Country Sweet Chic – Jams, Cupcakes, Tarts, Whoopie Pies and More at Sweet Bliss Baking Company, Part I

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Sweet Bliss Baking Company is located at 1304 Queen Street East in Leslieville, two blocks east of Leslie St.  Sweet Bliss Baking Company offers an assortment of sweet treats including cupcakes, tarts, cookies, and brownies, as well as coffee drinks, gifts, and more.  Hours and days of operation to be posted!

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Art Imitating Food Imitating…More Food! Sweets & The Neapolitan Ice Cream Cone Sugar Cookie at Yummy Stuff

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Ice cream cupcakes, cake and pie cupcake flavours, cupcakes made to look like ice cream cones, candy sushi, and cakes made to look like sandwiches and candy bars (read Food Network magazine, you’ll totally get what I mean with those two last ones!); it’s art imitating food imitating…more food!  It is so darn cute and clever when dessert and food themes criss-cross all over the place to create culinary masterpieces and awe-inspiring works of sweet, edible art.  Now, before I unleash the 2nd installment of the Cupcake Connection featuring a very summer appropriate cupcake from Yummy Stuff among other specials, news, and updates from Toronto’s cupcake scene, let’s talk sugar cookies!  And more specifically, cute as a button decorated sugar cookies that look like food!

Everyone knows I love baking cookies.  However, when it comes to eating them, I am veeeery ambivalent towards certain varieties.  And one of them just happens to be sugar cookies.  I KNOW.  How could I possibly feel that way about one of the world’s most basic, simplest cookies?  They’re blank canvases that beg to be decorated, they don’t complicate things with a whole bunch of wacky, out-of-left-field flavours, and while everyone’s method might be a little different, ingredients are fairly similar across the board.  What’s not to love?  The answer: half the time, they’re just not executed well.

Check out the adorable hamburger!

My beloved Neapolitan ice cream cone cookie!

Pretty ribbon, a takeout box container, and creamy sandwich cookies? I’m sold.

I love the idea of enjoying a sugar cookie but I find sugar cookies to be one of the most difficult things to enjoy because there are so many things that can be wrong with them.  More often that not, they come out chalky, dry, crumbly, tasteless, and uncomfortably hard on your teeth.  And while the aesthetic is often beautiful (the artwork that many cookie decorators do is truly breathtaking), the total sum of the cookie’s yum almost never lives up to its beauty on the surface which is unfortunate because it should taste as good as it looks!

And this is where Yummy Stuff comes in!  I promised you all in my first Yummy Stuff post back in April I would report back on their sugar cookies and I got the chance to go back to their shop on Queen West in Parkdale earlier this month to grab myself one.  They always have an in-store selection ($3 to $4 each), as well as an option of having custom designed ones for special occasions like baby showers, wedding favours, birthdays, and more.  Remember how gaga I was over their cupcake and ice cream shaped and decorated cookies?!

Never a dull cookie or sweet on the Yummy Stuff shelves

This time around, they had some different designs on hand and I was absolutely in conniptions when I saw their new Neapolitan ice cream sugar cookies!  (Hint: this has a little something to do with the upcoming Cupcake Connection!).  They were so, so pretty and really, who can resist anything Neapolitan?  I don’t know about everyone else, but I’ve never separated the flavours or favoured one “section” for another (don’t innocently whistle and pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about; we all know what I mean) and I kind of liken it to spumoni ice cream.  Anyway, I eagerly snatched a Neapolitan decorated sugar cookie ($4) and vowed to save it for a moment when I could truly savour it and enjoy it’s prettiness.  Even though I was still a tiny bit wary of it delivering on yumminess (they certainly had the appearance down pat, so that wasn’t a concern), I felt confident that Yummy Stuff wouldn’t let me down with their sugar cookies.

