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New Markham bakery mixes tradition and innovation for some of the best bao in the GTA

Jay Zhou, Aaron Situ, Cathy Luo and Leon Leong run the Dough Cake and Sweets. (Suresh Doss/CBC - image credit)
Jay Zhou, Aaron Situ, Cathy Luo and Leon Leong run the Dough Cake and Sweets. (Suresh Doss/CBC - image credit)

Metro Morning's food guide Suresh Doss joins the program every week to discuss one of the many great GTA eateries he's discovered.

This week, he talked about a new Chinese bakery in Markham called The Dough Cake and Pastry.

Below is a lightly edited transcript of Doss's conversation with Metro Morning host Ismaila Alfa.

Alfa: For those who haven't been to a Chinese bakery, what distinguishes them from other bakeries?

Doss: They are Hong Kong cafes or takeaway places where you would visit and be able to grab an assortment of savoury and sweet buns. It's this idea of milk bread, bao or buns, that are topped with a variety of spreads and condiments or stuffed with coconut, or taro or red bean paste. They are a cornerstone in our food scene. For me it was an intrinsic part of growing up in Scarborough. Everyone had their go-to bakery, some places that have been around for decades at this point. You'd walk in and your senses would just light up. Acrylic display cases would be lined up against the wall. You grab a tray and pair of tongs and you'd grab a sausage bun or an egg bun or a curry bun. You always shopped with your eyes and your nose and you always left with a dozen or so pastries.

Suresh Doss/CBC
Suresh Doss/CBC

Alfa: So, Chinese bakeries have been in Toronto for many years. But today you're talking about a new one. What is this place?

Doss: The Dough Cake and Pastry has been open for four months now. I really found it by accident. It's one of those places that is hidden, tucked behind one of the oldest food plazas in Markham. It took over a space that was formerly occupied by another Chinese Bakery where the owners retired. So this is really serendipity.

It is run by a very enthusiastic young team that grew up loving Chinese bakeries. And they wanted to pay tribute to the bakeries that they grew up with but also they want to push the envelope. It is a balance between tradition and experimentation.

Alfa: So what kinds of items are we talking about here?

Suresh Doss/CBC
Suresh Doss/CBC

Doss: So first let's talk about the signature characteristic of a bun you would find at a Chinese bakery: the mother bread. You're picturing pillowy, really soft breads that have a slight sweet flavour on their own. This is because they're enriched with tangzhong, a roux that you make by gently heating milk and flour to the point where it has the consistency of, say mashed potatoes. When you incorporate the tangzhong into your batter, it is really what gives the buns their soft delicateness and a slightly creamy feel. The best example of this is the bolo bao, also known as the pineapple bun.

Suresh Doss/CBC
Suresh Doss/CBC

Even though they're called pineapple buns, there's no actual pineapple being used anywhere. They're called that because that dome that you see on the bun — it's this egg, butter, sugar mixture that is rolled out and placed on the bun. It cracks as it bakes, resembling pineapple skin.

I grew up eating bolo baos, and I have to say The Dough's version is very good. I dare you to find something better than these out there. Now we're just scratching the surface, there are literally dozens of different pastries and buns at Dough. There is a lot of really interesting, exciting things that the team is putting out.

Suresh Doss/CBC
Suresh Doss/CBC

I had a purple yam bun the other day that was really great. They also have an assortment of curry buns, so the baos are stuffed with a vegetarian curry or a Japanese-style curry. The pineapple bun you just tried, there's also another variation with coconut which is really outstanding. Do we have time for some cake?

Alfa: I always have time for cakes.

Doss: Dough has an assortment of cakes. Swiss rolls, which are great, and also these mini cakes that are inspired by Chinese-French style baking — this is their coconut cake.

There's really a lot to try here and the menu will rotate throughout the day. I find that lunch time is the best time to go because then you'll see every rack filled to the top with buns.