Sep 28, 2008
A loaf affair
|Mr Oliver Lim, the manager of a human resource consultancy firm, started baking bread so he could feed his family nourishing food|
|By Huang Lijie|
Cooking is a labour of love, especially for Mr Oliver Lim.
Growing up, the owner of a human resource consultancy firm never had to get his hands dirty in the kitchen to enjoy a meal.
The 41-year-old says: 'My housewife mother was a great cook. Her fried beancurd with fermented bean paste and cuttlefish porridge are family favourites.'
So it was not until he started dating his then girlfriend, Glenda, who is now his wife, that he stepped into the kitchen.
The impetus, he says, was not so much finding a way to her heart through her tummy.
Rather, it was prompted by his frustration at having to queue for more than 30 minutes for sushi at Cold Storage in Ngee Ann City whenever she craved it.
The father of a 12-year-old son and nine- year-old daughter says: 'There was a craze for the 50-cent sushi when it was first sold in a supermarket in the early 1990s. Previously, one could eat sushi only in restaurants.
'But I thought: How tough can it be to make sushi? It's just a piece of fish over a ball of rice. I can do it for her.'
He had to eat his words later when he realised that there is more to sushi making than just slapping a piece of fish over sticky rice.
He says: 'I bought seven cookbooks and pored over them for six months to figure out what was the right temperature to add vinegar to the cooked rice, and the correct technique of mixing it into the rice.'
His persistence paid off and he became so good at making sushi that friends began asking him to teach them.
As for other cuisines, he says he can master simple Chinese stir-fry dishes, although the cooking of family meals is usually left to his mother - who lives with them - or Glenda, 41, who is a housewife.
Yet it is his passion for feeding his loved ones nourishing food that prompted him to get into baking bread.
His interest started when his daughter was diagnosed with childhood nephrotic syndrome five years ago.
The syndrome, which results in the swelling of limbs due to water retention, is the first sign of a disease that damages the blood-filtering units in the kidneys.
To keep her condition in check, she had to take steriods. Determined to help ease her condition by making sure she ate right, Mr Lim enrolled in a nutrition certificate course at Singapore Polytechnic.
It was there that he learnt that bread sold over the shelf might contain chemicals such as mould inhibitors and bread improvers to keep it fresh for longer and to help speed up the making process.
He says: 'I didn't like the thought of my daughter consuming more chemicals than she needed to, and since bread is such a staple in my family's breakfast diet, I decided to bake my own bread.'
Turning again to cookbooks, he began by baking loaves out of the only cooking equipment he had - stainless steel pots. However, the loaves always had a weird taste.
So he bought a bread-making machine for $160 and used it regularly until it broke down after a year.
While the machine was an efficient way to make bread, the loaves turned hard and chewy very quickly after baking.
So instead of buying a replacement, he borrowed his mother's Kenwood mixer and invested in a $300 table-top oven before installing a $700 convection oven when he moved from his flat in Bukit Panjang to a three-room condominium in Choa Chu Kang in 2006.
The baking enthusiast, who owns 15 bread baking cookbooks, is so serious about baking that he extracts his own yeast from the skin of organic blueberries. He also has a separate refrigerator to store his yeast cultures and fermenting dough for breads such as sourdough.
While he loves baking bread, he does not make pastries or cakes.
He says: 'I cannot bring myself to use all the egg, butter and sugar that cake recipes call for. It's unhealthy.'
He bakes every fortnight, churning out four types of bread and 12 loaves such as rye, wholemeal, baguette (French bread stick) and focaccia (Italian flat bread). The breads are frozen after baking and last for two weeks.
He sometimes takes the bread to the office to share with colleagues. Their warm reception gave him the idea of making bread baskets as gifts to his clients instead of sending the usual corporate ones.
Last Christmas, he baked for one week to churn out 22 baskets, each filled with about eight loaves of rye, baguette, focaccia and scones.
He has also conducted classes at home for friends and colleagues occasionally.
While his children did have some problems getting used to the crusty breads initially, they have since grown accustomed to the taste.
Nonetheless, their favourite remains focaccia, which is softer to the bite than most artisan breads.
He shares a recipe for focaccia below, which he has modified to suit his taste preference.
He says: 'Traditional focaccia is dripping in oil and uses a lot more herbs. I've cut down the oil to make it healthier and used less herbs so the taste isn't too overpowering.'
Copyright © 2007 Singapore Press Holdings.