Two new bakeries have opened on the North Shore and both do an exceptional job of representing their vastly disparate styles and traditions.
Fellow brunch lovers will likely already be familiar with Lift Breakfast Bakery, acclaimed chef-owner Jane Copeland’s passion project that is home to fine baked goods and creative fare both sweet and savoury.
Scoring a brunch table at Lift on the weekend remains a local bragging right, though it should be said that Lift now serves dinner as well, featuring antipasti, pasta, and desserts. Morning or night, Lift dishes are a showcase for Copeland’s prowess in transforming dough into revelatory flavours and textures.
Perhaps lesser known is the so-called Production Bakery, Lift’s functional but appealing take-away facility down on Copping Street in the same space formerly occupied by Gretchen’s Here and Now. If you have ever tucked into a meal at the Lonsdale space and thought to yourself “my life would at last be complete if I could wake up to one of these (insert delicious baked item of choice here) at home, you’re in luck. Lift’s production bakery has a wide range of goodies from bread (sourdough rye, rye, and milk loaf on the occasion of my visit) and scones (cheddar and currant), to muffins and cookies, brownies, sticky pecan buns, sweet loaves (lemon, biscotti), croissants (matcha and butter), as well as sandwiches (turkey salad) and beverages.
The Production Bakery does what it says on the box: it makes the baked goods for the Lower Lonsdale venue, but is also open to the public for grab and go service. The bakers on shift are right there working their magic in plain view, the bakery equivalent of looking behind the curtain at the Wizard of Oz, only what you discover in this case is genuine magic versus artifice.
I picked up a weighty bag of goods to sample. A ginger and pear muffin with molasses was weighty and dense, foreshadowing the upcoming baking season with its spicy notes and dark sweetness. The pear gave the muffin an aromatic quality, the ginger a sharp kick, and the molasses a dense, rich sweetness, the overall effect translating into something akin to gingerbread.
A loaf of milk bread, evidencing its hand-kneaded preparation with subtle twists and imperfections in the centre, yielded great toast, its light and fluffy texture lending itself well to raspberry jam.
The star of the Lift selection was a hefty pecan bun with a deeply caramelized sugar glaze, sticky candied pecan, and dense, chewy dough. The bun was ample, easily enough for two people to split and enjoy with a good cup of coffee.
A cheese scone rounded out the sampling and had a remarkable rich and buttery flavour, with a perfect crispy exterior and lush, chewy centre. Lift’s Production Bakery turns out sophisticated and elegant fare, just like the restaurant it feeds, and furnishes patrons a quick and inexpensive way to experience Copeland’s celebrated creativity.
Meanwhile, over in Lynn Valley Mall (not to be confused with the indoor Lynn Valley Centre across the street), just a stone’s throw from the recently reviewed Big Bite Donair, sits Kourosh, a new bakery specializing in Persian delicacies. Kourosh is the thriving bazaar to Lift’s curated bakery experience. Seemingly endless choices abound here, with glass displays of delicate, creamy cakes and confections, ornate cookies, turnovers, rolls, and colourful baghlava, traditional festive Persian sweets made with layers of honey and rosewater-soaked filo pastry, often lifted with cardamom and garnished with bright green, toasted pistachio.
Down the middle of the bakery are elegant, globe shaped displays of nuts, seeds and dried fruits. This approach to showcasing high quality dried fare was popularized by Ayoub’s, but has since become the display hallmark of several local businesses that seek to elevate the Persian specialty retail experience. Toasted, saffron-seasoned pumpkin seeds were a nice treat and were well priced, as were crispy chickpeas.
My selection of goodies from Kourosh was broad and varied, my choices assisted by a very personable and informed staffer who guided me to, among other things, one of the best coconut cookies I have ever eaten. North Shore News photographer Mike Wakefield sent me a note after his shoot at Kourosh to say that the coconut cookies were a must try. I assumed he was talking about macaroons, a popular item in many local Persian grocery shops, but in fact, he had discovered something quite different. Kourosh’s coconut cookies are like supple two-bite meringues laden with heaps of toasty coconut meat; they are chewy, delicate, complex and extraordinary.
Equally worthy of discussion are Kourosh cream puffs. Your enjoyment of these absurdly rich items will be wholly determined by your feelings about whipped cream. Imagine a tennis ball sized portion of freshly whipped, thick, gently sweetened whipped cream wrapped in a nearly paper-thin layer of choux pastry and you’ll approximate the experience. I love whipped cream, so tucked into these mutant profiteroles with great gusto, but they proved too much for the rest of my family, with my daughter Blondie valiantly making her way through about 2/3 of the cream (about 1/3 further than her siblings) before she tapped out.
A slice of spongy Swiss roll went considerably lighter on the whipped cream but still provided ample indulgence, partially offset by the slightly tangy cake component. A wedge of orange layer cake employed both chocolate and vanilla sponge with light frosting and a high gloss orange glaze on the top, while another brown and white chevron patterned confection revealed dark chocolate and coffee notes, like a tiramisu. An assortment of other goodies included apple jelly filled cookies in the shape of the logo of a certain Cupertino-based tech giant (these are the least expensive things you’ll ever buy that bear that iconic shape), pistachio and apricot sugar cookies, chocolatey chickpea sable-style cookies, and various seasonal (read: ghostly) cookies dusted with confectioner’s sugar.
Kourosh sells their goods by weight, offering very good value at just $8.99 per pound (0.45 kg). This is a great spot to stock up when you are entertaining guests or need to contribute something to a social event. Kourosh also caters, taking custom requests for cakes and baked goods for parties, birthdays, weddings, etc.
Lift Breakfast Bakery is located at 700 Copping St. in North Vancouver; Kourosh Bakery is located at 1248 Lynn Valley Rd. in North Vancouver.