Toronto·Suresh Doss

Scarborough pastry shop aims to keep old tradition of baklava alive

Pâtisserie Royale is at 1415 Kennedy Rd #26 in Scarborough

Pâtisserie Royale is at 1415 Kennedy Rd. #26

Mohammad Jamous is the owner of Pâtisserie Royale. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Ismaila: So we're heading to Scarborough this morning to a Lebanese dessert shop. What's so special about Pâtisserie Royale? 

At the centre of this place is a gentleman named Mohammad Jamous. He is originally from Tripoli and he came to Canada in the mid-70s, found himself in Montreal. He says he wasn't intending on ever becoming a baker or a cook, but he was influenced by his dad, who is this well-known master baker. 

So he's in Montreal, which has a very thriving Lebanese community going back many decades, and he finds himself working at a very popular bakery there called Pâtisserie Mahrouse, which is still around to this day. That's where he spends a decade and a half mastering baklava. 

Owner Mohammad Jamous opened Pâtisserie Royale after mastering how to make baklava in Montreal. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Ismaila: So, as I understand it, this is a very old-school technique. 

Suresh: Old school. I would say going back easily 300 years, most likely longer in Syria and Lebanon, but also in other parts of the Arab world, Europe and Asia, from Greece to Turkey. 

There's a version of baklava everywhere. And just to clarify, when we say baklava, we're not talking about one thing. It is an entire category of sweets, phyllo pastry that is layered and spun in a variety of shapes

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Swar is a variation of the Middle Eastern baklava. It is commonly known as baklava bracelet. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Ismaila: I imagine this must have taken years to master this technique. 

Suresh: Yeah, that's the story with Mohammad. He spends decades on this culinary art and eventually wants to open his own shop, and he decides on Toronto because he was saying that at the time, we didn't have something like this in the city. 

This is in the mid-90s. And so he opens this tiny place on Pharmacy Avenue in Shawarma Row. And then, about four years ago, he moves into this new building. Walking into the shop, it is a wonderful experience. 

Ismaila: I have a box in front of me. It smells just delightful. So being in the bakery must be amazing. 

Suresh: This is, like, the best way to start the morning, isn't it? From the moment you open the door, you are greeted with these beautiful aromas. 

Toasted pistachio, you have hints of orange blossom in the air and baked pastry. You're quite literally surrounded by these glass cases. I would guess that there are upwards of 50 things in this place to try, from the baklavas to an assortment of petit fours that he does, to even some hidden desserts. 

The kolkshar is a layered phyllo with cashews. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Ismaila: Okay, let's talk about some of your favourites. Walk me through what you brought me. 

Suresh: I think if you're going to Pâtisserie Royale, the best way to experience it is to get an assorted box. 

Some of my favourites, for example, I would say there is this phyllo pastry that plays a recurring role with the baklava. It's really thin. It's rolled into cigar-shaped rolls. It's called the assabieh. It's stuffed with ground almonds and it's finished with a syrup. 

There are also these cylindrical sort of bracelet looking sweets called the swar, which you have in front of you. They're probably my favourite because you get this really interesting textural pop when you bite into it and it's got a good amount of pistachio. If you're up for it, I would ask you to give that a try. 

Assabieh are stuffed with almonds and finished with syrup. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Ismaila: You don't have to ask me twice, my friend. It's so good, the crunch in the layers, though. It's a light crunch and it's not too sweet. This is amazing. 

Suresh: There's a lightness to it. Like, as you described it, it's not heavy. There are so many great desserts like that at this place. 

There's also another baklava called a kolshkor, which again is layered phyllo that is presented with cashews this time.

There is this other wonderful dessert, which I would say is my second favourite, and it's called a karabige. So now, you have a semolina cake, which is kind of topped with this very soft marshmallow spread. And then pistachios kind of sprinkled on top.

 If you have a room for a second, I think you you take a bite of this and let me know what you think. 

Karabige, topped with marshmallows and pistachios, are another favourite from the pastry shop (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Ismaila: It's in my hand already ready to bite. You can smell the lemon ... just as you pick it up. The semolina cake just kind of crumbles in your mouth and melts away afterwards. 

Suresh: There's something quite luxurious and decadent with the way he makes the sweets. And as you said, it's not overly sweet. 

You can eat a few pieces and not be overwhelmed by the syrup. Mohammed sources really high quality ingredients. He will tell you the nuts are from Iran and California. The butter and the oil are from France. It is truly an outstanding place 

Pâtisserie Royale also makes a wide assortment of cookies, such as mammoul. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Ismaila: Talk about going the extra mile in many different directions. This is amazing. 

Suresh: One more recommendation I make for you. Mohammad makes great mammoul. 

These are these really thick semolina cookies that are stuffed with a walnut or pistachio filling.

Now, the reason why I brought them for you is because it's rare to find really good mammoul, and they are incredibly consistent and excellent here. So I hope you enjoy that at some point.