my first encounter with the increasingly popular Dundas West bakery. Getting to Bunners, located at 3054 Dundas West, takes a little dedication, but fortunately there are a few places closer to the core that stock some of their delights (my first encounter was at my old workplace, Atelier cafe, who started stocking Bunners right before I got a new job!) including Te Aro in Leslieville and Crema in the Junction. I'm sure there'll be plenty more soon, as Bunners fever spreads- after all, it is Toronto's only exclusively gluten-free bakery. Did I forget to mention that? I know a lot of wheateaters will read that word and abandon ship, but please, I encourage you to read on. Gluten free baking has come a LONG way. Judge it by its taste, not its reputation! Which is the only thing anyone without an allergy/ethical food avoidance should judge their food by, anyhow.
It was hearing about their other offerings, including a rumored sandwich pocket that made me decide to hop on my bike and visit the mother ship.
I'd just like to quickly put into perspective my dedication to Drawn and Devoured. I live in Cabbagetown. On my way to Bunners I got lost, making for a nearly 20km ride. I'm still feeling sore!

This also means you can't judge me for eating every. Last. Dessert.

It was a fun ride, and the furthest northwest I've ventured yet. I didn't realize how neat the Junction is, with gorgeous salvage stores, and lots of vegetarian and organic option eateries with enticing menus. I spotted a couple places that just made my 'to blog about' list. Since the photo's on Bunners facebook don't show much of the interior of the store, I really wasn't sure that to expect, but I had thought there would be some table space. It's actually very tiny, and the only thing to sit on is a small platform at the front of the store. They sell brewed coffee, but it's not a place to stay and relax! They also didn't seem to have the savoury pocket I'd heard about, either.
In a rare turn for me, I had a lot of questions to ask the owners, and wound up talking to Ashley Wittig who was very patient with my impromptu interview. So much for my usual habit of making notes incognito and scurrying out to draw. When I entered and saw how small the place is, I wanted to ask about what plans she and co-owner Kevin MacAllister have for the bakery. Licensing means this location probably won't be getting any tables, but they are thinking of expanding. When and where? That's a story for another day. One of the questions we got the most at Atelier that I wanted to repeat was 'what sort of flour is in this?', so I decided to ask. To make things easy, here's a wiki-glossary of their most common ingredients:

Now, onto the fun stuff. Food!
I am a Lady

One of my top favourite flavours is coconut. Fresh or dry, it's creamy and heady with natural flavour. I had really hoped that the coconut cake Bunners lists on its website would be available, and it was! Most of what I ordered I took home with me, but the cake I couldn't wait to get my hands on. Because Bunners doesn't have any tables, it was a bit hard to eat, especially since they don't have any cutlery either. Maybe some biodegradable forks would be a good thing to add? The cake is made with brown rice and chickpea flours, and both potato and arrowroot starch. It was so moist! From everything I tried I will tell you that Bunners is the right place for anyone who likes rich, moist cakes and desserts, but if you want something like a dry fluffy Italian cake, or even a from-the-box texture, you might find it too dense and moist. I love it, and I would almost say the cake here stops just barely shy of being as moist and rich as a bread pudding, while still pulling of 'fluffy'. What did disappoint me about the cake was the delicacy of the flavours. I don't need to be hit over the head with lemon and coconut, but I would like to taste them, and I barely could. Even though the slice was coated in coconut shavings, I had a hard time picking it up from the taste of what was essentially a very good vanilla cake. The lemon I couldn't taste at all.
You can but the cakes whole: 30$ for a 6" cake, 45$ for a 9" cake.

Trifecta of Terror
Following in the footsteps of the cupcake wave that hit Toronto in the last couple years, comes the whoopie pie- or creamie in Bunners vernacular. I tried these at my old workplace and HAVE to write about them. 4.35 isn't a bad price to pay for the big cookie sandwiches. A creamie is made from two spongy layers of cookie (either chocolate chip or DOUBLE chocolate) with a thick layer of icing inside. I'm really happy with the texture and taste of Bunners vegan icing, it tastes almost identical to dairy icing, but with the comfort of knowing it's all-natural too. The icing is less like butter cream icing, having stronger sugar and air. The cookies that keep it all together are great, with just a hint of that 'natural food store' flavour at the back of the palate. The flavour of the cookies themselves reminds me a lot of cookie dough, and taste sinfully good.
If you want to try and stay a little bit healthy, try the gypsy cookie! It's pretty much a 2$ power bar, loaded with gluten-free oats, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, dried cranberry and chocolate chips. I love the crunch. The layers of all those crisp and chewy ingredients make for a very satisfying snack, breaking up with all sorts of flavours in my mouth, from sour to sweet. It's small but surprisingly filling. It's the only item at Bunners I would describe as tasting like a health food, and it's still yummy.

Small but deadly
For the guilty gluten-free sweets lover, there are choices! At long last, you can join everyone else in the debate over vanilla, or chocolate, or red velvet? Bunners has options (at 3.25$ each, I drew the wrong price above. Sorry!). I tried two cupcakes (made with chick pea flour, and both starches), the chocolate with vanilla icing, and the raspberry lemon. Having mini chocolate chips on the icing was an adorable touch, and again, the icing is great! Same kind as in the creamies. The cake texture is drier than the large cake, more airy. The cocoa has a mild dry flavour, with a noticeable kick of salt to boost the taste. Surprisingly rich (by the end of the day I had a toothache. Do not tell yourself these foods are 'healthy', it is a lie! A delicious lie). Again there was a hard to describe aftertaste, though not at all unpleasant.
Though it was fairly smooshed by the time I made my way to it in the afternoon, the lemon raspberry cupcake I was recommended to try was unfortunately as mild in flavour as the coconut cake. The body had a lightly ricey flavour, but did not taste like lemon unless I closed my eyes and really searched for the taste. The icing was a small improvement, flavourful but again without much kick of raspberry. The flavour was there at the back of the palate, and again I had to search for it.

Heavy as bricks! But much tastier.
For dessert (ha!) I got two donuts. Or doughnuts, if you want to gripe about the American spelling. They are small, compact little monsters of goodness. Baked, not fried, the exterior texture comes surprisingly close to what you would expect from any other doughnut. I tried one plain and one coconut (made with chickpea and tapioca flour, sorghum, and the coconut dyed with beet juice). These donuts are thick and sticky, without that crisp shell that deep-frying provides. The glaze has enough granulation left to leave the impression of a crust, and I think it's cleverly handled. Making a baked gluten-free doughnut must be HARD. I taste a little bit of lemon in the gummy dough. Again, the coconut was very light.

All in all, I really liked Bunners. I'm glad they're still experimenting and expanding their menu, and I'm sure they're going to come up with even greater desserts in the future. I hope they do eventually open more central locations with more savoury items (they DO sell bread loaves and muffins now, though!).
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  1. Just found your blog from the bunners facebook group and got exceedingly excited. Lots of local blog <3 from one toronto foodie to another. :)

  2. WOW!! This post is amazing!!

    I organize a monthly bike ride to different bakeries around town and Bunner's is our destination this Sunday!!


    Since you are cyclist too, maybe you can join us for a ride sometime this summer!

  3. Thanks for the comments!

    Happyd, that sounds like so much fun...my bike actually just got stolen this week, though. Someone must have been crazy, because she was NOT in good condition. Hopefully I'll be able to replace her in the next couple weeks and get back to riding. Maybe then I can tag along on a bakery ride!

  4. Enjoying reading the blogs. Great tips. Thank you.

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