It’s fair to say that Singapore is yet to fall in love with the biscotti. It’s not surprising – after all, how do you develop a taste for something you barely ever get the chance to eat?
The biscotti, a distinctively oval-shaped biscuit typically filled with almond or pistachio, is rarely stocked in supermarkets or found in cafes. As a result, when Singaporeans need something to dip in their coffee or tea, they’re much more likely to turn to salty wheat crackers or shortbread.
A few hardy bakeries are working hard to change that. They’re not only trying to implant the idea that no coffee is complete unless it’s served with a biscotti for dipping, they want to see Singaporeans eat biscotti as a snack in its own right.
Bake & Bake is one of those raising biscotti standards in Singapore. Its founder, Anson Goh, spent a good part of 2018 educating Singaporean consumers on Italy’s favourite biscuit through events, farmers’ markets and roadshows.
Goh runs Bake & Bake with his wife Mandy Tan, as well as a handful of full-timers and part-timers. He has been home baking since 2008, and started the biscotti business in 2017. Goh ran it solo for that first year out of his home. Tan joined as Bake & Bake’s head of sales and marketing in October last year.
What’s in a biscotto?
Biscotti is simple to make yet very tasty. The basic recipe consists of just egg, nuts, sugar, vanilla extract and flour. The first bake cooks the dough, while the second dries out the biscuit and gives it its distinctive crunchiness.
It was the dryness and crunchiness that Goh fell in love with in 2002 when he chanced upon biscotti while working as a baker at a five-star hotel. He found it perfect with a hot drink, but also a useful snack to cure hunger pangs between meals. “Besides, there is no oil or butter, so clean up is easy,” jokes Tan, who sat in for Goh in an interview with Love Wholesome.
Goh left his baking job to pursue a career in real estate, where he worked for 12 years, but he never abandoned his passion for baking. He created pastries, cakes and other sweet treats from home, and word about his baking skills soon spread through his neighbourhood.
Biscotti, however, remained his favourite pastry. And after years of home baking on the side, he quit his full-time job to set up Bake & Bake, focusing only on biscotti.
The name is a play on the baking method. Originating from the Italian region of Tuscany, biscotti is plural for biscotto, a word that derives from mediaeval Latin for “twice-cooked”. Baking breads and biscuits twice makes them dry enough to be stored for long periods, which came in handy when travel times were long and war was always potentially around the corner.
Eventually, Bake & Bake gained enough momentum through word-of-mouth for it to move from his home in Telok Blangah, west of downtown Singapore, into a dedicated commercial kitchen. In December, it moved its retail store to a flagship location in Plaza Singapura, in central Singapore.
There are nine flavours on the menu; mango coconut, cranberry almond and wolfdate multigrain are just some of its more unique ones. Its signature product is the almond biscotti, which is a tribute to the classic Italian version.
Tan joined Goh as the Bake & Bake’s second full-timer in October last year after deciding that her occasional assistance was going to be enough to meet the growing number of orders. “I helped him with some admin and marketing work along the way. But it was very little help due to my busy work schedule,” says Tan.
Bake & Bake now comprises a six-member team. There are two full-time bakers, as well as a pool of part-timers who assist during festive seasons.
“As a new business, we try to keep the team lean to fully explore each team member’s full potential. We are very blessed to have this small but very committed team,” Tan says.
There is no right or wrong way to eat biscotti. The traditional way is to eat them in thick slices slicing of about one or two centimetres and moisten them with tea or coffee. But some people prefer them as thin as wafers, says Tan.
“Our way of enjoying our biscotti are to munch the biscotti, feel the texture and taste in your mouth, and then have a sip of your favourite beverage. In our case, it would be a nice cup of coffee,” she adds
“Over the years, he has improvised the taste according to what he likes and he’s happy that many customers love what he thinks makes a good biscotti.”
Making a name for Bake & Bake
Goh ploughed his life savings into the Bake & Bake and didn’t take a salary for a year in order to get the business off the ground. He worked tirelessly into the mornings to get stock ready for busy festive periods.
To build up some brand recognition during Bake & Bake’s first year, Goh also took to roadshows such as The Purple Parade, a carnival that supports special-needs causes; Sprout, Singapore’s premier farm-to-table event; and farmers’ markets such as those organised by the Community Development Council in Singapore.
Goh is inspired by everyday flavours. TGoh created Mango Coconut Biscotti and Wolfdates Multigrain through a series of experiments with some of Singapore’s favourite fruit. Wolfdates, for instance, are commonly used in Chinese herbal soups and desserts and lend a sweet and slightly bitter touch to the biscotti.
Goh is planning to launch Bake & Bake’s biscotti into supermarkets, putting biscotti within easy reach of customers for the first time. It has already launched on Redmart; Goh is working on a new range and mulling selling his products overseas.
Ultimately, Bake & Bake wants to make biscotti part of Singapore’s coffee culture. “A cup of coffee is not complete without a piece or two of Bake & Bake biscotti,” Tan says.