Food + Drink

How to start an Instagram bakery, according to the entrepreneurs behind ‘Fari and Ali’ and ‘Basket Break’


By Redzhanna Jazmin

How to start an Instagram bakery, according to the entrepreneurs behind ‘Fari and Ali’ and ‘Basket Break’

It has been a rough couple of years. In case you missed it (no idea how you would), we’ve endured three government upheavals in three years, a global pandemic, multiple on-and-off lockdowns, and a recession. Pretty bleak, by all accounts. In spite of it all, however, there is a silver lining.

The pandemic has proven that remote working is not only possible but, in some cases, more beneficial than traditional office-based working. With productivity surging, morale improving, and stressful commutes cut out entirely, the work-life balance of many employees has drastically improved. The result? More time for hobbies such as sewing, gardening, and—most pertinently—baking (what else is there to do, eh?).

In fact, the baking craze took Malaysia and the world by storm during the first MCO and global lockdown. You may recall explore pages and feeds filled with sourdough loaves, cloud bread, and a variety of other baked goods. On the flipside, with budgets shrinking and furlough looming, many were searching for other sources of revenue. Thus, the at-home Instagram bakery boom was born.

Instagram businesses are nothing new, but the pandemic has fostered a sharp uptick in the phenomenon. But, why have budding entrepreneurs resorted to the app? What makes it such a useful tool for small businesses?

To glean some insight into the world of Instagram businesses, we spoke to two of KL’s hottest at-home IG bakers, Sharifah Samira Albana from Fari and Ali and Daphne Ng from Basket Break.

First, let’s get to know them a little:

Sharifah Samira Albana, Fari + Ali

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Can you tell us about the inspiration behind Fari and Ali?

Albana: “Fari and Ali were my late maternal grandparents. I was born and raised in Malaysia to an Iranian mother and a Malaysian father but, despite growing up here in KL, my Iranian roots have always been very strong. I spent every single school holiday until I was 18 in Tehran with my grandparents, and they were such an integral part of my life.

“My fondest memories in Tehran involve coming home with a box of ‘shirini tar’—basically, a box of cream-based desserts—and sitting around the table with my grandparents, watching my grandfather having one too many (and getting a cheeky telling off from my grandmother).

“During the first MCO, I found myself trying to bring those memories to life and so I started practising baking noon khamei or cream puffs. On my 11th or 12th try, I took a bite and there it was: I had created a dessert that had actually transported me back to those days with Maman Fari and Baba Ali, sitting around the table, laughing with them. Gosh, it made me feel so very warm inside.”


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A post shared by Fari & Ali (@fari.and.ali)

You’ve got a loyal clientele (writer’s note: I am one of them)—what does your process for creating a menu look like?

Albana: “Creating a menu for Fari and Ali stands guided by my key principles which are authenticity, quality, and affordability. My first port of call is always making sure the desserts I introduce taste like something you’d get from a confectionery shop in Iran. Once I nail that aspect, then I feel confident to call it an authentic Persian dessert.

“The next step is to ensure that all the ingredients I source are of the highest quality. Being able to source the right ingredients for a specific dessert determines whether or not it goes on the menu. Price points are also very important; we started out creating a menu with pricing that wouldn’t break the bank, while not sacrificing the quality of our ingredients. We wanted a family of four or five to be able to buy a box and really eat their fill without burning a hole in their pockets.”


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A post shared by Fari & Ali (@fari.and.ali)

Daphne Ng, Basket Break

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You’re renowned for your unique menu. What inspired you to combine sourdough with doughnuts (and cookies)?

Ng: “Sourdough doughnuts (or bombolonis, beignets, youtiao, malasadas—the many names of sinful fried dough) started from corporate fatigue, rewatching many old Bon Appetit YouTube videos, and feeling the urge to bake despite having a broken fridge.

“Sourdough cookies happened as a bonus. It’s where the liquid starter discard from refreshing our starter goes—into chunky chewy crisp cookies.”

Where does the name Basket Break come from?

Ng: “Before sourdonuts, Basket Break was a creative outlet for chasing the perfect sourdough loaf, experimental bakes and cooks. Little known fact: It was also a place to embroider and needle paint, which quickly stopped—it earned me pricked fingers and strained eyes. Scroll down far enough BB’s IG page and you’ll catch a few glimpses!

“It’s truly as simple as taking a 15-min ‘Break’ from my (then) full-time job to fold my dough during bulk ferment. I couldn’t find another noun to categorise both embroidering and baking… ‘Basket’ was the closest. It stuck.”


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