There’s nothing better than tearing into a warm loaf, slathering a piece with creamy butter or organic fruit jam, and taking a big, satisfying bite. Pair it with a great cup of coffee, and the day is yours for the taking. Malaysians are increasingly demanding handcrafted bread, made from scratch with natural ingredients, and finding them at select bakeries.
Tommy Le Baker (tommylebaker.com), a little bakery tucked away in Kuala Lumpur’s Sentul area, is off the beaten path, but that doesn’t stop loyal customers from returning time and again for baguettes, sourdough and bran sandwich bread. When Tommy Lee opened the bakery almost six years ago, his dense, crusty bread did not resonate with some customers more accustomed to ultra-fluffy sliced white bread. But Lee persevered, refining his craft and building his reputation to cultivate one of KL’s best bakeries.
“I make the bread for myself. I bake what I like, and what I enjoy, I share,” says Lee, who’s in his café breaking bread with regulars whenever he’s not baking.
After working in a patisserie in France, Lee left a career in the commercial bread industry to start his business, making honest-to-goodness bread. He went back to the basics of bread-making, relying solely on flour, water, salt and yeast, and in his case, time. His specialty lies in pre-ferments and a long fermentation process of up to 12 hours for his bread. This process allows enzymes in the yeast to break down starch and proteins in the dough, thereby improving flavour.
“We are addressing the fundamentals of making bread here,” says Lee, who offers not only bread in whole and half-loaves but also gourmet sandwiches with home-cooked fillings, quiches and his own version of a joconde cake.
Across town in the Sungai Buloh district, a home-based artisanal bakery called White Brick Oven (whitebrickoven.com), run by husband-and-wife team Mustaffa Abdullah and Mardia Nasir, trumps its competitors by milling its own flour in an Austrian-made stone flour mill.
Mustaffa, who learned how to bake from his mother, has spent much of his life baking for himself and his family. Coming to Malaysia from the UK with his wife about a decade ago, he continued baking bread and soon found orders trickling in. Today, White Brick Oven supplies top-notch bread to Jasons Food Hall in Bangsar Shopping Centre, Justlife and MacroB.
As a member of the UK’s Real Bread Campaign, White Brick Oven makes bread from scratch with natural, organic ingredients, without additives or preservatives. Mardia says artisanal bakers take the loaf “through the whole process, from mixing to baking with natural ingredients and no baking aids.”
“We welcome new bakers and our original goal was to see artisan bakers in every residential area,” Mardia says. She and her husband have a wood-fired brick oven (recently converted into gas) to bake bread and produce popular pizzas for ‘Sunday Tea and Scones’ at their café. White Brick Oven’s bread and boxes of scrumptious scones are also available to order by email (email@example.com).
Elsewhere, The Bread Shop (11 Jalan Setiakasih 5, Bukit Damansara) has served as the local bakery in the upscale Damansara Heights neighbourhood since 2009. Dressed in polished concrete and wood, it recognises the value of a good loaf in designer surroundings by offering a wide variety, including cranberry walnut loaves and multigrain, sourdough and organic broom bread, all baked fresh in a large open kitchen. The smell of baking permeates this small café, where the repertoire includes sandwiches and popular pastries such as chocolate danishes, cinnamon swirls and scones.
In the Bangsar enclave, Yeast (yeastbistronomy.com) is a charming boulangerie and bistro offering a bit of joie de vivre to accompany an extensive list of both traditional and creative French bread. Christophe Chatron-Michaud worked with Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Daniel Boulud before applying his extensive experience and F&B know-how to Yeast, which features caramelised onion bread and sensational smoked-duck-and-gruyere-cheese bread among its baguettes and sourdoughs.
As for the nearby Tedboy (tedboy.com), Edward Tan and Patrina Tang opened the café-bakery to cater to two passions – their firstborn and bread. The well-travelled couple were accustomed to European-style bread with their coffee and wanted the same in Kuala Lumpur, so they embarked on a sharp learning curve in the F&B business. Their Bangsar bakery and a sister outlet, Tedboy Express at The Sphere complex, attract crowds seeking wholemeal and country bread, fruit-and-nut loaves, pastries, cakes and coffee.
The couple want the best products for food they would feed their own son. Their bread is made from scratch and baked daily without additives. They also have a product development specialist working consistently to improve their bread and are expecting gluten-free cakes to join the other confections on their shelves soon.
“Consumers are becoming more demanding for healthier products with no preservatives and better ingredients. The trend for quality bread is here to stay,” says Tan, who’s planning to launch online shopping and home delivery for Tedboy’s bread and cakes. “If you are having a dinner party, you can order online from us and we’ll deliver freshly baked bread right to your doorstep. We think it is a service our customers would want.”