< Back

Best Dark Bread in Toronto

Member Rating

By Michele Chandler

My quest to explore the “dark side” of bread in Toronto was an almost never-ending tour of both big and small bakeries that are committed to providing what they believe is the quintessential artisanal product. But this incredibly diverse supply begs the definition of the term artisanal bread.

Sue’s Market in Richmond Hill actually provides its shoppers with a “How to Buy” sheet at their bakery counter. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Read the ingredients-usually a short list, with or without yeast
  • If the bread is baked in a wood-fired or stone hearth, the crust should be golden, ridged and crusty
  • The slow, natural fermentation should enhance flavour, colour, aroma and textures
  • Eat promptly or freeze immediately as the breads have no preservatives

Further bread research also added to the the definition that all artisanal breads be hand-made, and that the bread recipes are usually based on hundreds of years of ethnic culture and tradition.

One of my first stops was the Dimpflmeier factory in Etobicoke. Most people know these breads as the unassuming ryes sitting near deli counters in supermarkets. But this bakery deserves a much closer look. The company was founded 40 years ago by the Dimpflmeier family as a small bakery. It is now a large enterprise employing 300 people and has North American, and to a limited extent, Mexican distribution.

They make over 50 types of bread, 80% of which is only available at their factory store in Toronto. Carol Meissner, the bakery’s purchasing manager, explained that because the breads are preservative-free, any products being shipped must go with an express service, which prohibits the bakery from selling many of the breads anywhere else but at the source.

Dimpflmeier’s signature ingredient is their spring water used in production. The water is delivered from the family farm in Terra Cotta, Ontario to the retail store for both production and drinking water. Meissner explained that the bakers discovered the properties of spring water absorb the bread-making ingredients better than any tap water supply, yielding a more evenly mixed dough.

One of their most popular products is the Holzofen Art Brot, a stone-baked, farmer-style rye that weighs 10 lb. Unwieldy in size and weight, the bakery will slice it for a nominal cost and provide freezer bags so it can be frozen immediately before drying out. Many Dimpflmeier customers who winter down south will take up to 10 Art Brot loaves with them because they can’t buy anything like it while outside of Toronto.

Another great find was St. John’s Bakery on Broadview. This social enterprise is located in a Carpatho-Russian Orthodox mission, and is the vision of Father Roberto Ubertino. Ubertino went on sabbatical to Brittany, France and studied bread-making with a social enterprise called Pain de Vie (bread of life). This very successful French economic model provides paid work in church-run bakeries for those less fortunate. Ubertino repatriated the idea, secured some donated equipment and the bakery was born in 1997. The first few years were experimental, bakery manager Mark Van Beusekom explained, but in 2000 the operation started to sell commercially through their own retail outlet and other bakeries.

Currently St. John's produces 800 loaves of 15 types of bread per week. (A few pies and cakes are produced to augment the product line and increase the bakers’ skills). The tiny bakery has two shifts per day, with four to five people per shift in the basement of the mission. Great plans are afoot though, as they have just purchased a neighbouring building which will increase their baking capacity and provide a retail space that will make them financially self-sufficient in two years hopes Van Beusekom.

So many breads, so little space…

Over the past month I have tried over 50 breads from around the city. (Thank you readers for all your tips and advice). Through a series of blind tastings for smell, texture and taste, I have come up with a short-list of what I found to be the best-in-bread of the dark side, working from lightest to darkest.

Dimpflmeier Healthy Living Bread

This is a customer favourite--ingredients include Soya chips, flax and hemp. Heavy seed factor, and the hemp adds a nutty flavour. The melded flavours make it good for breakfast.

Distribution--Dimpflmeier Bakery, 26-36 Advance Rd. 416 239 3031

Dimpflmeier Holzofen Art Brot

After the novelty wears off of having a 10 lb. loaf on your table, the toasty aromas will envelope the room. Slightly sweet and sour, the bread is completely evenly textured throughout the large loaf. A good all-round rye.

Distribution--(see above)

Ontario Bread Hemp and Soya Hipster

As the name implies, this is the “Woody Harrellson” of Toronto bread. Ingredients include Hemp seeds, Hemp nuts, Soya grits, roasted barley and malt, making for a slightly sweet and very chewy, flavourful sandwich bread.

Distribution--Ontario Bread Co. 416 532 4929

St. John’s Whole Wheat Sour Dough

A hand-shaped crusty loaf that was not overly sour and had good internal texture--makes good sandwich bread.

Distribution--Call for locations city-wide, retail not currently available at the bakery, 416 850 7413

Stonemill Multigrain

This bread was a big hit with the tasters. Dark exterior with traditional loaf shape. Lots of seeds (but if you don’t like poppy seeds, this may not be for you). An easy slicing bread with lots of flavour. Could be used for breakfast or sandwiches.

Distribution—Stonemill Bakehouse Ltd. Scarborough, 50 Modern Ave. 416 757 5767. Satellite operation in lower level of South St. Lawrence Market.

Sue’s Multigrain Sour Dough

Great crusty, grainy bread. Lots of seeds both inside and out with a soft, chewy interior. Good for toasting.

Distribution—Sue’s Produce World Market, 205 Don Head Village Pkwy. (at Major Mackenzie Rd. 905 737 0520

These next three are what I would call the black breads, which were surprisingly difficult to find in the city.

Borodinsky Bread

Named for a region near Moscow, this very chewy bread has a smoky flavour imparted by molasses and coriander. Would be great with a strong cheese.

Distribution – Amber Bakery 416 742 0340

Dimpflmeier Pumpernickel

A dense, square loaf with very strong rye flavour. Not as overpowering as it looks, but the interior crumbles rather than tears apart. Perfect for canapés or other recipes where the flavour of the bread is played up, not down.

Distribution-- (as above)

Razowy Bread

This Polish bread’s name, Razowy, refers to a product that is baked with a specific type of flour where the grain was only milled once. A fragrant, spicy rye with coriander overtones, and slightly sweet finish.

Distribution – All Stars Bakery, 905 738 9624



No one has commented on this Article yet, why don't you be the first to comment?