Naadhira Ismail worked in events and marketing before giving in to her passion for baking and setting up Mother Dough. Having done a couple of successful pop-ups in 2017, Ms Ismail took the opportunity to open the homely halal bakery along North Bridge Road in June 2018.
The selection includes everything from almond croissants to whole wheat sourdough and grilled cheese sandwiches, made with organic flour sourced from environmentally-conscious grain mills. “You need quality ingredients for the end product to be good,” explains Ms Ismail, who honed her skills at the International Culinary Institute and four years at bakeries and restaurants in New York.
Her shop also serves serious coffee. “People like to come here to escape for a while, with a cup of coffee and warm pastry.”
The fact that it’s almost always sold out by the afternoon is because more people are starting to appreciate artisanal and handcrafted goods now, Ms Ismail believes. “It just tastes better, has better nutritional value and is made with love. What’s not to like?”
Baker Jaslyn Chua gives MICRO Bakery & Kitchen an appeal that goes far beyond its heaving shelves of rustic sourdough, cakes and cookies. The sociable young baker is often seen chatting with both regular and new customers, in addition to offering breadmaking classes on Tuesdays. “Food isn’t just about what’s on the plate.
It is about the personal engagement and the stories behind it,” muses Ms Chua. It’s a philosophy she picked up while backpacking across Japan four years ago. She, however, credits Daisuke Katane of the famed Katane Bakery in Tokyo for spurring her interest in breadmaking. “It was a serendipitous moment. He, out of nowhere, felt compelled to show me his kitchen.”
Inspired, Ms Chua would continue to traverse Japan and Korea (including a stay with Korean nun Jeong Kwan) to visit bakeries, before returning to Singapore, where she met Bridget Chen, owner of MICRO Bakery & Kitchen. The two hit it off, and the small outfit which opened in January, found its baker.
There’s an obvious connection between Ms Chua and her baked goods. Her levain of two years (and counting) is combined with flours carefully sourced from independent millers from Australia and the US that she had discovered during her stints abroad.
Take home a loaf and you’ll receive illustrated instructions on how to enjoy them, as well as a series of poems penned by Ms Chua herself.
The crowd that gathers outside Bakery Brera & Fine Foods isn’t there just because of the intoxicating aroma of freshly baked loaves and famed cruffins (croissants shaped into muffins, stuffed with jam); they’re also there to see its affable owner, Thrina Low. In fact, residents pop by to not only say hi, but also offer to help out at the store.
That’s because Ms Low’s graciousness is well-known in the community. She proactively hires kitchen staff who are mentally-disabled (she currently has six), and regularly donates leftover bakes to the International Baptist Church nearby and those in need. “I even ask my staff to keep a lookout for those who may need help (to donate),” says Ms Low.
“At the end of the day, there are still many locals who don’t understand the western-style breads we bake. Rather than produce red bean buns, I stock the store with charcuterie, cheeses and jams to educate them on the best way to enjoy them.”
But, “What’s amazing is that the old folks (living here) have actually found a replacement for you tiao in our ciabatta,” chuckles Ms Low, who credits the residents for helping to shape and grow her bakery over the years.
Bread Createur is the brainchild of bakers Louis Koh and Elvis Liew, who, in September 2018, introduced residents in Upper Bukit Timah to a delectable menu of handcrafted French loaves and Danish pastries.
The duo, who earned their chops baking at Maison Kayser, The Providore and Jones The Grocer, hand knead each loaf into its unique shape and design daily. “Our bread is made from scratch using French butter and flour, with no preservatives. It fits into the growing trend of being health conscious and being aware of what you eat,” explains Mr Koh of his humble bakery’s loyal fanbase.
Highlights include both savouries and sweets, with the Charcoal Bacon & Cheese ($5.50) and Kouign-amann ($3.50) being the most popular. “Not only do we adjust our recipes to match local flavours, but are also listening to customer feedback to improve our product,” says Mr Koh, proudly.
“There isn’t another place that sells my style of bread,” says Akira Maekochi, the director and executive chef behind Fine Dining Bakery. A small window showcases what he calls “concept breads” – all lovingly endorsed by the many Japanese expatriates and locals in the area.
It may be Chef Maekochi’s illustrious background, which included La Boutique de Joël Robuchon in Roppongi and the now-defunct Robuchon eateries in Resorts World Sentosa, but a bite of any of his yeasty creations will reveal why it has reached cult status, barely two months of its opening in April.
Golden brown crackling exterior with a soft chewy inside, the Baguette Blanc ($3.50) is reminiscent of hole-in-the-wall bakeries you might find in Tokyo suburbs. His sourdough bread comes in two versions – Mild Sourdough ($9.50) for seafood and a Strong Sourdough ($9.50) for meat. And, to get his point across, Chef Maekochi offers open-face sandwiches with the right accompaniment. For the Mild, you get smoked salmon and Hokkaido mini scallops ($19.80), for example. “I wanted to have a cafe concept so I can show customers how to pair my breads,” says Chef Maekochi.