PETALING JAYA, Dec 28 — There is a “golden hour” when pastries are fresh out of the oven or fritters are scooped out of hot oil, when they are at their best.
Goodness knows that’s why we see queues of customers waiting patiently at stalls offering goreng pisang and yau char kwai; they know what the respective golden hours are for each vendor.
This sly sense of preparedness (or kiasu-ness, if you will) won’t help you much though when ordering from an online-only F&B (food and beverage) business. Often there are pre-order requirements to ensure no food wastage and to coordinate delivery logistics.
For convenience, we lose some of the thrill of waiting for your favourite crullers to be rescued from the wok, a few seconds before they get too brown.
So it’s a pleasant surprise when some of these internet-only home-based F&B businesses migrate to a brick-and-mortar approach. Such is the case with Basket Break. Instagram-famous for her “sourdonuts” (sourdough-based doughnuts), founder Daphne Ng decided to open her first shop (or “bakehouse” as she puts it) earlier this month.
Located in the basement level of Seventeen Mall in Section 17, PJ, the bakehouse is a veritable hole-in-the wall with a counter for customers to purchase their baked goods. Part of the thrill is looking past the windows to see what Ng and her team are making inside.
The 28-year-old had graduated with a Bachelor of Science, before working in media and digital marketing for five years. She finally bit the bullet in early 2021 to pursue running her own business full time after operating part time for the past year.
In her own words, Basket Break “was a creative outlet for chasing the perfect sourdough loaf, experimental bakes and cooks. It was also a creative outlet to embroider and needle paint. It’s truly as simple as taking a 15-minute ‘break’ from my (then) full-time job to give my resting dough a fold during bulk ferment.”
To create her baked goodies, Ng uses a sweet, stiff starter. She says, “From start to finish — refreshing the starter to mixing, warm fermenting, cold fermenting, shaping, final ferment, all the way till frying up into a fluffy, chewy ‘sourdonut’, the whole process takes about two to three days. That’s not including the time taken for cooking custards, making toppings, and filling!”
So while doughnuts are often considered “fast food”, Ng’s creations would fit better with the Slow Food Movement (which started in Italy in 1986).
When asked by customers about the difference between a “sourdonut” and a regular doughnut, Ng typically offers that hers “are made in small batches from scratch and slow-risen. Not a single granule of preservatives is used and 100 per cent fermented with a well-cared for culture of flour and water... We shower them with so much care and attention.”
Basket Break rotates their menu monthly or weekly depending on the occasion. Some popular “sourdonuts” include fruity flavours such as lemon and passionfruit, as well as cinnamon sugar and vanilla bean brûlée for those with a sweet tooth.
Japanese tea lovers will rejoice with their toasty hojicha “sourdonut” while the more adventurous customers (or simply K-pop stans) might appreciate the aromatic Korean garlic “sourdonut.” Expect specials such as sourdough rolls and sourdough cookies too.
“For the holidays, we brought back an old new favourite — the apple crumble brûlée ‘sourdonut’ or ACB for short,” says Ng. “We source a mix of crisp and soft apples from the market. Peel, slice and dice them by hand, then slow cook over the stove with warm Christmas spices. Afterwards, they’re folded into a luscious vanilla crème patisserie, filled into the ‘sourdonuts’, then glazed and topped with house baked crisp crumble.”
Developing such recipes has been a source of joy. Throughout the entrepreneurial journey, it has been a learning process, and both the business and the founder have grown.
Ng shares, “Working with sourdough takes planning and a lot of patience – taking into account the type of water you use, the type of flour you feed your starter with, how well you develop gluten during mixing, and most frustratingly, the temperature fluctuations. We’ve had several disasters while baking from home, and it’s never fun when two days of hard work gets poured down the drain, not to mention the number of customers you have to let down.
Ultimately, there was enough growth and a need for more control that Ng decided it was time to move out of her home kitchen and into a more commercial space. She reflects on the improvements: “No more worrying about the overstuffed refrigerator, no need to move the fryer every time we want to use the rice cooker for dinner, less worrying about the fluctuating temperature!”
But a commercial space comes with its own trials. Ng explains, “At home, we are open two days per week for pre-orders; three days is spent restocking and prepping. At the bakehouse, we’re open five days a week for walk-ins too, which means juggling front-of-house, more prepping, and baking, on top of paperwork that comes with a commercial business.”
Other challenges include manpower and scheduling. However, despite the busier schedule as well a hiatus on the pre-orders via their website when the bakehouse first opened, Basket Break is already beginning to shift gears.
Ng shares, “Not many know this but we’ve opened up pre-orders in the last week! This helps us to gauge and set aside amounts for walk-ins and pre-orders. Less disappointment and less waste. No one likes waste, and no one likes old baked goods.”
To keep things interesting, the bakehouse has also introduced a new item for regulars. Called bostock — “To Malaysians, it sounds like we’re out of stock,” Ng quips — the pastry likely originated as a way for boulangeries to repurpose extra bread such as brioche.
Basket Break’s version has a brioche base layered with fruit jam or fruit curd, layered with almond frangipane. Ng notes, “If you manage to catch one at our bakehouse just fresh out of the oven, eat it immediately because it tastes just like French toast!”
What better reason to drop by and see if you arrive at the “golden hour” then?
Bakehouse: Lot B1-01, Basement Level, Seventeen Mall, Jalan 17/38, Seksyen 17, PJ
Open Wed-Sun 9am-3pm; Mon & Tue closed