Baking caneles at their level best

Talk to enough pastry chefs and you start to realise they have one trait in common - a sharp attention to detail. Not for them vague terms like "a heaping teaspoon".

That obsessiveness is what gives Levelled, started last month by Mr Cheong Qing Da, 30, and Ms Michelle Tan, 28, its name.

Mr Cheong says: "The initials for Michelle's Chinese name, Tan Su Ping, are tsp or teaspoon. She is so careful when she bakes and ensures she always levels her baking spoon measurements. And we really like how it gives a sense of groundedness and humility, to be levelled."

That extends to other parts of their lives. Both have day jobs. He is a barista and sales and relationship manager for a wholesale coffee bean supplier. She is an operations manager for a digital airport platform company and trained in culinary and catering management at Temasek Polytechnic.

All their free time is devoted to the business and they offer tasting boxes of caneles and brownies, packaged in boxes that seem created for their bakes, so snugly do the wares fill them.

The caneles come in matcha, chocolate and vanilla and they have perfected the recipe for maximum Instagram impact. Cut through the crisp exterior and the inside is custardy. Then, the matcha cream or chocolate ganache starts to ooze.

Recently, they debuted truffle caneles using Manjimup black truffles from Australia.

Their dark chocolate brownies are stuffed, with peanut butter and jelly, Nutella, Ovomaltine or cookie butter, yielding a built-in smile when you cut each one in half.

Like the others, they had some anxiety when they started.

Ms Tan says: "We were worried caneles would not be well-received in the local market as it has a deep caramelised exterior with a custardy interior. Our caneles can be easily misunderstood as charred. Also, we were concerned that what we like might not be what the local palate is accustomed to."

Those fears have vanished, and they are now working flat out to get their boxes to people on their wait-list, now with "slightly over" 1,000 people on it. They sell out within a minute when the ordering window opens at 8pm on Tuesdays.

Ms Michelle Tan and Mr Cheong Qing Da of Levelled offer tasting boxes of caneles and brownies and have a wait list of more than 1,000 people. PHOTO: LEVELLED

"We recently made the decision to dedicate all our public holidays to the wait list, so we can reach out to more lovely people patiently waiting for a tasting box," says Ms Tan.

They both say they would like to open a shop on the fringes of the Central Business District, "somewhere a little hip, but in a very charming neighbourhood".

Their gamble to offer caneles, which is shaping up to be the new pastry obsession in Singapore, has paid off in spades. Mr Cheong says: "The majority of Singapore consumers are so well-travelled and receptive to new and interesting pastries. They also appreciate quality and can taste the difference."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 26, 2020, with the headline Baking caneles at their level best. Subscribe