The Baking Garage offers a great loaf for the table
It is such a joy listening to the sound of a butter knife spreading butter onto a warm crispy toast. Tasting the salted butter melting on the bread is something so basic yet remarkably rewarding. Its crispy, comforting bite is heavenly. But hold on – not just any toast: it has to be a thick artisan sourdough slice from The Baking Garage (TBG).
Sourdough has a “crackly crust” and a chewy interior, rich with a blend of subtle sourness, sweetness and a host of scrumptious flavours. An active “starter” (a mixture of fermented flour and water containing good Lactobacillaceae bacteria and wild yeast) helps the bread rise via a very slow fermentation process. Packed with nutrients, sourdough bread is the popular alternative for bread aficionados to include in a healthy diet. It is however not a new creation but rather an ancient one – considered to be the oldest form of leavened bread with its origin dating back to ancient Egypt.
Here at TBG, the sourdough bread is made with patience and great care. Ample time (about 24 hours) is given for the dough to proof and rise. Since the wild yeast is given a long time to ferment, the bread is able to develop a richer flavour, making it an absolute chef’s kiss creation.
I often opt for the classic sourdough, available in two sizes and the choice to have it sliced or not. There are also other sourdough variations which include miche, earl grey wholemeal, sunflower seeds and sesame sourdough, Vollkornbrot (German rye bread), cranberry walnut white, white sourdough, fruity sourdough, cocoa sourdough, flaxseed sourdough and more.
Besides the sourdough options, the garlic and mixed-herb focaccia is also delicious. This type of flatbread, topped with olive oil and herbs, must have been an early prototype of the modern pizza. The basic recipe for focaccia has its origin in classical antiquity, essentially along the shores of the Mediterranean.
Enjoy the focaccia with aged balsamic vinegar and olive oil or topped it with fresh rocket leaves, smoked sun-dried tomatoes, prosciutto and mozzarella. This makes a delightful hearty breakfast.
The freshly baked English muffin at TBG is wonderfully scrumptious as well. The yeast-risen dough that has a circular flat top, is rolled in semolina prior to baking. It is closer to the English crumpet with a spongier, moist interior.
Some argue that despite its name, the English muffin did not originate in England. It was invented by a British expatriate Samuel Bath Thomas, owner of Chelsea, a bakery in New York City in the 1880s. He first called it “toaster crumpet.” The term “English muffin” was coined in 1894 and was soon widely adopted.
Historical findings however show that the English may have been making muffins (or something similar) much earlier. A recipe was published in 1747 – "The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy" by Hannah Glasse. The rhyme, "The Muffin Man" was likewise written in the 1820s, about a muffin man working on Drury Lane in London’s West End.
Regardless of who invented the English muffin, Penangites can enjoy McDonald's Egg McMuffin or better still, make one at home with freshly baked English muffins purchased at TBG. In the latter case, you decide on what goes into your muffin.
TBG also offers other varieties of breads and buns including country loaves, ciabatta, pain de campagne, rye bread, French baguettes and batard, wholemeal bread, bagels, brioches, multigrain loaves, "not hot cross" buns and TBG milk buns.
There are countless ways one can enjoy these amazing breads, bagels and buns. Breakfast at my home is always an exciting affair – never dull or boring.
If you love pastries, order the classic French croissants, almond croissants, pain au chocolat, cream cheese croissants, cinnamon rolls, citrus zest rolls, mushroom and leek pastries and scones. Also keep an eye out for limited-time specials (e.g., tipsy mandarin almond praline infused with vodka). The pastries are baked daily to ensure quality. Imagine, with breads and pastries, TBG has over 40 items with some available only on weekends. I often drop by on Saturdays around 10.30am when choices are aplenty.
During festive seasons, TBG is in full swing churning out seasonal items like stollen for Christmas. One can also buy artisan butter flavoured with various ingredients, croutons ideal for salad and soups, cheeses and even artisan brews.
If you are unable to drop by TBG's flagship store at Lembah Permai, you can buy limited baked goods at Sam’s Groceria in Straits Quay. The bakery also supplies bread to cafes and restaurants in Penang including Gusto Cafe Hillside, Kafka, Chapel Street, The Wine Shop, Urban Daybreak and Two Frenchies, to name a few.
TBG was first established by Mr Ryan Woo in 2013 in Ayer Itam before relocating to the current premises at Lembah Permai at the end of 2014. Mr Yeoh Chuen Siong, a chemist by profession, first fell in love with baking during an apprenticeship course under Mr Woo. However in 2018, when the opportunity arose, Mr Yeoh bought the business and never looked back.
Having a strong passion for bread and the love for baking, Mr Yeoh and his team have since then offered Penangites healthier alternatives, away from the mass produced industrialised white bread loaves, loaded with a long list of ingredients (some with more than 20 items), wrapped in plastic bags. If you were to pause and read the labels, some of these ingredients could include sucrose, dextrose, emulsifiers, ammonium sulphate, sodium chloride, calcium sulphate, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, hydrogen reduced iron and calcium propionate – yes, all too alarming-sounding indeed!
Remember, a good rustic bread, full of flavour only needs flour, wild yeast, water and salt. At TBG, only unbleached flour is used.
Practice and experience play a large role in the way the team at TBG work. Using flavours, textures and visual appeal, they produce delicious edible works of art. The glass display counter at the bakery that welcomes patrons showcases these offerings. Take your pick and be rewarded with an enjoyable feast.
The Baking Garage
45, Lebuh Lembah Permai 1, Tanjung Tokong, 11200 Tanjung Bungah, Penang
T: +012-986 5464
Open: 8 am - 6 pm except Mondays and Tuesdays
Written and photographed by Adrian Cheah
© All rights reserved
16 February 2023