East Coast Bakery opened in Halifax on May 14 last year. (photo by Alex Rose)
Gerry Lonergan wants to put Halifax on the bagel map. “Why do Montreal and New York own bagels?” he asked. “Two cities shouldn’t own bagels. Why can’t Halifax own them?”
Lonergan’s East Coast Bakery celebrates its one-year anniversary May 14. Since he opened last year, he’s been churning out quality bagels. The bakery came in third in a local newspaper’s poll for best new business after being open for only 45 days – and the voting had started two weeks before the store’s first day.
Although Lonergan is from Montreal, he is adamant that his bagels are their own style, which he calls East Coast. There are a few things that set them apart.
The first is sourdough: Lonergan is the only baker he knows who uses it for his bagels. The second is that his bagels are kosher, even though Lonergan himself isn’t Jewish.
With a laugh, he noted that Chabad Rabbi Mendel Feldman “said if I do become Jewish I wouldn’t be able to open on Saturday, so it works for everybody in the community.”
About his decision to go kosher, Lonergan explained, “If I went kosher, it was another level of auditing, of standards, of quality that I felt a lot of people would have trouble following my example, so it would give me a leg up in it from a business standpoint. But, also, I thought it was the right thing to do, it would just add that extra bit of authenticity to these bagels.”
Halifax Jewish community member Josh Bates helped Lonergan get started. The two met when a mutual friend told Bates he had to try Lonergan’s bagels, when Lonergan was still making them from home.
“In terms of becoming kosher, I also introduced him to the Chabad rabbi who kosher-izes his bagels, if that’s the word,” said Bates.
Bates works in the mayor’s office and, although he didn’t help Lonergan in any official capacity, he was able to use his knowledge to help in other ways.
“He had a few questions around building code, getting approvals, finding a location. I introduced him to the executive directors of a couple different business improvement districts in Halifax,” explained Bates.
With a background in the electronics industry, where he streamlined production processes, Lonergan knew how he wanted his bakery to function and what he would need to make it happen. The entire back of the bakery is open concept, so the customer can see as the bagels and challot are made every step of the way.
It was important for Lonergan to find the perfect place to set up shop, in part because his machines need three-phase power, which wasn’t available in every potential location. One of those machines turns tubes of dough into rings, which are then each individually hand-stretched before being boiled in a pot of honey-water. The machine churns out the rings at a rate of 3,600 an hour, or one a second.
While living in Montreal, Lonergan visited Halifax a few years ago and knew it was the place he wanted to be.
“I came for a five-day trip and I just fell in love. I just said, ‘Wow the people are so nice, the ocean is amazing.’ I just saw lots of opportunity here, and I saw there was a need for what I wanted to do here. There was a need for artisanal bread, artisanal bagels,” he said. “Within 48 hours of that trip, I said, ‘That’s it, I’m moving.’ I came home and put my house up for sale within about five days.”
In less than a year, East Coast Bakery has become something of a Halifax institution. Aside from his bagels and challot, which are based on old family recipes, Lonergan hopes to add hamantashen by next Purim. But even if he keeps the menu the same, Bates said the quality of Lonergan’s baked goods should ensure the bakery’s success.
“No matter how good a bagel is, it’s always better when it’s fresh out of oven…. I like a thin sweet bagel right out of the oven and, until East Coast Bakery opened, you couldn’t get that in Halifax,” he said.
And the challah? “Best challah I’ve ever had,” Bates said. “When I go in there and buy a bag, I have hard time not finishing an entire loaf on my walk home.”
Alex Roseis a master’s student in journalism at the University of King’s College in Halifax. He graduated from the same school in 2016 with a double major in creative writing and religious studies, and loves all things basketball. He wrote this article as part of an internship with the Jewish Independent.
Ten years ago, Rosie Daykin opened Butter Bakery and Café in Vancouver. Five years ago, it moved to its current location on Mackenzie Street and began offering breakfast and lunch, in addition to baked goods. The bakery has grown to have its products distributed and sold in more than 300 grocery stores and high-end retailers, including Whole Foods, Dean and Deluca and Crate and Barrel.
Daykin published her first cookbook in 2013, Butter Baked Goods: Nostalgic Recipes from a Little Neighborhood Bakery, and her second in 2015, Butter Celebrates! A Year of Sweet Recipes to Share with Family and Friends, both via Appetite by Random House. Just last month, the U.S. edition came out from Knopf, with the subtitle “Delicious Recipes for Special Occasions,” and this reviewer received a copy.
After the essays “Essential Elements and Entertaining,” “Buts and Bobs for Successful Baking” and “Some Gentle Reminders,” the book jumps into the holidays – there are 117 recipes and 185 photographs.
There are recipes for almost every occasion. The book is divided into Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Butter Babies, Welcome Wagon, Butter Creams and Frostings, Summer Celebrations, Zelda’s Birthday Party, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas and Happy New Year. A final essay is on packaging your goodies.
This is not a Jewish cookbook, however, there are new and creative holiday recipes and the offerings for Chanukah are sufganiyot, apple-stuffed challah and chocolate hazelnut rugelach.
