As the current wave of reality TV shows featuring bakers demonstrates, the art of baking is enjoying new appreciation. This may be because so many of us don’t take the time to bake anymore and have forgotten, or never learned, the skills involved. Or, it may be that we are yearning for products that are free of preservatives and additives, and that don’t come wrapped in plastic or frozen in trays. In any case the small, “Mom and Pop” artisanal bakery is alive and thriving.
Hurst Bakery in Aurora has been in business since 1986. Lee Hurst runs the kitchen and his wife Pauline manages everything else. Their three sons have all worked in the business at some point and the eldest works there full time. Hurst credits her employees for much of the bakery’s success. “They bring their energy and ideas to the store, and it is a warm, happy place to be. We love what we do and we’re selling happy products. Our most popular items are our gingerbread cookies, wedding cakes, breads, & custom cakes.” When asked about challenges Hurst notes that “we are producing old-fashioned, made-from-scratch foods that take time to prepare in a society that wants everything instantly and on-demand, so that can be a challenge at times.” Pauline says that even after thirty years they are still learning and pushing themselves creatively.
Megan Fisher and her husband Tim run the Nutmeg Bakeshop on Main Street in Newmarket. They pride themselves on using premium, fresh and seasonal ingredients. Everything is made from scratch, in-house, and the menu rotates to reflect the changing seasons. Fisher admits that owning a bakery is hard work and the hours are long (the bread baker arrives between 1:30am and 3:30am depending on the day of the week). But she says “since we are so passionate about what we do, it doesn’t always feel like work!” The couple decided to do a few products extremely well rather than try to cover every category. She happily refers customers to other bakeries if they are looking for products that they don’t make (e.g. gluten-free or vegan). Also, Fisher differentiates her baked goods by choosing a natural approach to finishing and decorating. “We don’t use any preservatives and we avoid using fondant or gum paste on our cakes. We do offer a couple of more whimsical products, but nothing too fussy. Hence, the naked cakes!”
Besides her rustic, natural-looking desserts, Fisher is particularly fond of her croissants. “They are such a time and labour-intensive process to make, but so satisfying to see all those flaky, laminated layers.” She also enjoys playing a small role in customers’ special occasions.
Simply Yummy Bakery on Furbacher Lane in Aurora is owned and operated by Megan Flynn (another Megan!) a graduate of the Baking and Pastry Arts Management program at George Brown College. Flynn takes pride in using old-fashioned recipes, many from her Grandmother, and started out selling sweets from home. She opened the store in 2010. “My baking is traditional, so I don’t have gluten-free, nut-free or health conscious products. My most popular items are peanut butter balls and butter tarts.” Flynn makes ornate and original wedding cakes, which need to be booked eight months to a year in advance. “A lot of thought, design, and labour goes into them, so I always make sure I dedicate the time.”
Nothing can compare to the sensual delight of sinking your teeth into a fresh-baked, still-warm cookie or tart. Our local bakers can provide hand-made, delicious treats that you will love to savour and share.
by Charlotte Ottaway
Hurst Bakery, Aurora
Nutmeg Bake Shop, Newmarket
Simply Yummy Bakery, Aurora