Monday, 8 May 2017

(The Star) Four friends and their German loaves

“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts,” is a saying by renowned American cookbook author, teacher and television personality James Beard that resonates with bread lovers.

And this holds true for the men behind Der Backmeister in Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI).

Der Backmeister (master baker in German), a born-in-Malaysia partnership by two Germans and two Malaysians, is a modern German bakery.

For breads with a sweet touch - clockwise from left: Cinnamon Roll, Apple Danish and Pudding Danish.

Brothers in bread – Oliver Rollar, Chris Gruber, Bobby Brar and Steve Tan have commonalities that bring them together – they are long-time buddies who love bread but none can bake bread for a living.

The story unfolds with Rollar having sleepless nights thinking about German bread and one day, an idea was born, “Why not open a German bakery?”

After scouring various bakeries and eating too much, the verdict was out - German bread was not to be found anywhere.

The desire to own a bakery, Rollar said, was purely selfish.

Der Backmeister's Currywurst. In Germany, the Currywurst is sold in food trucks just about anywhere. Here, the sauce is made in-house.

“I missed German bread and wanted to open a bakery selling German bread,” said Rollar, the mastermind behind Der Backmeister and its managing director.

Knowing which side his bread was buttered on, Rollar turned to Deutschland for help and got in touch with Senior Experten Service (SES), a non-profit organisation with a pool of retirees willing to pass on their skills and knowledge to others, both within Germany and abroad.

“We were looking for someone to help us bake commercially and run a full-fledged German bakery.

“We are grateful to Klaus Adolph and his wife, Monika, for their expertise and experience in getting us on the right path,” said Rollar.

Adolph, who owns four bakeries in Cologne, Germany, whipped the men and their team into shape.

He imparted his knowledge on running a business including how to clear and set tables, how to wash vegetables and paying importance to customer service.

That, aside teaching them to bake.

Der Backmeisters Italian Caprese Sandwich with buffalo mozzarella, tomato and pesto.

“Klaus was here, at the bakery, from 4am and ran us like a military school,” said Brar with a laugh.

“A lot of what they taught us had to do with details from food presentation, displaying food, how not to mix the sweets with savoury items and a lot more,” said Rollar agreeing with Brar on their initial learning curve.

The owners invest in imported ingredients especially flour from Germany to get their breads tasting like German loaves.

“In Germany, we have around 3,500 types of bread.

Goulash with bread for those who like to savour a hearty stew with meat and vegetables.

“There are around 500 main varieties sold at bakeries and restaurants,” said Rollar.

Rollar said hearty, soft on the inside and crusty on the outside loaves appealed to Germans.

Using sourdough as the rising agent, the bakery and restaurant rolls out 80% sourdough breads.

The rest are made with a combination of sourdough and fresh yeast.

And interestingly, only flour, salt, water and sourdough/yeast are essential in Der Backmeister’s breads.

“There are no fillers, no sugar and no preservatives,” said Brar.

Good bread takes time for the flavours to develop through fermentation.

Rollar said some breads took 36 hours to make from fermentation to the oven.

Avocado Egg Sandwich on Multigrain is a hearty and satisfying sandwich to keep you going throughout the day.

“It is common in Germany for people to go to the bakery and buy pretzels, bread, croissants and cold cuts for breakfast as breakfast is the most important meal for Germans,” said Rollar adding that bread was the staple of life like rice was to Malaysians.

Having amassed a loyal following over the course of one-and-a-half years, the bread brothers confidently opened a second restaurant in Ampang, within the Ampang Puteri Hospital last month.

This, despite having to deal with issues including maintaining the use of top quality ingredients, rising costs and dealing with the currency exchange.

“Although we have offers to open shops in China and Indonesia, we want to grow in Malaysia first,” said Rollar, adding that the Ampang restaurant would offer pasta and pizza to cater to hospital staff.

For satisfying meals with slices of German bread, diners can enjoy The Big Backmeister Breakfast (RM33) with cold cuts, cheese, eggs and a basket of bread; Goulash (Hungarian style) (RM16), Sunny Meatloaf (RM19), Italian Caprese Sandwich with Buffalo Mozzarella, Tomato and Pesto (RM28); Avocado Egg Sandwich on Multigrain (RM18), Ribeye and Cheese Sandwich (RM38) among others.

The ribeye sandwich, I learnt, with a handsome 200gm of chilled Australian grass fed beef is popular at lunchtime.

Der Backmeister is popular among families, businessmen and students.

Then there’s the Currywurst (RM15), a common find at food trucks in Germany.

Der Backmeister’s version is prepared with homemade ketchup mixed with currywurst mix from Germany, of course.

For the men who held salaried jobs prior to Der Backmeister, bread has everything going for them.

Der Backmeister, 40 Persiaran Zaaba, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur. (Tel: 03-2856 0613) Business hours: 8am to 7pm (Tuesday to Sunday). Closed on Monday.

This is the writer’s personal observation and is not an endorsement by StarMetro.