Vegan pastries can be pretty good

How does new vegan and gluten-free bakery Sophie Sucrée stand up against its peers? Cult MTL ate a lot of pastries to find out.

Milène Laoun at Sophie Sucrée. Photo by Chantal Trudel.

For Montreal’s five-or-so genuine celiac sufferers and the several thousand souls who choose not to eat gluten or animal-derived foods, the world of baked goods can be a horribly dry and crumbly place. So, many with restricted diets were stoked to hear about the opening of Sophie Sucrée, a new café selling vegan and gluten-free baked goods by pastry chef Milène Laoun, rich ice cream by the scoop or in containers from vegan caterer Sel Noir and a daily animal-free sandwich special by Dahn D’Lion.

In the spirit of investigative journalism, I headed there to find out: how does vegan and gluten-free baking taste to someone whose pastry-eating habits veer more into the Paula Deen territory of butter consumption?

The café itself is very pretty, with a girly, vaguely Victorian aesthetic and numerous pictures of Laoun’s impressive made-to-order Cake Boss-style super-cakes, eschewing the usual granola hippie vibe of the dietary restricted scene. The day’s offerings are clearly laid out in large glass cases, keeping the visual focus very much on the food, which is beautifully styled and presented.

For “scientific” reasons, I tried a few different treats: a scone ($3), brownie ($4.25), a “not red velvet” cupcake ($2.50) and a blueberry tartlette ($4.75).

My biggest reservation about restricted diet pastries is usually with the texture, and on this front Laoun’s treats are mind-blowing: moist without being greasy, with a pillowy texture and light crumb.

The vegan scone held up to any other I’ve tried, even if it was a little on the small side. The vegan “not red velvet” cupcake stood up to its name; while delicious and cutely styled, it really didn’t taste much like red velvet, but both cake and icing had a nice texture, and like much vegan baking, the sweet bore a strong base flavour of coconut.

The tartlette, also available with strawberries, was both gluten-free and vegan, making it all the more surprising that the best part was its crust. I’d speculate that it’s mung-bean-based, giving it an umami tang that perfectly complemented the still-juicy baked blueberries of the topping.

But the real winner was the vegan brownie, one of the bakery’s signature offerings, with oozy caramel and fleur-de-sel and a dusting of candied salted hazelnuts. It’s the kind of treat people would willingly go to hell for — gooey, moist, a bit salty and very, very rich. Regardless of its dietary properties, this was one of the best brownies I’ve ever had.

In short, Sophie Sucrée is the kind of place that makes health-conscious converts out of people like me. ■

Sophie Sucrée
167 Des Pins E., (514) 823-5865
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
Booze: No
Vegetarian-friendly: Very
Wheelchair accessible: One step up

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