WILD yeast, the invisible leavening agent, is transforming the lives of bread lovers.
Drifting through the air and encouraging chemistry of sorts when it mingles with other microbes in flour and water may seem magical to some but it is a natural process in creating a sourdough starter.
Sourdough is a slow fermentation process of making bread, which is traceable to ancient times in Egypt.
It is one of the oldest forms of leavened bread that has become a fashionable diet trend in modern times.
Baker Tommy Lee’s love for this naturally occurring yeast and its role in creating healthier, easily digestible bread is one of the reasons why he stuck to his guns in the bread-making business.
Come December, his house of sourdough better known as Tommy Le Baker turns 10.
“Sourdough uses yeast that is naturally cultivated from the environment; it is wild yeast.
“The dough needs some time to rest and it does particularly well in an acidic environment, ” he said.
His decision to open a bakery was spurred by his stint in a company selling food additives.
Feeling uncomfortable knowing how much additives went into food, he ventured out to establish a safe haven where diners could eat without worrying about their gut health.
“There are those who experience stomach issues like bloating because of their inability to digest something complex like gluten.
“Simple proteins exist in flour but when water is added and the mixture is kneaded, it works the proteins to form gluten.
“With sourdough bread, not much kneading is involved hence it is easier on the stomach, ” explained Lee.
He extends his creative hours from work to his home kitchen where more recipes are created.
“My passion for baking and the desire to revive traditional values of craftsmanship in bread-making are qualities that drive the essential spirit behind Tommy Le Baker, ” he said.
He added that he aspired to restore bread-making to the highest standards as sought by masters of the traditional craft.
The results are obvious to anyone stepping into the bakery and restaurant in Kampung Attap, where the spotlight shines on the sourdough offerings.
Besides sourdough bread, baguette and slices, Lee also has sourdough muffins and cookies as well as bread and butter pudding (Roti Kueh --- RM7).
Sporting sunglasses and a batik-print face mask, he is an all-rounder at work --- boss, cook, cashier and server attending to both the kitchen and his customers at his comfortable nook in the city.
The bakery occupies a hidden corner in Wisma Zhongshan where even though sunlight bathes down to gift natural light to the place, its hidden location affords diners a sense of seclusion from the city’s hustle and bustle.
The tables are small and placed far apart in observing physical distancing rules during the movement control order.
The restaurant can accommodate up to 20 diners at a time, but it is common to see people waiting at the adjacent shop for a table to open up.
Things pick up pace during lunchtime so it is advisable to head there for breakfast, brunch or around teatime.
Everything in the shop revolves around bread.
There are open-faced sandwiches or tartines with Smoked Salmon Tartine (RM16.80), Mozzarella and Tomato (RM28), Cheddar Cheese Melt (RM12.80), Garlic and Fresh Herbs Cream Cheese (RM13), Blue Cheese (RM13), Chevre Gaud Goat Cheese (RM15.80) and Chicken Liver Pate Tartine (RM11.80).
My friends and I opted for the tartines as the sandwiches were quite filling due to the bread’s density and layers of ingredients.
A sumptuous find is the Roast Ribeye Steak Sandwich (RM16.80) while other favourites include the Smoked Salmon [Baked] (RM16.80) and Oven-braised Chicken (RM12.80).
Those shying away from meat are not short on options either with the availability of Egg Dijon Mustard (RM10.80), Grilled Eggplant and Garlic Hummus (RM16.80), Artichokes and Tomato Pesto Sandwich (RM16.80), Mix Vegetable Sandwich (RM16.80), Brie Cheese Sandwich (RM12.50), Camembert Cheese Sandwich (RM13.50) and Mozzarella Sandwich (RM25.80).
Besides sandwiches, there are Onion Soup (RM12.50) and a range of bread-based desserts such as Lemon Tart (RM16), Sourdough Bread Muffins (RM6.50), Financiers (RM10), Sourdough Cookies (RM5), Banana Wholewheat Sourdough Sliced (RM5) and Roti Kueh (RM7).
Due to the limited size of its premises and the current restrictions in dining, Lee encourages customers to opt for takeaway food or place their orders online at tommylebaker.oddle.me
TOMMY LEE BAKER, 82, Jalan Rotan, Kampung Attap, Kuala Lumpur. (Tel: 012-207 1588,016-932 6704) Business hours: 8am to 6pm (Tuesday to Sunday). Closed on Monday.
This is the writer’s personal observation and is not an endorsement by StarMetro.