And they didn’t.  I will never eat another sugar cookie from another place ever again.  Okay, so maybe that’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but OH.MY.GOD.  This sugar cookie was the BEST sugar cookie I have EVER had.  It was everything a sugar cookie should be and the exact opposite of all the negative traits I listed earlier.  Their sugar cookies weren’t difficult to bite into (I actually broke mine into small pieces to eat, but regardless, my teeth and mouth didn’t hurt from trying to eat them), they melted in your mouth, the icing was delicious, and the cookie!  Oh my lordy, the cookie whipped the hair-tie off my ponytail and sent me to cookie heaven.  Pure vanilla excellence.  Keep in mind, unless there’s a note that indicates the icing is of a particular flavour, the cookie is expected to be vanilla.  Their vanilla is top-notch and the flavour made their sugar cookie taste incredible.  I was actually sad when I finished it because it was so good.

Sneak peek at the upcoming Cupcake Connection, Vol. 002!

It’s a shame cookies can’t keep forever because these are lovely little works of art that would look so fab sitting on a display case in all their foodie glory.  Considering how delicious they are though, it’s not too bad of a trade-off at all.

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Yummy Stuff is located at 1660 Queen Street West in the west end Parkdale neighbourhood, east of Roncesvalles Ave.  They are open Tuesday-Sunday, from 10am-7pm from Tuesday-Friday, 9am-6pm on Saturdays, and 12pm noon-5pm on Sundays.  They are closed on Mondays.  Visit their official website here.

A Cake and Cupcake, Sugar Cookie Wonderland! Bright and Cheerful Yummy Stuff on Queen Street West, Part I

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Walk into Yummy Stuff on Queen Street West in Parkdale and instantly your mood will go from gray to hurray!  Yummy Stuff’s bakery is a wonderland of custom designed cakes, fresh cupcakes, and cute-as-a-button decorated sugar cookies for every occasion.  I know most of Toronto’s cupcakeries are cute and colourful and whimsical, but never have I been inside one that was so happy and full of vibrant colour!  I felt like I was in one big giant Easter basket, frollicking through sprinkles and frostings with flowers and cute animals by the wayside.  I knew the second I stepped inside that this would be a bakery that I would want to come back to again and again, not just for the cupcakes and treats, but to admire the storefront displays and the beautiful pastry work that would undoubtedly change for every season and special holiday. 

Whether or not you would ever have a reason to go out and buy a custom-designed cake is irrelevant; gaining inspiration and learning about trends and new ideas is really beneficial to me because of the scrapbooking I do.  Believe it or not, I actually jot down random notes and take photos of what others would call, “nothing” just so I have something to jog my memory when it comes time to go back to it, like a beautiful colour combination or a mix of prints and patterns that I never considered.  I normally don’t have any issues formulating scrapbook layouts and colour schemes in my head after picking out the right photos, but I have to say, I was already mentally piecing together cardstock for a soon-to-be Yummy Stuff layout because the bakery makes it that easy to be inspired and excited about colour and sweets. 

Case in point: just look at the cakes in the photo up top!  I couldn’t stop looking at them because they were so pretty and unique!  I never even considered attaching decorated sugar cookies onto a frosted or fondant cake but it’s genius because you have a dessert on top of a dessert that just keeps on giving!  Everyone can have a sugar cookie and a slice of cake and have the best of both worlds.  The idea of jazzing up a cake with extras without taking away from it and making the cake and extras work together as one fluid concept is something I’ve definitely noticed in many cake shops over the last year or two.  I’ve seen a number of cakes accessorized with macarons (how luxurious!), but this was the first time I had ever since a cake decorated with themed sugar cookies and I absolutely loved the concept.       

Thanks to my friend and fellow cupcake diehard, Alex, I found out about Yummy Stuff through her blog and tucked away the sweet little nugget of information until I was ready to go (really though, when am I not ready for cupcakes?) and planned my visit around a special lunch date with some friends in the west end.  After this first visit, I was completely and utterly in love.  In love with the happy atmosphere, in love with the artistry, and of course, in love with the cupcakes!  And sugar cookies!  I have cupcake specifics and many more photos to share with you all, so bask in the sweet glow of gorgeous, mouthwatering desserts while I reminisce over my lemon cupcake and Boston Cream pie cupcake (OH YES) and we’ll hop to it with Part II tomorrow!    

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Yummy Stuff is located at 1660 Queen Street West in the west end Parkdale neighbourhood, east of Roncesvalles Ave.  They are open Tuesday-Sunday, from 10am-7pm from Tuesday-Friday, 9am-6pm on Saturdays, and 12pm noon-5pm on Sundays.  They are closed on Mondays.  Visit their official website here.

