Blackbird Baking Kensington Market
Blackbird Baking finally has a flagship, and it's in the heart of Kensington - a great fit for owner Simon Blackwell's rustic bakery. Housed in the former Cobs Bread location on Baldwin, Blackbird Baking has a concise front of house, with exposed brick and barn board shelving and a glass counter holding sandwiches and sweets, and behind, a large open bakery in the back where all the magic happens. And magic it is.
Blackbird is known for its perfected sourdough breads (the seeded sourdough is $6, a sourdough baguette $4), which begin as slow-rising levain refreshed by additions of flour and water.
By using heritage, stone ground and unbleached flours, they encourage a stable culture of microorganisms in the dough, resulting in that wonderful, slightly-acidic sourness that gives sourdough its name.
Blackbird is a champion of organic Red Fife wheat and its resultant flours, a heritage grain in Canada that was usurped by Marquis and Thatcher wheats in the early part of the 1900's. Along with other whole rye and spelt flours, many of them stone-ground; the resurgence of the Red Fife grain resuscitates one of the unique components of Canada's early image as breadbasket to the world.
Rounded loaves, like multigrain ovals ($4.50) and the baguettes ($4-4.50), sit on their ends in salvaged wine boxes on the shelves, while breads with less height, like their stretch focaccia ($6), the white ciabatta ($4), or the Moroccan flatbread ($4.50) rest on rolling baking racks in the window, tempting passers-by.
If you want to attempt making your own bread, they carry a selection of the flours they use, including a rye flour for $6 and the Red Fife in bread ($6) and pastry flours ($5.50).
If you want to don't want to wait till you get home to enjoy their breads, they have beautiful ready-to-go sandwiches like veggie, or speck, mozzarella and arugula focaccia both $7.50. A simplified smoked ham and mozzarella sandwich is $4.95. Or, try one of their sweet offerings, like the small chocolate hazelnut cake ($4.50) that tastes like a Ferrero Rocher.
Blackbird Baking already has the attention of culinary heavies like Spotted Pig's April Bloomfield, who recently dug in alongside Blackwell and his bakers and did some baking there herself. Their wares have been sold at Toronto foodie havens - like Sanagan's Meat Locker and numerous farmer's markets - to a growing fan base who recognize the great texture of crust and dough, and the appealing formations of the classic batard, ciabatta, and focaccia.
It was only a matter of time before Blackbird Baking found a proper nest, and the rest of Toronto could flock in.
Photos by Jesse Milns