Beigne Habitude: High-end pastry technique meets donut Americana in Little Italy

From selling donuts out of a ruelle verte to studying shops across the United States, Rachel Berriman and Michael Lottner’s donut shop has been long in the making.

J.P. Karwacki

J.P. Karwacki

May 30, 2024- Read time: 6 min
Beigne Habitude: High-end pastry technique meets donut Americana in Little ItalyPhotograph: Isabelle Dimyadi / @ezpz300

From selling donuts out of their Plateau apartment's ruelle verte to road tripping studies through donut shops of the United States, Rachel Berriman and Michael Lottner’s new shop in Montreal’s Little Italy Beigne Habitude has arrived.

If the recent uptick in notable shops popping up across the city form one side of a spectrum that feeds on nostalgia—using toppings like breakfast cereal, cookies or candy for example—the couple’s application of pastry and baking experience carves out space on the other end.

Set in a space with branding and interior design by Davi Sloman (@davi_studio_), Beigne Habitude is something that’s genuinely artisanal (as much as the term gets bandied around the industry). Its menu provides an alternative taste of donuts with options and experiments like bay leaf glazes, strawberry and almond fritters, and pairings like lime and tamarind or mango with a chili crunch.

Photograph: Isabelle Dimyadi / @ezpz300

“It’s about holding people’s interest, but also being approachable,” says Berriman. “We want to have fun and be inspired by what we’re doing, while expressing the joy of our past work together.”

“It’s a mixture of doing what we’re proud of, making things delicious, and trying to do that in both familiar and adventurous ways,” Lottner adds.

“We like Beigne Habitude because it’s positive, and it’s obviously fun to joke around with the common narrative that donuts are rich and bad for you, but our goal is to spark joy and communicate a love of food."

"That’s why people keep coming back—it’s a good habit to come here.”

Fascinations turned obsessions

Beigne Habitude started with Instagram account that journalled Lottner’s focus on lemon tarts that turned into obsessions with pastries found around the city, which led into baking.

“Through that account, I got into baking and I started making stuff. It has some of my earliest attempts, but it became less and less about other people’s work and more about my own,” Lottner says.

Photograph: Isabelle Dimyadi / @ezpz300
A treat you already love, donuts are the perfect vehicle for us to show off our experience in pastry and baking.

That was also around the time Berriman and Lottner met and traveled together. “We tried a lot of pastries, going to Toronto, New York, Paris—Michael would have this list of places he wanted to try—and I was right there alongside him. A foundational part of our relationship is talking about pastries and breaking down what we liked and didn’t like about them,” Berriman remembers. 

Throughout that time, Lottner and Berriman earned stripes at multiple spots in Montreal for pastry and baking—experiences that they now combine at their first spot together.

Photograph: Isabelle Dimyadi / @ezpz300

For Berriman, she’s spent time in pizzerias before working at Dinette Triple Crown, Elena, Léché Desserts, and making bread for Larrys and Lawrence. For Lottner, he’s been at places like Patrice Pâtissier, San Gennaro and most recently Larrys and Lawrence as their pastry chef.

“We love finding efficiencies and doing things in a practical way. We bring that to our donuts that, while they have high-end technical recipes, are in a form that people love and is easy to communicate,” Lottner says.

Eating desserts and cooking together is fundamental to our relationship. The idea for Beigne Habitude was born from our shared love of food.

Pop-ups in the process

After their time at Larrys and Lawrence, Berriman and Lottner went a road trip together. The original destination was the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas—their original idea was to open a pizzeria—but the trip was cut short due to car trouble.

What they experienced instead was donuts in shops and restaurants in the different cities they traveled through like Portland, Oregon’s Blue Star Donuts and Pennsylvania’s Curiosity Doughnuts, “and that helped us picture our own version of a donut shop,” Berriman says.

Photograph: Isabelle Dimyadi / @ezpz300

Returning to Montreal, Beigne Habitude started to take shape through a combination of experimentation, a sense of play with pastry, and intensive testing. A series of pop-ups at places like Pumpui, Nouveau Palais, and Le Grand Cormoran would become playgrounds to test out flavours, fruits, and infusions. Eventually, a crowdfunding campaign would further fuel the project.

It's incredible how much butter flour can hold if you treat it right.

Despite their focus being on something as seemingly simple as donuts, “we think critically about these things,” says Lottner.

While he adds that “the core of what we do is to make textures phenomenal, and make things taste like vanilla, butter, and eggs,” so much goes into the development of their flavours.

Their pop-up at Pumpui, for example, explored Thai flavours like Thai tea or makrut lime and tamarind glazes, pandan cream filling, or topping like coconut and toasted rice.

“We’re process-oriented. We’ll think of a flavour and think through how it can go on a donut as a cream or glaze,” Berriman says.

I ate a donut and all I got was this bliss.
Photograph: Isabelle Dimyadi / @ezpz300

Roll on, roll on

Lottner and Berriman found that most towns across the States would have something equal to or better than what Montreal can offer, and the places they loved the most were the ones that elevated what a donut could be.

“It was about flavour and not settling for something sweet and bready. Donuts are such a good canvas, and we appreciated anyone bringing a high level of creativity to it,” says Berriman.

For a long time, we've been dreaming of a shop of our own. Those of you who know us know our donuts channel the world’s capacity to delight.

“There’s a tension in making artisanal donuts,” she explains. “Most people want something that’s sweet and easy to understand and cheap—something we saw in the States a lot—so we had to figure out a way to attract the average consumer.”

That led the pair to lean on their experience in pastry and baking to realize the things they loved in the States. “I have so much respect and adoration for what French pastry can be, but when you get into the higher tiers of it, you can risk losing a spark of joy,” Lottner says.

“That’s one reason why I started to move back into American desserts—but didn’t like cupcakes and cookies—and I found that through recipes like pâte à choux and brioche, I could make the best versions of them and express that through donuts.”

“There’s something so approachable about a donut, and it’s great vehicle for what sets us apart from other bakers,” says Berriman.

Photograph: Isabelle Dimyadi / @ezpz300

Beigne Habitude is located at 7035 Saint Laurent Boulevard.

Something sweet for the road.

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