KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 11 — Spinach, mango and cream cheese. Matcha, white chocolate and raisins. Organic pumpkin, cranberries, and sesame seeds.
If these sound like smoothie recipes or toppings for granola bowls to you, you wouldn’t be the first to think that way.
But what if I told you that these ingredients had more to do with those crusty loaves of sourdough bread that everyone were baking last year when the pandemic first hit as well as those oozing salted egg lava bāos any decent dim sum restaurant would have on its menu?
Enter Loffi, a specialist bakery in Sri Petaling that focuses on making fluffy pillow buns... made from sourdough. If that isn’t enough, there is an organic element to the proceedings as founder Jacky Cheng is passionate about organic baked goods.
The 32-year-old entrepreneur has worn many hats before entering the baking scene. An A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) Programming major, he had previously run his own badminton academy, badminton club in the Malaysia Purple League as well as various sports marketing events.
So how did the sports fanatic end up making sourdough pillow buns? Cheng recalls, “At the end of 2018 I got an opportunity to visit an organic bakery-factory. I was truly impressed by how passionate they were in using only organic and natural ingredients in their products.”
When that bakery’s owner decided to return to Taiwan, Cheng leapt at the chance to take over the business with a friend as a co-investor. In 2020 he rebranded the bakery as Yookybites and subsequently created a subsidiary brand — Loffi — to position as an F&B (food and beverage) lifestyle retail shop.
One of Loffi’s signature products is the Nasi Lemak Sourdough Pillow Bun. Malaysian flavours rule here as Cheng explains: “This is a savoury bun. We use coconut oil so the dough has an aroma similar to santan in our nasi lemak. The filling is a mix of sambal paste, coconut flakes and soy floss; the topping has peanuts and chilli flakes.”
Another savoury bun is the Mushroom Teriyaki, where red yeast is used to create the scarlet-hued dough. The filling features organic eryngii mushrooms with teriyaki sauce while the crispy mushroom topping gives every bite a bit of crunch.
If the flavours seem unusual and creative, you might be surprised to learn that the original recipe is rather plain. Cheng says, “The idea came from a very popular item in China, the pillow bun. We studied the concept and made it healthier by using organic and natural ingredients. In fact, the name Loffi is a combination of sourdough loaf and fluffy!”
According to Cheng, the guidelines of producing new products for Loffi include promoting a healthy lifestyle and creating more plant based goods. Ingredients are checked for quality control; they also need to be free from chemicals and artificial colouring.
He adds, “Sourdough is the healthiest version of bread and easy to digest. We decided to switch the original pillow bun’s dough from a basic sweet dough to a sweet sourdough. We did not add any yeast in our recipes and used fermented wheat as the starter for our sourdough.”
Loffi’s bestselling sourdough pillow bun is perhaps their Belgian Dark Chocolate, drizzled with a lemon glaze. Cheng shares, “The selling point is the ‘lava’ filling; we are using 65 per cent dark chocolate imported from Belgium. We added the lemon topping for some sourness to go with the sweetness so it won’t feel so greasy.”
Another Belgian import — wild blueberries — is the main ingredient in their Blueberry Cheese Sourdough Pillow Bun, with the salty cheese offering a nice counterpoint to the sweet and sour berries.
For a less sharp cheese flavour, Loffi also makes their own cream cheese in-house for their Mango Cream Cheese Sourdough Pillow Bun. The spinach dough is filled with the cream cheese mixed with mango purée, and topped with walnuts and more cream cheese.
Customer satisfaction and optimum mouthfeel experience are two other areas that Cheng obsesses over. He explains, “Have you ever eaten something, wishing the filling would burst in your mouth but it didn’t? With Loffi, our filling to dough ratio is 4:3. So that bursting lava filling is our sourdough pillow bun’s selling point.”
These attributes can be clearly detected in their fan-favourite Japanese Matcha Raisin Sourdough Pillow Bun. The matcha powder, imported from Japan, is blended with white chocolate to create the lava filling. Black raisins are added for an extra bite.
The Japanese influence continues with their Purple Rice Adzuki buns that pair purple rice imported from Taiwan with organic adzuki red beans and organic unrefined brown sugar. Their Pumpkin Cranberry buns are also organic; made from organic pumpkins, tart cranberries and perfumed with sesame seeds.
If the breadth of their product offerings seems to establish Loffi as a veteran in the bakery scene, one might be surprised to learn that it only started half a year ago. Six months to be exact, on April 19, 2021.
The date matters, as Cheng observes: “Just after two weeks, we had to face another lockdown as the Covid-19 cases were spiking. To be frank, this was a hard time for us as we were expecting customers to come and dine in. Our sales dropped really badly.”
As with many F&B businesses, Loffi had to pivot to using delivery services in order to survive. Cheng didn’t waste this slower period; it was a good time for them to finetune their operations, get crucial customer feedback and improve manpower cost control.
Moving forward, Loffi will continue their R&D (research and development). Cheng shares, “We will be focusing on creating more plant based products. We will also be opening our second and third outlets soon.”
Sounds like there will be plenty more fusion flavours and fluffy bites coming our way. With these sourdough pillow buns, who says we can’t have the best of both worlds?
21, Jalan Radin Bagus, Bandar Sri Petaling, KL.