Chef Jacq Tan first started experimenting with bread in 2003, when she would make raisin bread that she would sell just from her house within her neighborhood.
She has since gone a long way from her home-baker days (“It’s a hobby gone big”), with Apero equipped with a custom 2 meter by 2 meter brick oven with several thermometers inside to track its ranging temperatures, and an improvised steamer composed of 2 tanks filled with water that are manually injected at carefully timed intervals.
“It’s challenging and fun at the same time, trying to understand [the brick oven],” explains Chef Jacq. “When we started out, it took us hours to start it out, maybe because there’s not much heat retention. Now it takes 2 and a half to three hours and it’s easier to start up. Getting the good quality is actually really important.”
As casual as she brushes off the 3-hour startup, whose length makes the layperson’s mind reel, baking is an art that takes more time than the untrained would expect. At Apero, the bakers come in at 3AM (“sometimes 2 or 1:30AM depending on the load”) so that all the breads and pastries are out before 8AM, with the chef explaining that they follow the French ‘low-and-slow’ philosophy to baking their bread. “We don’t sell anything that’s not freshly baked on the day itself.”
Baking French-style bread in the Philippines offers its own set of challenges. “It’s hard because [of the] weather, water, kind of flour that we have. It’s not like a recipe that you see online then you copy.” The baking itself is arduous as the dough is manually folded (in other words, they don’t use an industrial mixer)—a part of the process that came about as a happy accident. “One day the mixer broke and we were like, ‘How will that be? The dough is too heavy. It’s too wet.’ And the baker started doing it by hand. It turned out a lot better: it became chewier, the crust crispier, then we get that sheen.”
Unlike in typical panaderias, where according to Chef Jacq they work in hot conditions in order to hasten the rising process, Apero keeps it cool in order to slow things down. “It adds to the crumb texture—the texture of the bread itself. In terms of flour, we [use] one that has higher wheat content and can form gluten easily . . . and water, you have to use self-filtered water and the cleanest water that you can use.”
The freshly baked breads service the local neighborhood, and Apero offers delivery to the nearby villages (Valle Verde, Green Meadows, Corinthians, White Plains, and St. Ignatius) via electric car, which begin at 7AM.
Apero is a casual neighborhood café that specializes in pastries and bread baked in the brick oven.