food, travel

London & Toronto: Cakes, Croissants and French Toast!

Hi there,

I’m going to work my way backwards. I spent this past summer traveling. My last destination was Toronto and a quick weekend stay in London (where I went to grad school throughout the past two years). In this post I’ll talk a bit about the baking courses I took while I was in Toronto. If you’ve ever thought about taking baking courses, or are looking for a good place to go (for Toronto residents, or something to do if you’re visiting) but were too nervous to take the first step, let my experience be your motivation! Oh, and later there will be french toast involved (who doesn’t like french toast?!), as I talk about a great restaurant I ate at in London.

I have always loved to bake, and some days I think of going back to school to become a pastry chef. But, I figured before making a big investment, that I should find out if: a) I really like it, and b) if I’m actually any good at it. It’s one thing to bake for personal pleasure, but it’s another to actually have any kind of skill or talent. So I signed up for two classes at Le Dolci.

The first class was a cake decorating course. Due to time constraints, the cake is pre-made and so you start with a small round cake. The course teaches you how to level the cake, dirty ice it and then cover it in fondant. The part that was the most fun, was being able to decorate it any way you want and having time to play with the fondant. One of the things we were taught, was how to make roses with the fondant. Turns out, I am pretty crap at making roses out of fondant. I tried. Multiple times. At some point, with my bare cake in front of me, I decided that I was just going to decorate it how I wanted- sans roses. I find that often when I’m allowed to use my creativity, and not follow instructions, that I do my best work. I’m not saying I was amazing at it, far from it, but I think my first attempt at cake decorating wasn’t too bad:

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Granted, you can see little flaws here and there, but I suppose you can’t immediately be good at everything. I tend to think that less is more, and really went for a simple design; the beauty is in the details, however. The pattern of the ‘ribbon’ and the gold luster dust used on the bow make this potentially simplistic cake, a bit more complex and visually appealing.

The second course I took was on making croissants. Again, to save time, the dough was pre-made, but that’s not to say there wasn’t a lot more work left to do. You know how a good croissant is light, flaky and delicious? Do you know how it gets that way? Well, now I do, and it’s because of a lot of rolling and folding and setting, and rolling and folding and setting (I think you get the point). Let me put it to you this way, I now appreciate every delicious croissant I’ve ever eaten and the hard work that went into making it. The result of this course, was not as good as the cake decorating one, but equally as delicious:

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As you can see, rolling out croissants is not easy. There are a couple that somewhat resemble a croissant, and others, not so much. Regardless, it was a great learning experience. I learned that baking (pastries, not something like cookies, which I make all the time) takes a lot of patience. Even so much as using a rolling pin takes a proper technique. And dough is very finicky. Overall, I discovered that I probably won’t go back to school to be a pastry chef, but it’s not off the table entirely. With practice and hard work, it might be something I could get really great at. But for now, I think I’ll stick to baking for pleasure, and of course eating.

Finally, I’m the type of person, that when I discover a great restaurant or something delicious, I need to share it with everyone I know. I lived in London, Ontario for two years, and not once did I eat at The Early Bird. I actually had seen it on You Gotta Eat Here! (one of the shows I analyzed in my thesis) and thought it looked delicious. I still never had the chance to go. So when I was visiting London for the weekend and needed a place to eat brunch, we went to The Early Bird. Aside from the eclectic decor and being attached to a taco shop, the menu really sets it apart. They serve breakfast all day (my fav) and use local fresh ingredients. Not to mention they serve a braised duck slider, made with slow cooked and pulled duck confit, pinot braised onion with sweet soy reduction and baby arugula (pretty snazzy for a diner-style-hole-in-the-wall restaurant). This time, I stuck to a personal favourite and went for a classic french toast. The bread was sliced thick and had that delicious buttery taste with a hint of cinnamon, it was delicious! However, no one warns you just how big the portions are. Here I am slightly worried about finishing my giant plate of french toast, but then I laugh it off, because I just can’t take myself too seriously.

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So if you ever are in London, Ontario and looking for a place to eat, try The Early Bird! (note: I did not finish all that french toast).

The Particular Eater

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