Dean Brettschneider picks his five favourite bakeries around the world worthy of a pilgrimage on your next trip.
I met Yotam Ottolenghi in 2000. I was in London launching my second baking book and he was the head pastry chef at Baker & Spice in Walton Rd, nestled behind the neighbourhood of the famous Harrods department store. Baker & Spice was ahead of its time, partly due to Yotam's amazing flair for combining traditional baked goods with flavours of rose water, zaatar, pomegranate and pistachios — all unknown and new at that time.
Of course, Ottolenghi, which has four locations across London, is much more than baked goods but what they do bake is visually outstanding, and an explosion of textures and flavours. I love the clean, simple design of the stores where food takes centre stage and is the star of the show. If you are a fan of Ottolenghi you will love his two sister restaurants, Nopi in Soho, and a vegetable-centric restaurant named Rovi in Fitzrovia, not to mention his many amazing books.
If there is a holy grail of baking it has to be the Poilane boulangerie in Paris. Lionel Poilane took over the business in 1970, which his father had started in 1932. Today, Lionel's daughter Apollonia runs things because, tragically, he and his wife, Irena, died in a helicopter accident in 2002.
Poilane is widely known for a round, 2kg sourdough country bread called a miche or Pain Poilane — a bread made mostly from so-called grey flour of 85 per cent extraction (meaning that some but not all of the wheat bran is retained) and a slow, long fermentation with wild yeast, then baked in wood-fired ovens.
In addition to miches, Poilane offers rye, raisin, and nut breads, punitions (shortbread cookies), and an assortment of pastries. It's no trendy cafe where you can linger with a cafe au lait; it's a hardcore old-school boulangerie. Buy your bread, cookies and pastries, pay the lady and go home.
I love going to the original store on rue du Cherche-Midi. When I get near it, I get goosebumps and sometimes I just stand there for a moment to savour the tradition, the simplicity and the history.
Baker & Cook, Singapore
Okay, I have to be completely honest and say that I think Baker & Cook, which I founded in Singapore only six years ago, is one of my favourite artisan bakeries and foodstores in the whole wide world.
Baker & Cook offers my unique "New World Baking"-style experience in neighbourhoods all over Singapore and since the launch of the flagship store in the upmarket suburb Bukit Timah in 2012, the business has grown to 24 stores globally.
Our quality artisan bakery products are handcrafted and made by time-honoured processes with honest, clean ingredients, including "Little Johnny", our sourdough starter that has travelled the world with me for the past 30 years and is the backbone of all my artisan breads.
I am passionate about baking and design, so creating one of the best bakeries in the world has been brought about by my global travels, books and TV shows. My favourite thing to do every morning is to sit outside as dawn breaks with an Allpress coffee (we were the first to bring Allpress to this part of the world), a petite baguette and Barker's apricot jam.
Princi Bakery, Milan
I first came across Princi in London where it's situated on Wardour St in the trendy Soho district. While I still make my regular pilgrimage to the London branch it was its Milan boutique that first caught my eye (located in Piazzale Istria). It's owned by renowned Italian baker Rocco Princi, who puts passion and detail within each loaf of bread, pastry and cake. But it was his store design that really caught my eye. Recently Starbucks acquired the Princi brand and has rolled it out to Shanghai, Chicago, New York and Seattle. I don't see this as a bad thing and really enjoyed the Princi experience in Shanghai recently.
Based in London, Crosstown has changed the UK's perception of what a humble doughnut can be. The chain is the brainchild of Antipodeans JP Then and Adam Wills, who wanted to get involved in the coffee business but with a food offering that was more than just the standard banana bread and pastries that everyone else in London was doing.
JP & Adam started to assemble the team they would need to make an impact in London's extremely competitive food market, including me and fellow Kiwi chef Peter Gordon.
After running a stall at Leather Lane Market, one of London's oldest and favourite markets in Shoreditch, word of their doughnuts soon spread around London. Today they have eight stores across London as well as popular foodie markets across the capital. My favourite doughnut is the "sea salt caramel banana", which is based on a chocolate sourdough base, a banana creme patisserie, topped with a caramel icing, sea salt caramel sauce and chocolate crumb — it makes me go weak at the knees!
This year they opened Vegan Crosstown in Marylebone, offering doughnuts seven days a week to its vegan customers.
● Dean Brettschneider is a judge on The Great Kiwi Bake Off, Tuesdays, 7.30pm, TVNZ 2.