A Quick Bite With…Ashley Wittig from Bunners Bakery

A Quick Bite With…Ashley Wittig from Bunners Bakery

I’m not terribly religious, but I may have to reconsider. It seems like someone may be looking out for me. I have a gluten intolerance and I’m allergic to eggs and for the last six or so years I have been on a quest to find yummy gluten free, egg free baked goods; emphasis on the yummy. The non-yummy stuff is easy to find; muffins that show promise only to turn to dust at the first touch. Then there is the bread that is awesome if a game of ultimate Frisbee happens to break out, and desserts that always seem to have a weird aftertaste and chalky texture (is it tofu? beans? Dirt of some sort?). Enter Bunners Bakery, opened in December 2010 by vegan couple Ashley Wittig and Kevin MacAllister in the West Toronto neighbourhood The Junction. Everything is refined sugar and gluten free as well as vegan and, go figure, delicious.  With everything from cupcakes to bread and cookies to pies, it’s a dream come true for anyone with food allergies and a healthier option for everyone else. I spoke to Ashley about the decision to address this niche market and how she developed her passion for baking healthy treats.

SPC: You don’t use any wheat flour, dairy, eggs or refined sugar. Why did you make that choice?

AW: At Bunner’s we don’t use any wheat flour simply because Kevin and I feel better eating a mostly gluten free diet and it digests better. As far as everything else, we really wanted to create a bakery that was open to everyone, so that people with allergies could still get the simple joy of walking into a bakery that smells amazing and being able to pick anything they want.

SPC: Did you grow up eating everything or were you picky?

AW: I was never picky but my mom was a real heath nut who was amazing at making healthy lunches every day. I was barely ever allowed to eat junk like pop or fast food or refined sugar treats. She was more of an apple type of mom…thank goodness!

SPC: What’s your earliest food memory?

AW: I was obsessed with arrowroot cookies since the moment I could chew. I still munched on them well into high school. I also remember my mom’s spectacular holiday dinners that our big family would come over and share with us, they were just so mega and delicious. I can’t imagine the work it would take to put it all together.

SPC: How did you learn to bake?

AW: I baked a little here and there when I was growing up and loved watching people’s reactions (except for when I lit the kitchen on fire when I was 10!). However, it was really the year prior to opening Bunner’s that I worked on upping my baking game. I really had to learn everything there was to know about vegan and gluten free baking through trial and error.

SPC: What are your best sellers?

AW: Supersonic Gypsy cookies and Creamies (filled cookie sandwiches) all the way. The gypsy cookies are my favourite too. It was my first invention and the product that helped us launch Bunner’s because of its success at farmer’s markets. Plus it’s so delicious that sometimes I’ll eat two in a row without even thinking about it.

SPC: You make delicious iced cupcakes and custom cakes. How do you make such good icing without using any dairy…or is that a trade secret?

AW: The secret to our frosting is in its simplicity! Plus, we use the most premium ingredients we can get our little hands on. Non-hydrogenated vegetable fats, organic super pulverized sugar and the most excellent vanilla you can afford is the key to making a rich and creamy vegan frosting.

SPC: Any favourite stories about people’s reactions when they find you and try the products?

AW: I love when small children go “oooooh!!!” when they know they get to try whatever they want. There’s also a little girl whose a regular customer who can say very few words but “gypsy” is one of them. And I love when people sit and try something right there in the shop and then buy a dozen of them before they leave.

SPC: Any tips on getting kids interested in treats and desserts that aren’t packed with processed ingredients and refined sugar?

AW: Oh gosh, one day when I have kids I’ll be more of an expert but watching them in the bakery I will say that kids always go for the cupcakes and creamies. They NEVER choose the gypsy cookies which “look” healthy. They’re just not that interested in healthy looking treats so a decadent looking disguise works.

Bunners Bakery is located at 3054 Dundas St. W. You can also pick up their treats at Te Aro in Leslieville, Crema in the Junction and Monroe’s at King & Spadina.  Voted Best New Bakery in 2010 by BlogTO, it’s worth the trip. My personal favourites; the muffins and multiseed bread…oh and the cookies…..no, the cupcakes…..

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