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Duchess Bake Shop Cookbook by Giselle Courteau flipped opened to a employees sour-cream cherry pie recipe.  (Cecilia Lietz)

A decade of Duchess

The 124th Street bakery is celebrating
its anniversary with some classic treats
By Cecilia Lietz

DUCHESS LONG AGO established itself as a 124th Street fixture with freshness, high quality ingredients, rich chocolatey coffee and customer service. In the first week of March, to celebrate 10 years in business, the French bakery brought back classic recipes from its infancy.

The “favourite old-school recipes,” as the bakery’s website calls them, range from oatmeal cookies to Paris-Brest.

The street is full of independent businesses, which, like Duchess, grew up with the family neighbourhood.

The key lime tart is so popular with one customer that he had it specially delivered. (Cecilia Lietz)

“We’re known for the quality of our baking,” server Sophia Storti says, adding that a lot of people come in to buy pastries “for birthdays, anniversaries and special events, and things like that.”

The bakery changes up its recipes from time to time, yet some longtime customers long for the classic treats, so, from March 3 to 8, customers were able to taste those recipes again. As well, co-owner Giselle Courteau is selling her blue linen Duchess Bake Shop Cookbook, full of those recipes.

The book reveals the history of Duchess (owners Courteau and Garner Beggs conceived and researched the idea when they were teaching English in Japan), and provides tips and tricks to making pie dough and, of course, pastries.

One of the many recipes is Duchess’s key lime pie, a favourite of regular customer Bill Elissa, who says he was attracted to Duchess because it reminded him of a French bakery he had visited in France.

The Duke cake is rich and chocolatey, and the perfect companion for milk or coffee.  (Cecilia Lietz)

Elissa likes the key lime pie so much that he once hired Duchess to cater an event at his home, and a key part of the order was, of course, the key lime pie. However, after opening all the boxes, he found there was no key lime. When he called the shop, the owner sent his son over with the pies, saving the party – or at least Elissa’s part of it.

Staff members say they enjoy the work as much as customers enjoy the pastries.

“It always stays busy, so you’re not really bored, and it’s also fun to eat here,” barista Madison Strombecky says.

Customers line up for the pastries, no matter the weather, she adds.

“Even when it was minus 40, there was still a line.”

It could be the homemade goods, or the freshly brewed coffee, or the French music that plays in the background.

Either way, people come.


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