THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR, JAN 24, 2014
I gasp when Chris Churchill tells me he doesn’t even like the sour cream chocolate glazed Timbit.
“I’m a chocoholic, but certain chocolates,” he says, lifting the lid from a container filled with the glassy fondant he uses to top chocolate dip doughnuts. “I like this chocolate. A milk chocolate.”
Admittedly, I wouldn’t kick a chocolate dip off my lunch tray either, but that’s not the reason I’m meeting Churchill, the head baker at the Dundurn Plaza Tim Hortons. The real reason I’m here is a large tub of matte brown icing — viscous and opaque and awaiting the batch of naked sour cream Timbits baking in the oven.
The sour cream chocolate glazed Timbit is an endangered species in the bakery biome. Like its relative, the Boston cream Timbit that’s available on Barrie’s Barrieview Drive, spotting one in the wild is rare.
In the mid-’90s, it was one of roughly a dozen Timbits introduced as part of a national campaign. When the promotion ended, the specialty bits disappeared from shelves across the country.
Not on Dundurn Street though.
Churchill suggested keeping them because customers loved them. His then-boss agreed. It’s a tradition current owner, Paul McDonald, kept alive when he left his job as a Dofasco pipefitter to purchase the franchise in 2006 (“It was a natural fit,” he says. “I still work with round things with a hole in the middle”).
Olga Petrycki, senior manager of public affairs for Tim Hortons Inc., says fewer than three dozen of the chain’s 4,350 locations in Canada, the U.S. and a sprinkling of other countries carry the sour cream chocolate glazed Timbit.
McDonald suspects that’s because it’s a tricky item to make. It requires mixing a special cocoa with the regular vanilla glaze that coats most doughnut products. It demands more time (15 minutes to mix the glaze and 15 minutes to allow the Timbits to dry) and a separate dedicated workspace (so the chocolate and vanilla glazes don’t mix).
McDonald doesn’t make them at his locations in Jackson Square or on Main Street West because the kitchens aren’t big enough. At Dundurn however, they’re the second-best-selling Timbit, right behind the chocolate glazed. Churchill makes a half-tray (roughly 40) up to five times a day. People come from across Hamilton, Stoney Creek, Guelph and Cambridge, often ordering a box that’s strictly sour cream chocolate glazed.
McDonald doesn’t know what it is about the dessert that gets people so excited.
When you bite into your standard Timbit, the sugary exterior gives way to a soft, perfect sphere of cake, yeast or (in the case of the crueller) egg-based batter. There’s no contrast in consistency. It’s all airy sweetness.
Not so, the sour cream chocolate glazed. When you bite into it, the surface resists. The icing is slightly hard — a thick suit of fudgy armour that has pooled and dried in the irregular nooks and crannies of the treat’s rough topography. Your teeth crack the outer layer, breaking the bit open to reveal a sour cream interior that’s dense and heavy. There’s a hint of mocha. The flavour is richer and more complex than the simple glaze of the old fashion or the raisin-ridden Dutchie. Even the mildly exotic double chocolate (which uses the same special cocoa glaze, but on a cake body) tastes like disappointment by comparison.
Because the sour cream chocolate glazed? It’s like eating a unicorn.
Churchill may not understand the obsession and McDonald may not have the answers, but he does have the one thing that matters most to his customers — a personal affinity for the hard-to-find doughnut hole.
“I actually come through (the kitchen) often to do a quality control check. Just of these,” McDonald jokes.
“They’re my favourites. That’s the real reason we have them still.”