Singapore's Plank Sourdough Pizza goes to Manila

Dean Brettschneider, founder of global bakery chain Baker & Cook at his baking and cooking school in Greendale Avenue.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Sourdough bread is a commitment.

To keep the dough starter well and healthy, the baker has to feed the yeast regularly like… forever.

"That's why I've been married two times; my first wife accused me that I'm looking after my sourdough more," joked Dean Brettschneider, TV host, book author and "global baker."

The charming Kiwi was recently in Manila for the opening of Baker & Cook and Plank Sourdough Pizza, twin brands he established in Singapore and which The Bistro Group has now brought to the Philippines.

Set up like a food hall in the snazzy S Maison mall at Conrad Manila hotel, Baker & Cook and Plank promise old-fashioned sourdough goodness.

"I was 16 when I made my first sourdough in New Zealand; it's been 'alive' since then," said Brettschneider. "The one we use here in the Philippines is from that first sourdough, and it's the same sourdough I brought to China, London and Singapore."

Traditional sourdough is naturally fermented with bacteria and wild yeast, which gives it a distinct tangy taste.

Read also: Zesty union of sourdough and pizza at Plank

Brettschneider's sourdough loaf has a nutty crust and a moist, dense centre-perfect with jam and butter.

Sourdough Pain Au Levain, a type of bread from Baker & Cook.Photo: Baker & Cook

All-day breakfast

Baker & Cook opens at 7 a.m., and serves all-day breakfast: scrambled eggs with salmon, eggs Benedict with bacon, French toast.

There are also quiches, tarts, salads and smoothies.

The menu is limited but it's a chill place for afternoon tea and good, unhurried coffee.

"We serve UCC coffee, but it's not the beans that make a good or bad coffee-it's the barista," Brettschneider explained. "I spend more energy on training my baristas than looking for the best beans in the world."

Check out the bakery counter for glorious carbs-almond chocolate croissant, crostini, flavored bagels and bambolinis filled with chocolate or caramel jam-which Brettschneider brands as "artisanal bread."

"They are all handmade. We don't have big machines or a factory," he explained. "The pizza crust at Plank has a nice airy texture because we hand-stretch them instead of using rolling pins that flatten the dough and knock the air out."

Plank Pizza No. 1Photo: Philippine Daily Inquirer

Sourdough pizza

Naturally, Plank makes use of Brettschneider's trademark sourdough for the pizza crusts.

There are seven combinations of toppings. Pizza No. 1 is the simplest with just tomato, mozzarella, caramelized garlic and basil. Pizza No. 7 has tomato, pulled barbecue chicken, cranberry compote and camembert. And never reject the crisp outer crusts, there's olive oil on the table for dipping.

Brettschneider said he had to tweak the pizza sauce for the Filipino taste. "In Singapore, we just use simple rich Italian tomatoes. Here we have an underlayer of three cheeses, and a combination of creamy white sauce with the tomato sauce to bring out more flavor."

He also came up with Filipino staple: rice and entrees.

"We added roast chicken and barbecue ribs. You can have these with rice, roast potatoes, draft beer." Or bread, since diners can cross order at Baker & Cook.

Brettschneider has authored or contributed articles to 12 books. He said he has been baking since he learned how to make scones as a kid from his grandmother in a farming community in New Zealand.

"I worked places, from small bakeries to an industrial bread plant. I am technically trained in the science of baking," he shared. "I combine old school and new school. My carrot cake, for example, is a lot like my grandma's but it looks nicer."

Baker & Cook is open 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Plank Sourdough Pizza is open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Both are at G/F, S Maison, Conrad Manila. Follow BakerandcookPH on Facebook and Instagram. Visit www.globalbaker.com

Plank Barbecue RibsPhoto: Philippine Daily Inquirer
Lemon Tarts from Baker & CookPhoto: Baker & Cook
Affogato Ice Cream at PlankPhoto: Philippine Daily Inquirer

10 fun facts about pizza

  • The rules proposed by this organisation, the Naples-based Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana, include using genuine Neapolitan dough that must be kneaded by hand or with a low-speed mixer. The dough must also be not more than 3mm thick. (Photo: Shutterstock.com)
  • It could either have been derived from the ancient Greek words pikte (fermented pastry) and pissa (bran bread), the Italian word pizzacare (to pluck [quickly from the oven]) or the Old High German word pizzo (mouthful). Or none of the above.
  • It's often mistakenly called the crust, which technically means the entire bread component including the base of a pizza. (Photo: Shutterstock.com)
  • It is served as a whole, as either a small, round version or as pizza al taglio - rectangular or square cuts that are sold by the weight. The triangular slices that we see today are an American invention, reportedly after early pizza sellers in New York cut their pies into wedges for those who couldn't afford the whole piece. (Photo: Shutterstock.com)
  • American soldiers stationed in Italy hankered for it after they returned home, and fuelled pizza booms across the country. It didn't take long for the dish to spread to the rest of the world. (Photo: Shutterstock.com)
  • The Scots, for instance, deep fry their pizzas, while China's scallion pancakes are said to be the genesis of pizza after Marco Polo brought some of them back to Italy. (Photo: Shutterstock.com)
  • Pizza Brain in Philadelphia holds the Guinness World Record for having the largest collection of pizza-related items.
  • It has been observed since 1984 and was introduced by Gerry Durnell, the founder of Pizza Today magazine, which debuted in October that year. (Photo: Shutterstock.com)
  • Created by chef Renato Viola of Salerno, Italy, the Louis XIII is described as a "small pizza with a diameter of 20cm for two people", and is topped with ingredients such as caviar, Mediterranean lobster and sea cicadas. Apart from the preparation of the dough, the pizza is baked and served at the homes of customers who order it.
  • The pizza theorem relates to the technique of slicing a pizza into equal portions.
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