Some people say sourdough has had its time in the sun; we are not those people. "I just don't get tired of it," beams Adri Greenspan, lead bread baker of sourdough emporium Dear Grain, "Physically, I get tired, but, inspirationally, it's unending."
If you've strolled along Ossington recently, you've probably noticed Dear Grain's sparkling new storefront. After months of construction, the scaffolds at number 48 have finally come down to reveal a pristine, three-story ivory rowhouse with Dear Grain's pastel love letter to sourdough taking up the entire main floor. It's a stark contrast from where they started five years ago.
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After falling in love with the art of bread baking, Greenspan began Dear Grain in the back of Hamilton's Detour Cafe, where his bread business flourished like a growing baby sourdough starter. Then, you know, Covid. "The whole café shut down, everybody was panicked. It was just my wife and I making bread and sending it out. And that really took off," he recalls.
People would drop everything to get their paws on Dear Grain's extra-chewy, high-hydration, slow-fermented loaves from their coveted sourdough drops. They sold so much bread online that they outgrew the café's tiny back room, moved to a larger Hamilton commissary, and, lucky for us, opened their first Toronto outpost in late 2021.
"It's about memorable, nourishing experiences: when you eat the bread or pastries and something in you goes, 'wow,' and you stop for a moment outside of your normal routine. I want to create that effect." Greenspan says of the shop's inspiration. From a library of heritage grain flours to rows of colourful, small-batch condiments, Dear Grain is a marketplace dedicated entirely to the joy of making and eating sourdough.
In the morning, tender loaves of Classic Country, Multigrain Porridge and the crunchy Super Seeded fill the shelves next to the front window. By afternoon, you're lucky if there's a single crumb left. Not to worry, there's always something new to come. "Every day is different," Greenspan explains. "The bread is never the same. As you get to work with it over time, you can start to feel the nuances. It's fascinating."
What to expect at Dear Grain on Ossington
Dear Grain: High-hydration and slow-fermented sourdough
"Higher hydration gives the bread a really unique texture. It's custardy. It has a little stickiness and wetness to it. And this makes it super digestible. I've had issues digesting bread. I went gluten-free for a while. And then when I started making this bread, I could eat it," Greenspan explains.
"Allowing the flour to absorb the maximum amount of water that it can take helps the body digest it better. In the sourdough process of fermentation, the gluten gets broken down, and when you have more water, it gets broken down even more because the [gluten] threads are more delicate."
Dear Grain: Feature sourdough drops
Every Thursday, Dear Grain has (personal-sized) feature loaves, creative takes on their signature sourdough mixed with different spices, fresh vegetables and savoury ingredients like cheese or chocolate. The flavours are imaginative and push the limits of traditional bread making. "I learned to trust my inspiration and my instinct. And that's always yielded the best results," he says.
Dear Grain: Sourdough pastries, sandwiches and condiments galore
The sourdough gets delivered from their Hamilton commissary early in the morning, but all the sourdough-based pastries and sandwiches are made in-house at the Ossington shop. Get your day started right with a cup of coffee and their roasted mushroom breakfast sammy; try an experimental Acid League vinegar from the stocked gourmet pantry; and save room for a sweet treat to-go.
Dear Grain, 48 Ossington Ave., deargrain.com