'Pillowy' pączki can be found at this Polish pastry shop in Etobicoke
Sesame Pastry & Deli is located at 2783 Lake Shore Blvd W. in Etobicoke
My kryptonite is a display of baked goods. Nothing derails me and lures me into a shop faster than seeing a window stack of pastries or sweets. It's embarrassing and it's true.
This is how I came across a wonderful Polish bakery in Etobicoke many years ago. I was at a parking meter on Lakeshore Road West when I noticed trays of glazed doughnuts stacked next to each other through the display. There were also large slabs of cheesecake with a thin golden brown crust and an assortment of iced cakes.
Pączki, pronounced ponch-kee, was my introduction to Sesame Pastry & Deli and to owner Halina Glowacka.
"The window is probably our best marketing, but the locals have known my mom's cooking since she first opened," Margaret Glowacka explained.
Pączki are doughnuts filled with prune jam and apple compote.They are topped with a thin icing sugar glaze.
While they may look modest, I can assure you that Halina's pączkis are some of the best you'll find in the GTA. For years, whenever I found myself in Etobicoke. Halina and I barely exchanged words, she would graciously serve me her pączki and I would try to resist the urge to devour them before getting back to the car.
Inside, Sesame Pastry is a trip through a time machine. Prior to Halina's food emporium, another bakery held the address for years. Halina changed very little, maintaining a classic diner appearance.
With each visit, you discover something new about Halina's Polish store. There's a large rack dedicated to Polish tabloids, which Halina curates regularly, a wall of imported chocolates, canned goods and teas. There's even a small collection of Polish music, if you happen to have a CD player still.
When the shop first opened, Halina specialized in mostly baked goods but started adding savoury items when the demand from locals started to grow.
At the back of the store in a fridge, you'll find an assortment of traditional Polish foods like pierogies and cabbage rolls —both are memorable. I like my cabbage rolls when the skin is thin.
"We make the pierogies twice a week, they go pretty fast. My mom likes to rotate other traditional Polish dishes as well, so there's always something new," Margaret said.
Halina learned how to make pączki after moving to Canada.
"My mom was not a baker back home. She learned everything here," Margaret explained.
When Halina's family moved to Toronto from Silesian Voivodeship in 1988, they found an apartment in Bloor West Village above a bakery called Anita's Bakery.
In 1991, when the owners of Anita's bakery retired, the shop closed. For a brief while, Halina worked at other Polish establishments in Toronto's west end before opening Sesame Pastry on Lakeshore.
"The pączki was a special thing for my mom so she decided to keep that recipe alive here," Margaret said.
Halina makes a cheesecake that rivals the trendy fluffy versions you'll find in Toronto. It is bouncy and light and addictive.
The pączki is a simple yeast dough that Halina proofs for hours before cooking it in small batches in a tiny pot to fry.
While decadent, over-the-top colourful doughnuts have been the rage for the past few years, nothing quite beats the simplicity of Halina's fried dough. They are soft and incredibly pillowy, with a dollop of jam to sweeten the dough.
"She makes it exactly the same way," Margaret said. Halina only makes 100 of these a day, and in my opinion, they taste best fresh, so hit the bakery as soon as it opens in the morning.