I saw this article yesterday in and can't wait to try it out on my next trip to Penang!!!

Organic bakers

Jesse Tan, 29, has got more than just good looks in common with his identical twin brother Jerry: they are both organic bakers.

Working from the rustic little family-run Rainforest Bakery in Chulia Street, the brothers are starting to make a name for themselves by providing decent hand-made organic breads to Penangites which, once tasted, are never forgotten.

“Home-made bread is heavier, and the tastes and textures are completely different,” Jesse instructed us. “We use different methods to bring out certain unique fragrances”.
It all started when father Tan Boo Geok opened up the Rainforest Restaurant, a cafe-style eatery attached to the Olive Spring Hotel which is connected to the bakery. It was one of the first places in town to serve affordable, authentic western food like home-made soups, Lassi, salads and fresh or grilled sandwiches to backpackers.

“Our foreign guests kept commenting on the many different types of breads that they miss from back home,” he explained.

Jesse enrolled on a local baking course, after which he started making his own bread. However, this was not enough and he took off for London where he learnt a lot about organic baking.

“‘Organic’ does not just mean the ingredients used, but also the method of making the breads as well. We don’t use enhancers, preservatives, improvers or conditioners,” he explained.

They stick to tried-and-tested traditional methods which rely purely on good basic raw material: flour, salt, yeast and water. That is why the breads are heavier, with more body and uneven textures, a more satisfying experience altogether.

Over the next three years, he toured Europe, working and spending time in as many different types of bakeries as he could in countries like France, Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic €“ all places which are of course famous for their baguettes, ciabattas and brot (bread).

“Whenever I hit a town or city I would try and get into a local bread shop and learn from the head baker,” he added.

A few years ago, he finally returned to the family business in Penang, where he brought Jerry up to date on what he had picked up abroad.

Nowadays the brothers share the title “Chief Baker”, producing fresh bread every morning from the premises in Chulia Street.

They introduce a new type of bread or roll every month, experimenting with different flours and ingredients, and continue to receive feedback and ideas from expatriate friends and guests who visit their establishment from all over the world.

“Jerry and I discuss new ideas between ourselves and give each other feedback,” he said.
The Rainforest Bakery is open from Mondays to Saturdays from 9am to 8pm. If you’re interested, give them a call at 04-261 4641.

Helen Ong is a self-confessed foodie who loves to hunt down the best of Penang. She is the author of the book Great Dining in Penang.

Rainforest Bakery
Chulia Street
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