If this is the year you’ve promised yourself that you’ll make your own pumpkin or apple pie for Thanksgiving including crust from scratch, listen up. The wildly popular Duchess Bake Shop (south of St. Albert on 124 St.), named one of the ‘world’s best patisserie’ can help you out. The shop is home of fine French macarons, decadent eclairs, tarts, tourtiere and more. Duchess just opened a new Provisions store – a bigger, brighter, more fully-stocked version of the former small space next to the bake shop, this one just a few blocks away.
The new 5,000 square-foot space in Holland Plaza is east of the bake shop on 10934 119 St. It offers more cookbooks, bakeware, kitchen accessories and appliances, coffees and teas, and baking ingredients. There is almond flour, baking chocolate, candied rose petals, preserves, purees and pastes, spices, and on. Duchess co-owner Giselle Courteau, who isn’t trained as a chef, but remains an ‘enthusiastic home baker’, said the new store has the same focus.
“Everything we do in Provisions is for the home baker. People have asked for the cookbook, ingredients and techniques to make macarons and cakes, and now the baking classes – how to make a pie crust, tourtiere, etc.,” said Courteau, who has just launched a fall series of cooking classes which are at or near sell-out already. “We know there’ll be high demand for these hands-on classes, so we’ll offer them on a regular basis.”
Those keen on getting first-crack at classes may want to subscribe to the Duchess newsletter and check the website regularly at duchessbakeshop.com or duchessprovisions.com
For the French-technique classes, up to 12 bakers of all skill levels (though advanced-level classes for serious bakers are in the works too) will work in pairs in the roomy Atelier space adjacent to Provisions. Work space, aprons and heavy-duty stand mixers, etc. are provided for a two or three-hour session. Other two-hour tasting classes are also offered, providing the 411 on chocolate, teas and more.
Back in the Provisions space, foodies and kitchen gadget buffs will find plenty to add to a Christmas wish list. For example, the Swedish and Italian stand mixers (SMEG and Ankarsrum) are a to-die-for choice for the serious baker, with wattage higher than the typical kitchen stand appliance, and a price tag of about $800.
“We may do demos on these mixers – they’re amazing,” Courteau said. “We’ve doubled our output throughout this space, with a production kitchen in the back for the bake shop, Atelier and Provisions and even the new restaurant next door. It’s a huge investment, but we were always selling out of baked goods and ingredients at the old space. We’re still never going to be a factory, but hopefully we’ll better keep up with demand.”
An apple a day
If you’re inspired to create that perfect fall pie or tart, consider the favourite fall fruit – the apple. Orchard-run apples are at their best price, quality and quantity right now in St. Albert grocery stores, so it’s a perfect time to stock up for school lunch boxes and fall baking.
“And many St. Albert homeowners have apple trees in their yards,” said certified arborist Jim Hole. “If you’re unsure of ripeness, see if there are apples scattered under the tree – that’s a sure sign that all are ripe.” Though some varieties stay green or only partly change colour when ripe, you can also be sure they’re ready for picking if the stem twists easily from the branch when pulled. If it resists, leave it be for awhile longer.
Expanding the Duchess Branch – High Tea anyone?
If you’re looking for the next best place to try High Tea, the newly opened Café Linnea (part of the expanding Duchess branch, next to Provisions at 10934-119 St.) offers a reservation-only Sunday High Tea (seatings at 3 and 3:30 for $55 per person).
As with all the offerings at the breakfast/brunch Scandinavian and French-inspired restaurant, the High Tea includes a welcome cocktail, a three-tiered tea tray with sweets and savouries, and a selection of teas. Duchess co-owner Garner Beggs said he’s “nerding out” on the quality, local vegetables, unique teas and best available ingredients for the High Tea and restaurant breakfast service, which is already booming even before there’s a grand opening event.
“We want to offer the best of whatever’s in season – to look at food in different ways,” he said.