I loved the series we ran for the month of February dedicated to the “ultimate friend date”. We wanted to focus on unique activities to do with friends to reconnect, and make new memories that extended beyond the tried and true, dinner and drinks. The range of activities from axe throwing to paint night were all memorable, but spending the morning at Le Dolci with Carol is one of my most favourite experiences that Plenty has gifted me with and a fond memory of 2017.
I really hope she picks donuts.
That’s what I was thinking when I sent Carol the culinary class choices that corresponded with my availability. I had spent a considerable amount of time trolling Le Dolci’s sweet-looking Instagram feed and tabbing through their website reading testimonials and class descriptions. I felt certain there were no missteps here. No mistakes. No errors to be made. But surely Carol, after all of these years of friendship, knows about my unending love for donuts. I. Love. Donuts.
She responds. Cinnamon buns.
Cinnamon buns? I guess I could do cinnamon buns. They do smell good. I would have gone with croissants over the buns, but like most things in my life, scheduling takes precedent over pretty much everything else. Cinnamon buns works with the calendar, so cinnamon buns it is.
Carol and I meet on a Sunday morning at Le Dolci located steps from Trinity Bellwoods Park. Le Dolci is a bakeshop that in addition to offering a variety of culinary classes hosts baking camps for adults and kids (March Break is coming up!) as well as unique corporate events. Walking through the front doors is a delight for the senses. Whimsical cakes line the walls, towers of confectionaries are artfully displayed and towers of cookies and chocolates beckon. The sweet smell of sugar is intoxicating and within minutes, we’re ooohing and aaahing amid a fit of giggles. I feel like Alice in Wonderland.
We’ve brought our own aprons, but otherwise Le Dolci has provided us with everything we will need for the duration of the class. We scrub our hands and take our position around the steel table. Lindsey, our instructor, is the real deal. Not only is she a trained pastry chef who has worked in some of the city’s most prestigious kitchens but also she is a culinary instructor at notable foodie institution George Brown College.
Lindsey’s passion for pastries and pastry making is infectious. Without sounding at all pretentious or intimidating Lindsey was like a chocolate fountain of knowledge bubbling over. Between encouraging all of us hanging onto her every word to indulge in bites of tasty treats, to explaining the differences in rolling pins, and sounding off on salted versus unsalted butter, she did so with humour, and the ease of a Food Network star. When learning how to do most things, whether it be how to throw an axe or bake a cinnamon bun, the quality of the teacher makes all the difference. Lindsey’s ability to connect with her students proves she’s a natural. Mid-way through the class and a quick glance around the table was all the proof I needed. The group of us, Carol and myself included, were all laminating dough like we were pros, never mind that most of us had never heard of laminated dough 20 minutes before.
The two hours of rolling dough went by quickly. Between Lindsey’s insights, and my time elbow-to-elbow with Carol, the time ticked by. Engaging in a side-by-side activity with a friend is a different experience than dining together. There are opportunities to talk about things while still being busy – sometimes this works best as an icebreaker for those hard-to-have talks. Plus there is something to be said for learning together: the failing and succeeding that comes with that is much sweeter when you have a friend by your side.
Then there are the laughs – those are the memories that Carol and I just created. Don’t get me wrong. Dinners out with friends are lovely and serve a purpose, but doing and being together create the stories that are reminisced about at those dinners.
There is no denying the smell of baking cinnamon buns is heavenly. Lindsey took some fresh buns from the oven for us to sample, as our own were packed away for us to take home to our expectant families. I secretly thought that they were overcooked. They were a dark caramel colour, not the light toasty colour that I usually associate with these buns. Sensing our general distrust, Lindsey assured the group to trust her (ahem, she is the professional after all).
Dear Readers, I have been eating cinnamon buns all wrong my entire life. The buns that I made were light and airy, almost the consistency of a croissant. Not too sweet and just the right cinnamon-y goodness (because there are differences in cinnamon, you know?). And the icing. Oh, the icing. Not too goopy or runny, or over-powering, a nice complement to the browned cinnamon bun. Yes, brown. The buns need to be cooked!
The two hours that Carol and I spent together at Le Dolci will be remembered not just for the cinnamon buns but for the time we spent together. For the amount of chocolate I consumed before noon. For the flour that was all over Carol’s face. For the laughs that we shared. For the two hours we spent just the two us, thinking about nothing other than each other and the task at hand.
Le Dolci offers a variety of culinary classes, birthday parties, bachelorettes, boot camps and unique corporate and team building events. There is still room in their March Break camp that parents can sign up for directly on line and includes all food, activities, and healthy snacks.