As Daykin writes, “What kind of celebration could it be without baked goods?” With that said, here are two of her three Chanukah recipes. If you’re not feeling up to baking, you can always pick up something at the bakery, of course – and they also sell a variety of gift boxes that would bring a smile to many a face. Butter Bakery and Café is located at 4907 Mackenzie St., and is open Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT RUGELACH
“Traditional rugelach is filled with jam, fruit and nuts, but chocolate and hazelnut seemed just a smidge more celebratory to me,” writes Daykin. “It also provided me with another excuse to spread Nutella on something. These little crescent-shaped cookies fall under the more-ish category of baking. You eat one and you have to have more.”
1 1/2 cups pastry flour 1⁄2 tsp baking soda 1⁄2 tsp salt 1⁄2 cup cream cheese, full fat 1⁄2 cup butter, room temperature 1⁄2 cup granulated sugar 1 cup Nutella 1⁄2 cup hazelnuts
Finishing touches: 1 large egg 1 tbsp water Course sanding sugar
Makes: two dozen cookies.
You will need: two (11-by-17-inch) rimmed cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.
Storage: these cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to one week or in the freezer for up to three months.
On a large piece of parchment paper, sift the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese and butter on high speed until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the sugar and continue to beat until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Turn the mixer speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients. Continue to beat until well combined.
Divide the dough in two. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Place the Nutella in a small bowl and use a spoon to give it a good stir to help loosen it up. This will make it easier to spread across the tender dough.
Use a large chef’s knife to chop the hazelnuts. Set aside.
Place a chilled piece of dough on a lightly floured work surface and use a rolling pin to roll it into a circle about nine inches in diameter.
Use a small offset spatula to carefully spread the Nutella across the dough. The dough is very tender, so work carefully to avoid it tearing it. If it does tear, not to worry, just press it back together.
Sprinkle half of the chopped hazelnuts over the top of the Nutella.
Use the large chef’s knife to cut the dough into quarters and then each quarter into thirds, just like if you were cutting a pie.
Start at the wide end of a piece of dough and roll it toward the point. Bend the two ends in slightly to create a crescent shape and then place it on a prepared tray.
Repeat with the balance of the dough.
Combine the egg and water in a small bowl and whisk them together. Use your pastry brush to lightly coat the top and sides of each cookie. Sprinkle generously with the sanding sugar.
Bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until the cookies have puffed up and are a lovely golden brown. Remove the cookies from the oven and transfer them to wire racks to cool.
“I wondered what would happen if I melded the idea of a butter cinnamon bun and challah loaf. Oh, believe me, people … good things happened. This bread is wonderful warm from the oven or lightly toasted with butter, but in French toast it has found its true calling. So, you might want to say ‘hola’ to this challah all the time.”
1 package instant yeast 1⁄4 cup warm water 4 cups all-purpose flour 1⁄4 cup granulated sugar 2 tbsp butter 1 tsp salt 2 tbsp liquid honey 2 large eggs 2 egg yolks 2 tbsp vegetable oil 3⁄4 cup water
Apple stuffing: 2 apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes (something tart, like a Granny Smith, works well) 2 tbsp dark brown sugar 1 tbsp liquid honey 1 tsp ground cinnamon
Finishing touches: 1 large egg 2 tbsp water Coarse sanding sugar
Makes: one loaf, eight to 10 slices.
You will need: one (11-by-17-inch) rimmed cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Storage: this challah can be kept well wrapped or in an airtight container for several days, especially because you can toast it.
For the challah, in a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast into the warm water. Set aside to bloom.
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, butter and salt on medium speed. Continue to beat until the butter has been distributed throughout the flour.
In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the honey, eggs, egg yolks, oil and water. Turn the mixer speed to low and add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients. Add the yeast with its water and continue beating until well combined.
Stop the mixer and change the paddle attachment to a dough hook.
Turn the mixer speed to high and let the dough hook knead the dough for at least five minutes, until it is shiny, smooth and elastic.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in a warm, draft-free spot and allow the dough to rise until it has doubled in size, about 90 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the apple stuffing. In a medium bowl, combine the chopped apple, brown sugar, honey and cinnamon. Use a wooden spoon to stir and coat all the apples. Set aside.
Once the dough has fully risen, remove the plastic wrap and punch down the dough to release the air produced by the yeast. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and allow it to rest for about 10 minutes.
Use a knife to divide the dough into three equal pieces. Use your rolling pin to roll each piece into a rectangle approximately 14 inches long and six inches wide. Place one-third of the apple filling down the centre of a piece of dough. Pull one side of the dough over the filling and pinch to seal it closed on the other side and at the top and bottom. This will create a filled log of dough. Repeat with the other two pieces of dough.
Lay one of the logs vertically along the centre of the prepared cookie sheet. Lay a second log across the middle of it, with the ends of the log pointing at 10 o’clock and four o’clock. Then lay the third log across the middle on top, with the ends pointing at two o’clock and eight o’clock. Braid one side of the loaf from the middle down and then tuck the ends under. Turn the cookie sheet and repeat with the other side.
In a small bowl, combine the egg and water and use your pastry brush to generously coat the top and sides of the loaf with the egg wash. Sprinkle with the sanding sugar.
Cover the loaf loosely with a sheet of plastic wrap and set in a warm, draft-free place to rise again until it has nearly doubled in size, about 90 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Bake the loaf for 30 to 40 minutes, or until it is a lovely golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and allow the loaf to cool for at least 20 minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring to a cutting board and slicing.
Sybil Kaplanis a journalist, foreign correspondent, lecturer, food writer and book reviewer who lives in Jerusalem. She also does the restaurant features for janglo.net and leads walks in English in Jerusalem’s market.