The sibling-owned bakery in Market 707 puts a personal spin on the mithai box and tasty festival delights
With Diwali coming up on November 4th, Little Sister Baking celebrates it by putting a unique spin on holiday treats.
Founders and sisters Akash and Tanvi Swar drew from childhood experiences as they created their mithai (candy) box – one of the most popular gift items to send and receive during the Diwali season – as well as the salty items that also eaten during the festival of candles.
“The Diwali menu is based on things we grew up eating,” says Tanvi. “We would hold these Diwali marathon parties and you would attend five or six of them in one night. It’s the kind of thing people would give you. It’s really fast, handheld items that you would grab and gnaw at. while chatting. “
The bakery, which has recently been transformed from a pandemic home business into a brick-and-mortar outpost at Market 707, has become known for Indian cakes and street food.
The Diwali menu will be available along with the usual cakes the bakery became known for – like the ras malai cake with sixty leches – for the next two weeks.
From left to right in the top row: Ras Malai Cake, Gulab Jamun Cake and Lonavala Chocolate Lava Cake. Left to right in bottom row: Coconut Barfi Cake, Gajar Ka Halwa Cake and Pineapple Sooji Halwa Cake.
Like Little Sister’s other delicacies, what makes this limited menu so different from typical Diwali snacks, the ingredients and the combination of French and South Asian baking techniques.
“We use many South Asian traditional techniques with global techniques,” explains Akash, the chef behind the company.
The pineapple sooji halwa cake is made from pineapple-based semolina toasted and boiled in milk and ghee. It is then topped with whipped cream and pineapple pieces. Lonavala chocolate fudge cashew cake is filled with a cashew ganache. It’s inspired by the fudge you can get in Lonavala, a hill station town known for being a rest stop while on your way to Mumbai. The Gulab jamun cake is inspired by traditional gulab jamun and is soaked in a saffron-cardamom-rosewater syrup.
The bakery’s delicacies consist of things like green chutney khaari, puff pastry chunks that are twisted and made with a coriander-lime-mint chutney. There’s also the chili cheese namak para, a fried biscuit snack to which cheese and chili have been added to give it a “spicy Cheez-it” flavor. Chicken and samosa breads with the bakery’s characteristic flaky pastry shells are also available.
Chicken Buffer, samosa puffs and chili cheese namak para are part of the limited Diwali menu.
Enjoy home for the holidays
This is Little Sister Baking’s first Diwali menu since launching as a permanent bakery in Toronto. Last year, the sisters operated from their home kitchen and made comforting dishes for the local community during the pandemic.
Both siblings had been fired from their jobs when they decided to go into business together. Tanvi works with advertising and Akash is a Cordon Bleu-trained pastry chef who has worked at Buca and Auberge du Pommier.
“Little Sister Baking was originally an Instagram account that I used to show everything I did at Cordon Bleu in Ottawa,” Akash explains.
She says that both she and Tanvi lacked the Indian cozy food they ate when they were growing up in this time, and so they spent the time creating their spin on the food using worldly baking techniques. Their chicken tikka and keema buns, a popular street food in India, are made with Japanese-style milk buns. Their mango lassi Paris-Brest is made with Alphonso mango from India and cardamom mousseline sauce.
“People started asking about selling some of the things we do now. It developed into a full-blown business, which is a little crazy. From there, it just happened organically,” says Akash.
In January, as the news spread and their clientele grew, the sisters rented a shared kitchen out in the Scadding Court Community Center. The company officially opened its first physical sales booth at Market 707, a container market in Bathurst and Dundas West, in September.
“It’s actually a bit of a shock,” says Tanvi, who manages the marketing aspect of the company. “It always felt like we would never be able to start our own restaurant or bakery due to [I thought] you need hundreds of thousands of dollars. It always felt inaccessible to us. “
She also says the COVID-19 pandemic has somehow helped them get to where they are now.
“[Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic,] I don’t think people really relied so much on companies that did not have a place, ”she says. “Because everyone was stuck at home and people knew that chefs were out of work or could not find jobs, they wanted to support this person they know. It actually really helped us break into the food scene. People are much more open about to try this random company that did not have a brick-and-mortar space. “
Now that they have a physical place on Market 707, the sibling couple is pleasantly surprised at how supportive the food community has been. They say market vendors would offer advice and actively promote each other’s companies on their social media sites.
“My concern has always been that the industry would be so tough,” Tanvi says. “But it’s been great to connect with these people. It’s especially important because we as colored people in the industry certainly have a lot harder time building the close community of people who can help each other is just really beautiful.”