Photo: The Bakery by Woodlands Sourdough
Bakeries here are upping the ante for customers who are looking for artisan European-style breads that are baked daily using quality flour, grains and organic ingredients.
And they are not offering just the usual baguettes or croissants anymore.
Some of them are coming up with sourdough loaves made with organic flour and special filtered water, gluten-free cupcakes and organic pulut hitam soft loaves.
There was a wave of such serious bakers two years ago, which included the likes of Do.Main Bakery in Tanjong Katong Road and Crown Bakery & Cafe at Crown Centre in Bukit Timah Road.
Now, at least three more have entered the scene in the past five months.
They are Firebake - Woodfired Bakehouse & Restaurant in East Coast Road, Savour're in Upper East Coast Road and The Bakery by Woodlands Sourdough at Serene Centre in Jalan Serene.
As Firebake's founder Konstantino Blokbergen, 42, puts it: "Bread is essentially made with four ingredients - flour, water, salt and yeast. Why are there 30 ingredients listed on some bread labels? We sell proper bread, not air pockets."
Mr Blokbergen's restaurant not only sells sourdough loaves, but also offers a bread-centred food menu.
Photo: Firebake / Facebook
For the couple behind The Bakery by Woodlands Sourdough, they have built up a following of bread-lovers since 2013.
Woodlands is part of the name because that is where the couple - Mr Chalith Kariyawasam, 36, and his wife, Ms Nurhasanah Johari, 39 - live.
The bakery opened in November last year and sells sourdough bread.
It is made using a bread starter of flour, water, wild yeast and naturally occuring bacteria that is left to ferment overnight.
When baked, sourdough bread has a crisp crust and dense crumb which is slightly sour.
Sourdough bread is said to be a healthier option because it uses natural yeast and bacteria, as opposed to commercial ones.
Also, it is easier to digest because the long fermentation time breaks down the wheat and gluten in the bread.
At month-old Savour're, owner Sylvia Koh, 50, churns out multi-grain loaves, along with other bakes such as gluten-free cupcakes and soft buns.
Like the other bakers, she has noticed a demand for gluten-free bread as well, which is something they are working on.
Older players in the scene are also keeping up with the times.
On April 1, four-year-old organic bakery Bud Of Joy (budofjoy.com) in Circuit Road introduced its Organic Amazing Gluten-Free Sourdough Loaf ($15.80).
The bakery offers organic baked goods such as 100 per cent wholemeal loaf (from $7.50) and organic pulut hitam soft loaf ($9).
Other popular items include chocolate fudge cake made with organic raw cacao.
Owner Lim Her-Yi, 32, says: "Sourdough tastes slightly sour, so some people think it is rancid.
"But those who are used to it will not go back to regular bread."
Ms Marhaini Mohamed, 38, main baker at Sunday Sourdough (www.facebook.com/sundaysourdough) in Upper Changi Road, which opened in September 2015, says: "In the beginning, we had to explain sourdough to our customers and let them sample it before they bought something.
"Now, we meet many who are already fans of sourdough."
All loaves on the menu are made with organic flours such as wholegrain spelt, wholegrain rye, teff, millet and unprocessed Italian flour.
Prices range from $3.50 for a sourdough cinnamon roll to $6 for a teff and flaxseed loaf.
Other popular products include double chocolate chip cookies made with spelt and rye.
With so many options, bread lovers are now spoilt for choice.
Housewife Eleanor Ho, 41, a fan of sourdough bread, was dining at The Bakery by Woodlands Sourdough last Wednesday.
She tried its Vegemite and Cheddar toast, egg salad and dukkah toast, and banana walnut tea cake.
She says: "I enjoyed the crispy sourdough bread. I'll definitely return to try everything on the menu. Even my two-year-old son loves it."
Photo: ST Photos / Ariffin Jamar
THE BAKERY BY WOODLANDS SOURDOUGH
Where: 01-05 Serene Centre, 10 Jalan Serene
Open: 8.30am to 6pm (Wednesdays to Sundays), 5 to 8pm (Sunday pizza nights)
Info: Call 9816-6251 or go to www.facebook.com/WoodlandsSD
For the husband-and-wife team behind The Bakery by Woodlands Sourdough, their love of baking bread actually started as a hobby some time in 2013.
The couple - Mr Chalith Kariyawasam, 36, and Ms Nurhasanah Johari, 39 - are former engineers and self-taught bakers.
Mr Chalith says: "My wife started out baking normal bread, then moved on to sourdough. We had too much bread, so we gave loaves away to family and friends."
