Nice Buns Bakery cultivates scrumptious, slow-grown breads using organically grown flours and wild-caught yeasts. Sara Lapell, founder of Nice Buns, bakes her lovely goods at the Depanneur on College Street. You can find her handcrafted loaves at a number of restaurants, stores and markets or through the Fresh City bag. This month, we sat down with Sara to chat about wild cultured bread, gluten-free goodies and upcoming projects. Here’s what she had to say:
How long have you been baking for?
Since I was a kid, really. But I've worked in bakeries since I graduated from George Brown's Baking and Pastry Arts program in 2005.

Why were you first drawn to baking?
I used to work with special needs kids and students in camps and schools and one of my favourite things to do with kids was baking. I feel like there’s a lot of educational and therapeutics value in baking. Somewhere down the road I would like to do more workshops and teaching, and the Depanneur is a fantastic place to start.
What’s your favourite part about owning a business in Toronto?
Getting to better-know and to work with our good food community networks.
What’s your baking philosophy?
On my card and logo it says, "wild cultured bread," which is a fancy and more comical way of saying ‘sourdough’. I think people misunderstand sourdough and think it’s going to taste sour, when what it means is it’s a dough that has been fermented. Historically, it’s the first way people used to raise bread. It’s a slower process, and there’s some evidence that it’s a more nutritional process. One of the things that has changed in the last 100 years with bread-making, and part of the reason for today’s intolerance to modern bread, is the availability of commercially grown yeast, which is a mono-culture. When you use wild yeast it’s a more diverse array of micro-biological life. Similar to how some people with a lactose intolerance are able to eat yogurt or other fermented dairy is because fermentation is a pre-digestion and breaks down some of the things that our body couldn’t break down on it’s own.
Why do you bake gluten-free?
It was a challenge I was given last year. Someone said ‘Sara you make great bread, but can you make it gluten-free?’ and I did. It wasn’t my goal when I set out to make this business, but it quickly seemed like a good idea in a town as blessed as ours with so many fine artisan bakers. The gluten-free sourdough bread is a bit more of a distinct product in Toronto than wheat bread. More and more people seem to be looking for a gluten-free bread that tastes good.
Was it challenging learning how to bake gluten-free goods?
I love a good challenge. I had to go back to the drawing board and forget everything I knew about making bread, and get back to the science and chemistry of it. I read what had been done by other bakers before but also tried stuff on my own to see what worked. It was a good challenge and I love when people taste it and their reaction is, ‘really? This is gluten-free??
Gluten-Free Sourdough Focaccia at Nice Buns Bakery

Why "Nice Buns"?
I don’t know why, I guess because I’m a smart alec! It started as a joke in college when we had to write a memo as a fictitious bakery. It is catchy – I like that about it. Now I kind of feel like there’s pressure to make more buns because of the name, like Nice Loaves… it just doesn’t flow as well.

What do you recommend pairing your bread with?
I definitely recommend thinly slicing the GF loaf, it's pretty dense and a little goes a long way. But your baker is not necessarily a chef and I often just eat whatever's convenient. I guess I suggest creativity and flexibility, using what YOU like and/or have on hand! Yesterday I topped some open-face sourdough with homemade pesto, creamy soft-ripened Monforte Dairy cheese and the first wild blueberries of the season. That one was new to me but it turned out pretty delicious...
Any new projects you’re tackling?
Croutons! It’s a product that would have an even longer shelf life, and I think I could make really good croutons out of the sourdough I’ve got going. I think there might be a desire for a good gluten-free crouton!
Want to add Nice Buns to your weekly Fresh City bag? Click here!