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Baked Goods

St. John's Bakery

Posted by Melissa Yu / Posted on April 30, 2010

St. John's BakerySt. John's Bakery's olive boule was a revelation in bread for me when I tried it for the first time. This round loaf has a classic sourdough base with a hearty crust, and its supple insides are packed with tender pieces of black olive.

The bakery is run by St. John the Compassionate Mission and now in its 25th year, has carved out a niche for itself through its wide offering of artisanal bread and pastries - all made with natural and organic ingredients only.

A dozen years ago, Father Roberto Ubertino spent a year with a small village bakery in Brittany and returned to launch St. John's Bakery in Toronto. For many years the bakery was housed in the basement of a church on Broadview Avenue, where bread was made by hand, following the methods of the Breton bakers. Now their Riverside storefront is on Broadview Avenue, just north of Queen Street East in the building adjacent to the Mission, and while they've expanded operations, each loaf is still shaped by hand.

St. John's BakerySt. John's BakerySt. John's specialty is their sourdough loaves, of which there are over a dozen kinds in rotation. They offer everyday table breads like rye and baguettes, as well as others like walnut-raisin. Prices of loaves range from $4.50 - $6.50, depending on size.

The bakery also produces a plentiful menu of cookies, scones, sweet breads, cakes and tarts. On my visit I realize that bringing a date with me would have been wise, but as I am on my own, I strategically pick out a few items. The chocolate brioche is elegantly dusted in icing sugar ($2.50), and the first bite reveals lovely, dark and melted chocolate inside. I set it aside and save it for my toaster oven that is just a short bike ride home.

With a focus on classics, I also take home a plain croissant ($1.75). Toronto has no shortage of trusted and true croissants; from Clafouti's soft and doughy claw to Patachou's buttery and crispy curve - I've had them all and appreciate each for its unique qualities. St. John's croissant is wonderfully sweet and the texture is flaky and soft.

St. John's BakeryThey also sell a handful of varieties of scones, all with interesting flavour twists: the orange and ginger marmalade with dark chocolate chips seems to be the most popular, but the addition of cardamom with prune catches my attention. About the size of my palm, the scone resembles more of a biscuit to me, and lacks the light and buttery goodness of a scone that I do adore. However, I do enjoy the hint of cardamom against the mellow sweetness of the prune.

Next I'm onto the tarts. There are generally a couple of flavours on rotation, and this Saturday there is a beautiful apple crumble ($3.50). The crust is buttery and dense and apple crumble mixture on top is not too sweet.

St. John's BakerySt. John's BakeryOn my way out I grab the aforementioned olive boule ($4.00) and a loaf of lemon pound cake ($7.00), which I've had the pleasure of enjoying before and know very well goes great with a steaming cup of tea and good company. It's the perfect texture, dense and sweet, with just a slight hint of lemon.

Beyond the bakery, their products can be found all over Toronto at organic food suppliers and farmers markets, from Trinity Bellwoods on Tuesdays, to Nathan Phillips Square on Wednesdays, to Evergreen Brick Works on Saturday morning.

St. John's BakeryJeff Connell, one of the bakers, has been with the bakery for about four years, and chose St. John's because it represents so much more than just bread. With strong values and a focus to source the best ingredients possible (organic, natural and mostly local), St. John's is part of a compassionate community that believes they can lend back to society through their products. Moreover, the bakery provides employment and training opportunities for members of the Mission; bakery workers have included refugees, people struggling with addictions, people with emotional troubles or mental illness, and single parents struggling with poverty.

All in all, St. John's Bakery is the kind of business that we should support. It's clear that the spirit and mandate of the Mission is reflective in their bakery operations - their product is a direct aim to contribute to an inclusive community for all Torontonians. Connell notes that it is a product "made out of love," and when you try their bread, I'm sure you'll agree that heart and thought has been put into it.

St. John's Bakery is open Tuesday - Friday from 8:30 am - 6:00 pm and Saturday from 8:30 am - 4:00 pm. They are closed for business on Sundays and Mondays.



lucy jones / September 2, 2008 at 06:40 pm
best bread and the people serving you are really nice
Duwop / November 24, 2008 at 07:57 pm
Support business like these, their products are as good or better than other similar bakery products/businesses.
Plus their profits go back to the community to help others

Spend your money consciously
Support these guys instead of Brick street if you are in the area
Donny / June 10, 2009 at 05:17 am
I am one of the bakers at St.John's Bakery and I just want to thank everyone for your support.I would also like to add that we have great bread .
Max / April 30, 2010 at 08:39 am
Best. Bread. Ever.
You haven't lived until you've had St. John's Olive Cilantro loaf.

I make bread at home. I find the process of kneading and shaping dough by hand therapeutic and soothing. Within hours you get to see a beautiful product that your hands made. The fact that this is a mission that can offer that experience to people who need an anchor (for whatever reason) and turn out such quality is fantastic.
js / April 30, 2010 at 07:03 pm
best bread ever...also love the seasonal items--hot cross buns this year were fantastic!
Soren / May 1, 2010 at 11:33 am
Love the olive/cilantro loaf. I'm always happy to see St. John's at the Trinity Bellwoods Organic Market.
Susan Alexander / May 1, 2010 at 04:48 pm
Organic celtic multigrain. Olive/cilantro. Baguettes. The lovely people at St. John's. The only thing I will miss when I leave the neighbourhood.
fiveteamer / May 2, 2010 at 08:34 pm
I will walk there next Saturday and eat BREAD.

Thanks for this.
Gordon Brown / August 17, 2010 at 07:26 pm
I am the Sales Rep and the morning baker at St.John's.
As a social purpose enterprise, this is the one place
that is really worth your support. A lifesaver for me!

Please, don't be shy. Buy a loaf, give us a try!
co / August 19, 2010 at 03:47 pm
Such good bread and it's good to know that my money is being put to good use, supporting people who might not otherwise find fair wage jobs. I could eat an entire loaf of the olive bread in a sitting
Welshgrrl / November 8, 2011 at 03:11 pm
I love this bakery and will go out of my way to buy their products, even though it is nowhere near where I live or work
Davina / September 10, 2012 at 08:11 pm
St. John's olive loaf was a complete revelation for me. I had sworn off bread because of a very restrictive, self-imposed diet, but one day while in a store, through some stroke of luck or fate, I picked up the loaf and thought, what the hell, a couple slices won't kill me. But - hear me now! - it did! This olive loaf just slayed me. I had never tasted such delicious, flavorful, moist yet perfectly crusty bread. I was in seventh heaven. Maybe it was the months of dieting deprivation, but this bread made me deliriously, incandescently happy. It reminded me like a shock how wonderful, nourishing and comforting good food can be. Needless to say, I am off my diet and I dream of St. John's bread weekly. Make that daily. Make that right this minute. In fact, I'm pretty sure I'll be at their bakery early tomorrow morning to stock up on bread, bread, and more bread!
Karen / January 4, 2014 at 09:36 am
The love that this bread is made with is evident in every delicious bite!

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