This allergy-friendly review was written by guest blogger, Shayla Gunter-Goldstein. Shayla is a freelance writer and editor whose writing has been published in Lilith Magazine, Parents Canada and Baby Post, among others. She is also the mom of two boys, and has become an advocate for allergy awareness since her youngest son’s diagnosis. All opinions are her own.
Challah. Egg bread. It’s a big thing for Jewish people. Every Friday night, we’re supposed to eat it. But what do you do when one of your kids has an allergy to eggs?
Other than making an egg-free version myself (which I’ve done on occasion), our favourite place to go for freshly baked nut-free challahs (or egg-free water challahs) is our local neighbourhood kosher bakery, Grodzinski’s.
You may remember from my review of the kosher Second Cup that Grodzinski’s has a variety of yummy baked goods. All it takes is a trip into their Thornhill or Toronto locations on a Friday morning to see just how popular they are. Hoards of people, shelves and shelves of delectable pastries, buns, breads, and of course, challah.
My food-allergic son is always in heaven when we visit (weekly). We grab an egg-free challah (and a regular one for the rest of us), crusty buns, a few decorated cookies, and the yummiest chocolate buffalo buns you’ll find outside of New York! If we’re having guests over for dinner, we’ll add some massive cake pops or delectably rich cupcakes to our order. I often buy a cupcake to send to birthday parties with my son, just in case the cake isn’t safe for him.
At Chanukah, we eat their fabulous donuts (a staple for the holiday – filled with chocolate, key lime, caramel, custard, you name it!). Their specialty cakes are gorgeous too: honey cakes, bundt cakes, loaves and pies are staples for family brunches and holiday meals.
Our favourites are definitely the cake pops, brownies (sooo decadent), and chocolate babka/buffalo. We also enjoy the giant cookies. Sugar and chocolate ecstasy. Oh, and if you like a really oniony onion bun, look no further. Heavenly egg-bread pockets filled with gorgeous plump onions. (I’m salivating just thinking about them.)
I also love the fact that they use chopped pumpkin seeds as garnish on a variety of items now. It gives baked goods a nutty look and taste without being a threat to anyone’s life (provided you’re not allergic to pumpkin seeds). In fact, when I needed a bulk supply of pumpkin seeds for a brittle I made at Christmas, they sold me a container of peanut/tree nut-safe pumpkin seeds to take home. That’s great service.
Owners Daniel and Rona Grodzinski come from a long line of bakers—with their origins in London, England (where one of their bakeries is completely gluten-free). Here in Toronto, they have two locations: Their south store (Bathurst just south of Wilson) and north store (Centre Street in Thornhill), are now both free of peanuts and tree nuts. Plus, they’re mostly dairy free (pareve), to comply with kosher rules. They do, however, make cheese danishes or buns (depending on the day) in a separate kitchen.
The Thornhill store jumped on the nut-free bandwagon about four years ago, with the south store following suit a year later. They initially thought they would offer customers the best of both worlds (by having one location continue to use nuts in their baking), but soon realized that if they wanted to provide baked goods for institutions, schools, and private catered events, they had to be completely nut-free at both stores. (The north location, which is smaller, just couldn’t keep up with the demand.)
The south location (right) has a counter & some tables for eat-in customers.
Of course, it depends on what allergies you are dealing with. If you have fish allergies in your family, for example, you should know that kosher marshmallows are made with fish gelatin, so their chocolate covered marshmallow kebabs would not be safe. In our case, my son’s sesame and egg allergies are mild to disappearing, so we are fortunate to not have to worry about the sesame seeds used widely at Grodzinski Bakery.
Still, I am known by the owners as “the crazy lady who wrote to them about making royal icing with bean juice” (aquafaba) last year. (They didn’t try it, btw, but I have… and it makes a great royal icing.) They do have a few egg-free items, however, such as their palm leaves and lacy golden cookies, water challah, and some water buns.
Don’t expect Grodzinski’s to be sesame or egg free any time soon though. Daniel explained that they “can’t be everything to everybody… and we might as well stick to what we do well.” And do it well they do.
Recently, Grodzinski Bakery has begun supplying Justin’s No Frills on Centre Street, with breads, buns, and cakes—which thrills me to no end since I often do my grocery shopping after the bakery closes. In addition, Kosher Food Warehouse, a bulk food supplier a few doors away, is soon going to have Grodzinski package their nut-safe items, such as Barry Callebaut chocolate chunks, chocolate chips, and a few other items. This is a fabulous idea, in my opinion, since buying bulk has gone the way of the dodo bird for our family since being diagnosed with food allergies.
Grodzinski’s treats are also available at ten locations throughout Terminals 1 and 3 at Toronto Pearson Airport, and at selected Second Cup locations in the GTA.
I can’t recommend Grodzinski Bakery highly enough. In all the years I’ve been a loyal customer, I’ve only experienced one miss (with a very large custom order cake). Other than that one time (which may have just been a fluke), I’m always impressed with their products and service: from a wide variety of baked goods to a small selection of lunch items, such as sandwiches and pizza buns, to catering for special occasions, they (practically) do it all. There’s even a little self-serve coffee counter for that quick caffeine fix—though I prefer to get mine via their chocolate brownie or cake pop.
Note: Because Grodzinski Bakery is kosher, they close early on Friday afternoons and are closed all day on Saturdays. Busiest, but most heavily stocked times, are Thursdays and Friday mornings. Go early!
Friendly. Supportive. Encouraging.
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