If you’re gluten-sensitive or just want to try and cut gluten out of your diet, your search for gluten-free bread in Singapore is over. (Not to mention your search for gluten-free muffins, cookies and freshly baked focaccia!)
A gluten-free bakery in the heart of Singapore
Andrey Denisov and Shirley Lau set up Bakehour to focus on gluten-free baking. They feel they are by no means experts in gluten-free diets, but what they do and promote comes from their experience and dedication to a healthy lifestyle. Andrey was diagnosed with a coeliac disease* over 15 years ago when regular medical insurance didn’t cover gluten sensitivity testing. Shirley has been in the F & B industry for 15 years – she’s also a certified Sake Sommelier! With her knowledge of the food industry it seemed the perfect opportunity to promote a gluten-free lifestyle in Singapore through the bakery. Andrey tells us the story of how Bakehour started.
Since rice has no gluten, living in Asia where it’s a staple food in the diet makes things a bit easier. But I still have to watch out for gluten in other products like sauces, thickeners or even tomato ketchup. The seemingly harmless protein that helps food to maintain its shape like a glue, can cause a lot of discomfort, pain or serious illness if you are gluten-sensitive.
This sensitivity also has a social impact. When you’re dining out with friends and everybody is enjoying their cheesy breadsticks, it can be awkward to ask for something that isn’t on the regular menu. I just want to avoid uncomfortable questions of what it does to me, and why and how. So I’ve learnt the way around it. I either pretend that I’m not hungry or I opt for a vegetable snack. (And definitely with no dressing or sauce.)
It actually all started with a muffin! I kept craving those moist, delicious-looking muffins at Starbucks. I kept bugging Shirley, saying “If only I could eat a muffin”. One day, that nagging must have gone overboard; she decided to experiment and bake some muffins, purely out of gluten-free ingredients.
Today, Shirley’s initial vision is embedded in the operating style of our company. She manages the day-to-day operations while Ashiqa Hasan, our head baker and bakery consultant, works on products and recipes. Ashiqa graduated from The Culinary Institute of America (Singapore campus). She has experience in gluten-free baking from working in an Italian restaurant in Los Angeles and DB Bistro at Marina Bay Sands. It’s a real advantage to have a professional who understands allergies and has experience in baking with alternative ingredients.
We spend a significant amount of time and efforts on researching and developing recipes. The aim is for our fresh bakes to be almost identical to regular bakery items; similar texture, colour, smell and even sound when you tear them. We want our bakes to be perfect, so we limit our assortment to the essentials: muffins, cookies, bread and focaccia. All these items are tested in focus groups.
One of the latest additions to our menu is burger buns! With increasing requests from hotels and restaurant customers for gluten-free bread rolls and burgers, we decided to create a recipe for them. After another round of R&D, and another focus group to test quality, our gluten-free burger bun was born.
Before launching the bakery in 2019, we did an extensive benchmarking of gluten-free alternatives available in Singapore and other countries. We’re pleased to see the growing selection of organic, dairy-free and gluten-free items in local supermarkets. But our focus is on fresh bakes that haven’t been stored, transported or displayed on shelves for a long time. We use certified gluten-free ingredients as much as possible, together with fresh ingredients.
We also maintain a dedicated gluten-free kitchen. This means restricting gluten in any form from being brought into our premises in order to avoid cross-contamination.
Shirley and Ashiqa organise classes on ‘Understanding Your Allergy / Coeliac Disease’, and they teach aspiring parents to bake gluten-free items too.
Our plan is to provide freshly baked gluten-free options to schools and F&B establishments, so that kids and adults with gluten sensitivity can enjoy muffins and cookies as much as us. We’re also perfecting our gluten-free/lactose-free bakery as well as diabetic-friendly options to address the growing concerns of lactose intolerance and diabetes in Singapore.
The secret recipe that keeps our bakery going is not the ingredients we choose, but rather our passion to offer customers high-quality, tasty, handmade gluten-free bakes delivered with creativity, sincerity and pride!
Bakehour is at 462 Crawford Lane #02-67 (by appointment only). Reach them at 9828 2445, on Facebook or Instragram (@bakehoursg) or order online at bakehour.com.
* Coeliac disease is a disorder in which eating gluten triggers an immune response in the body, causing inflammation and damage to the small intestine. (healthline.com)
For more stories on nutrition and healthy eating, see our Health & Fitness section