Celebrating Macarons and Supporting Local Charities & Organizations – A Sneak Peek at Macaron Day TO!

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What day is Tuesday, March 20th, 2012?  Macaron Day TO!  A day to spread awareness of social issues and local organizations and causes that matter to the community.  A day to make a difference, if only a small one.  A day to address the needs of those less fortunate.  A day to appreciate and reflect on the many luxuries we have in our lives that are often taken for granted.  And finally, Macaron Day TO is a day to celebrate the dainty, delicate, deliciously sweet Parisian confection that has taken the hearts of foodies, pastry chefs, and sweet tooths by storm all over the world.  Macaron Day is currently an internationally recognized and celebrated event in cities such as Paris and New York* and this year, a number of cities are joining the celebration and cause for the first time in an effort to raise money for local causes. 

Spearheaded by La Bamboche Patisserie, Macaron Day TO 2012 is the first of its kind in the city (along with Macaron Day Vancouver!) with more than 15 bakeries and patisseries across the city taking part in this event!  Sweet shops such as Bobbette & Belle, Daniel & Daniel, Moroco Chocolat, and many others will be providing free macarons on Tuesday, with a portion of additional macaron sales benefiting the Red Door Family Shelter in Toronto.  Twenty-five percent of the funds raised from the event will go toward the Red Door Family Shelter, an emergency housing shelter and organization that provides services and support to the homeless and the domestically abused.  Here’s how Macaron Day works: visit a participating Macaron Day location, say you are celebrating Macaron Day TO, and receive your complimentary macaron while supplies last!  And if you can spare some money, purchase a few to contribute to the cause.

I’ve been looking forward to this day for over a month now and even though I’m unsure of how many patisseries I can visit or get to in time, I’m hoping to make it to at least one or two.  In the meantime, I’m pre-celebrating today by giving everyone a healthy dose of macaron photo love!  The very first photo up top was a photo taken at Ruelo Patisserie’s station at last year’s Food Network Canada’s Delicious Food Show in October, where macarons shared the limelight with cakes, cupcakes, and cookies. 

I recently got the chance to hop on over to their original Richmond Hill location within the Times Square plaza complex by Highway 7 and Leslie St. where I nabbed two delicious flavours.  I’m saving those photos for a future blog post specifically dedicated to Ruelo, but I’ll give you all a hint as to what one of the flavours was: it’s one of the ones pictured in the first photo and it’s a very unique colour.  I promise I won’t keep you guys in suspense for long!  Ruelo is one of the 18 participants in this year’s event, so definitely check out  one of their locations (their other one just opened up near Yonge & Eglinton) if you get the opportunity!

Macarons have gained so much popularity over the last year in the city and you can tell just by looking at the list of participating patisseries and bakeries as well as all the beautiful macarons that were being showcased at the Delicious Food Show last October!  There were macaron towers, macaron sculptures, and macarons sitting in display cases like precious jewels.  While many patisseries in Toronto have clearly embraced these luxurious confections, you can also find them in both Markham and Richmond Hill as well!  We have Old Firehall Confectionery on Main Street Unionville, Ruelo Patisserie in Richmond Hill,and Sugar Tiers in north Markahm.  The flavour combinations of macarons are so creative (lemon thyme!  Crème brûlée!  Wasabi grapefruit!  Lime and honey! Cream cheese orange!) and they’re one of Le Dolci‘s most popular classes, selling out each and every single time. 

And to keep things fresh and fun, more and more patisseries are incorporating macarons into their desserts and in their every day line-up of sweet offerings.  Just think, Nadege Patisserie and Butter Avenue offer small gourmet cakes adorned with mini macarons, macarons are being daintily plunked on top of cupcakes, and wedding cakes?  Try macaron cakes.  They’re bite-sized works of art that are beautiful to look at and delicious to eat, and on Tuesday, March 20th, they’ll be celebrated and nibbled on across the city in support of the Red Door Family Shelter.  Happy early Macaron Day, everyone!  

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* = Official Macaron Day TO site.  For more information on Macaron Day and Macaron Day TO, check out their official website here and for more information the Red Door Family Shelter here in Toronto, click here.

