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Nerd Baker 2: Tales from the Yeast Indies

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by Christopher Tan
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The author of The Way of Kueh and, yes, the original Nerdbaker returns with a playful and wholly serious new exploration of baking Southeast Asian-style.

Christopher Tan is a baker’s baker. Born and raised in Singapore, he’s knowledgeable about the fat content of European butter, the pregelatinization of starch, and the cultural contributions of Singapore’s many ethnic groups. His wide-ranging curiosity leads him to experiment with recreating and adapting an astonishing array of savory and sweet baked goods.

The recipes Tan has assembled here are both indisputably Southeast Asian and the work of a baker who is familiar with a whole world’s worth of traditions and techniques. Many are produced using commercial yeast or sourdoughs, but others rely on chemical leaveners. Tan writes careful, detailed instructions, and supplements them with step-by-step photo sequences where necessary. Measurements are by metric weight.

What will you be able to bake from this book? A few examples:

  • Kopitiam: a feathery bread that is a coffee shop staple on the Malaysian peninsula
  • Roti Sisir Tapai Ubi: a pull-apart bread that begins with fermented cassava
  • Bababakas: a riff on babka that plays on baba, the word for Peranakan gentlemen. Tan’s fillings include the tamarind-peanut-garlic sauce called gado-gado, durian-pistachio, and sambal bauh keluak, with “a basso profound flavour that rivetingly melds notes of mushroom, black olive, cocoa, black truffle, hazelnut, and tamari.”
  • Sourdough palm sugar ginger cake

A list three times this long would offer just as many surprising inventions and adaptations.

A tour-de-force.

Flexibind. Color photographs throughout.

Published: January 2, 2024

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