They then took part in pop-up farmers' markets and offered a bread subscription service.
By the time they set up shop in November last year at Serene Centre, they had built up a following of loyal customers.
Now, they roll out about 70 loaves a day on weekdays and 90 loaves a day on weekends.
The mainstays are the basic Country loaf ($6); their best-selling Seeded Loaf ($6.50) with sunflower, flaxseed and sesame seeds; and Porridge ($6.50), which uses different grains such as barley and millet, depending on the availability.
The loaves are made with organic Turkish and American flours.
There is also a small selection of bakes such as rye hazelnut almond brownie ($5) and banana walnut tea cake ($5). Pizza nights on Sundays have also been a hit and pre-orders are required.
The bakery also has a toast menu, influenced by the couple's travels.
For example, the Vegemite and Cheddar toast ($4) draws inspiration from Australia.
The hummus, za'atar (Middle Eastern herbs) ($4) toast has a Mediterranean influence, while the sage cream and berry compote ($4) one was sparked by a trip to San Francisco.
Mr Chalith says: "Offering toast gives customers ideas on how to eat the bread at home. Many try the toast first, then they buy a loaf home."
Photo: ST Photos / Ariffin Jamar
FIREBAKE - WOODFIRED BAKEHOUSE & RESTAURANT
Where: Level 1 , 237 East Coast Road
Open: 6 to 10pm (Tuesdays to Sundays), closed on Mondays
The month-old Firebake, a bakery and a 52-seat restaurant, features four sourdough loaves - white ($8), wholemeal ($9), rye ($11) and fruit ($13) - all made with wild yeast and organic flour from Australia.
You could buy bread to go or, if you want to dine in, the restaurant also serves a dinner-only menu with bread taking centre stage.
Think cured Norwegian salmon with bread crust ($25); Norwegian blue mussels with golden ale, chorizo and white sourdough ($25); as well as desserts such as bread and butter pudding ($10); and peach, vanilla, sourdough ice cream ($12).
Or go for the bread board ($10), which comes with Greek extra virgin olive oil and Norwegian butter.
Greece-born chef-owner Konstantino Blokbergen, 42, who has lived in Singapore for 13 years, says: "We wanted a proper bread concept, where the dishes are built around bread."
Breads are baked fresh daily in two woodfire ovens.
Other highlights include tomato salad with feta ($17); and Rangers Valley striploin (300g) ($38), with woodfired Jerusalem artichoke and chimichurri.
There are plans to serve breakfast and lunch next month and the focus, of course, remains on bread.
Mr Blokbergen, also a food and beverage consultant with his company Gastro-Sense, may include "sweeter" options such as brioche.
He says: "Giving bread to someone is like giving a toy to a child. There is a sense of nostalgia and comfort and it is universal."
Photo: ST Photos / Ariffin Jamar
Where: 121 Upper East Coast Road
Open: 10am to 8pm (Tuesdays to Fridays), 9am to 8pm (weekends), closed on Mondays
Info: Call 9238-6105 or go to www.facebook.com/Savourre-1251545998221656
Ms Sylvia Koh, the 50-year-old owner of month-old Savour're (say savoury), had long wanted to open a bakery-cafe, but she shelved her dream for a 24-year career in human resources.
Five years ago, she finally decided to realise her ambition and get "proper training" at the Baking Industry Training College, part of The Prima Group best known for its PrimaDeli chain of bakeries. She also attended other cake-baking courses.
Savour're features a variety of European-style breads with wholemeal and grains and a small selection of gluten-free cakes and quiches with reduced sugar.
Bread options include quinoa cheese bun ($3.20); quinoa loaf ($6.90); rye bread ($4.40 to $4.60), with olive, onion or walnuts; mixed herbs and tomato bread ($5.70); and multi-grain loaf ($6.20).
For customers who prefer soft buns, she also offers spicy shrimp buns ($1.50) and sugar doughnuts ($1.30). Other items include her signature pineapple tarts ($6.20), pies (from $3.40) and cornflake cookies ($3.80).
It is a family affair in the bakery as Ms Koh runs the shop with her husband Percy Hee, 56, and his aunt Carol Lim, 53.
Her younger brother Dini, 47, is the assistant baker.
She is considering accepting online orders and does not rule out expanding into a bigger space with more bread offerings such as sourdough.
Ms Koh says: "In my previous job, I used to communicate with people. Now I use food to do so."
This story first appeared on The Straits Times on April 16, 2017.