The Cookies That The Cookie Fanatic Loves – A Spotlight on My Market Bakery’s Mocha Tea Cookies

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I love to bake cookies.  You all know that.  I love baking them more than I love baking any other sweet thing and I can’t stop thinking of new flavour combinations and new cookie recipes to try.  I have a lemon white chocolate almond one in the works, a frosted coconut cream one, and strawberry shortcake and Black Forest cookie recipes I’m putting together in my head.  I ponder about them out loud while my brother is playing video games and while he’s eating his lunch.  And just recently, I sounded ridiculous when I got all up in arms about seeing my grandma and grandpa for the upcoming Chinese New Year, not because I was necessarily excited about Chinese New Year (sorry, year of the dragon) but because I’ll be bringing them a few new batches of cookies to try.  My grandma told my mum that my grandpa loved the last one and ate them all (oh ,wait, maybe that’s not such a good thing…).

So, which cookies does a cookie monster like myself love when she goes out for them?  Mocha tea cookies!  These little morsels of chocolatey cocoa mocha madness light up my cookie life.  They are my absolute favourites from My Market Bakery in Kensington Market and some of my all-time favourite cookies ever.  Forget the sugar cookies, forget the shortbread even.  The mocha tea cookies are my holy grail cookies from here and I literally make a beeline for the cookie display case the second I walk into the bakery to see if they’re there.  They are cookie coins (much bigger than a toonie but just a tiny bit smaller than an Oreo) with swirls of thick and creamy vanilla frosting on top and a rich and dense fudgy flavour.  My Market Bakery doesn’t always have them because they’re popular and they sell out fast on some days, but if you see them there in the morning or if you’re lucky enough to see them later in the afternoon, you can pick them up for $0.55 a piece or 10 cookies for $5.

In case you were wondering, this box of 10 was actually not mine but my sweetheart’s.  He loves them just as much as I do.  I gushed and told him to try one many moons ago and he’s been in love ever since (with the cookie, not me.  He fell in love with me eons before this delight entered the scene).  Maybe a little too in love.  He came back with a big square white box and my eyes widened as I incredously asked, “how many did you buy?!” to which he replied, “I bought 10”.  Oh have mercy.  A mocha tea cookie monster I have created indeed.

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My Market Bakery is located at 184 Baldwin St. in Kensington Market.  The bakery is located west of Spadina Ave. and south of Nassau St.

A European Bakery, Deli, Cheese Shop, and Sweet Shop All in One – Solero Mediterranean Bakery in The Junction!

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The west end of the city just keeps bringing on the amazing bakeries!  After a brief glimpse into the foodie and bakery scene in Roncesvalles Village and Bloor West Village, I figured it was time to give The Junction some love!  I would give you all the link to the indepth Junction post I wrote in the spring, but the internet sometimes works in funny (read: aggravating) ways and my beloved Junction post magically disappeared one day, lost forever and never to be seen again.  Some of might even remember it because it focused on vegetarian, vegan, and organic food in the area in addition to the history of the community and its introduction to the blog. 

I can’t even tell you how exasperated I feel about this, especially considering the post was part of the official Junction community blog.  I still haven’t been able to muster the brain power and heart to write the post from scratch all over again (I don’t even know how to begin to reconstruct an entire blog post from 7 months ago from memory), but one day I will because the black hole does not sit well with me! 

In a nutshell, the Junction community name is quite literal: the crossing of railways, specifically of the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Canadian National.  Its name pays homage to the area’s deep, historical manufacturing roots in Toronto and much of this history continues to define the identity of the neighbourhood, with train graffiti art and murals on the side of buildings and Junction banners attached to lamp posts, proudly displaying images of the iconic railway tracks.  There’s plenty of the food in the area, with everything from vegetarian and vegan restaurants and bakeries to coffee shops to diners and organic markets.  Solero Bakery, located on Dundas West in the hubbub of the The Junction community just west of Keele Street, is such a gem.

Solero is a delicatessen, bakery, and pantry grocery shop all in one.  The deli portion of the shop serves fresh cheeses and meats, the bakery boasts loaves and loaves of bread, pastries, cookies, cakes, and sweets, and the grocery section is well stocked with staples such as jarred jams, olives, antipasto, bags of coffee and tea, spices, mixes, and sweets such as candies, biscuits, wafers, chocolates, and more.  

Everything about Solero screams European, especially Eastern European.  It’s here that you’ll find sweets from Croatia and Serbia: KiKi toffees and fruit candies (with their signature bright coloured packaging and clown logos!), Jadro milk and cocoa wafers, Napolitanke hazelnut wafers (Croatian), and Serbiam Yo D’Oro wafers and Eurovafel wafers with hazelnut cream filling.  There’s horseradish relish from Slovenia and some Western European treats from the UK, such as Jaffa cakes!  I’m a huuuge fan of European cream wafers and if I had to choose between Chinese ones and European ones, the European ones would win hands down.  They’re just so much more creamy and you need that in a cream wafer because otherwise, the wafer part is too dry and unappetizing to eat. 

In the deli, you’ll find cold cuts (turkeys, hams, salamis, pastrami, corned beef, and roast beef among others), sausages, Polish kolbasa, and a large variety of European cheeses.  Aside from different types of havarti and cheddar and a selection of gouda, provolone, brie, mozzarella, and asiago, Solero carries Danish blue cheese Rosenborg, edam Dutch cheese, kefalograviera Greek cheese, and Jarlsberg Norweigan cheese.  

I’m a lover of cheese and just looking at the menu board makes me salivate.  All I can think of is, “I am going to grab some bread from the bakery, get some meat and cheese slices, and slap me a sandwich!”  There’s so much cheese here that I’ve never tried or even heard of and I can’t wait to get my hands and tastebuds on some fresh cheeses and deli items for sandwiches one day.  Everything is priced by weight (per 100g) and their selection varies depending on their supply.  If they don’t have it, they cover up the menu item listed on the menu board and leave the items they do have out in the open uncovered.

I mean it when I say I need to come back here to make me a fresh sandwich because their bakery is wonderful.  They had a wall of fresh baked bread, a glass case with cakes and mini desserts, and wooden trays of pastries and cookies that included muffins, poppy seed and walnut streusels, cherry, lemon, and apple danishes, apple turnovers, chocolate croissants, broccoli and spinach pies, gingerbread man cookies, and sugar cookies with sprinkles!  My favourites were the little pink sprinkled ducky and bunny cookies!

I was in awe of the prices.  I couldn’t believe that there were giant loaves of rye, caraway, calabrese, French, and Italian bread for $0.75, $1.75 and $2!  I know I’m not the only one who sadly sighs about rising food prices these days, so it made me so happy to see such reasonable prices for bread here and I’m so looking forward to taking my mum and my brother here someday.  They love bread so much and I usually stand back and let them have their fun picking out all the bread they want because I’m pretty indifferent about it.  I know they’re going to love Solero so much and as my brother said, “we’ll shop Supermarket Sweep style!”  I don’t doubt that.  While they’re picking out eleventy billion loaves of bread, I’ll be filling up a basket with cheese, chocolate, and wafers.  I cannot wait to go back.

 

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Solero Mediterranian Bakery is located at 3029 Dundas Street West in The Junction neighbourhood, west of Keele Street.

Foodie Districts: Kensington Market

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Whenever anyone from out of town asks me what they should do or see when they come to Toronto, I direct them to Kensington Market.  Aside from the Distillery District, Kensington is my favourite part of the city, second to none.  I’ve fallen in love with so many different neighbourhoods over the years and although all of them hold special memories and are wonderfully unique in their own ways, Kensington will always win my heart.  One of the things I love most about Kensington is its accessibility.  Sitting snuggly within Chinatown, it’s literally just steps off the Spadina streetcar line and it’s easy peasy getting to other neighbourhoods such as Queen West, the Annex, Little Italy, and Little Portugal.

I can never get enough.  I can come here day in and day out and never be bored of wandering around because I am always finding something new to explore and take photos of (the photo up top is just one example of the unexpected mobility of artisitic expression that weaves in and out of the market; here today, gone tomorrow) and the culinary options available could last me a lifetime!  While many of the markets and food shops are mainstays, the foodie terrain is constantly evolving and changing with new businesses setting up shop in the neighbourhood.  There are so many choices and I think Kensington is especially amazing for 6 different things:

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