AN engineer decided to give up her profession to go into full-time baking for the love of natural healthy ingredients.
Noor Lee Chai, 39, a petroleum engineering degree holder from UTM Skudai, Johor, made the decision to switch jobs four years ago under her outfit called The Baking Mommy Miri.
“I went into this field mainly due to the birth to my first-born. I then became more conscious of how food was cooked and how cakes were baked — what kind of additives were put into the ingredients being sold.
“From there, I tried to recall the baking I did as a child with my mum and I also did a lot of research online.
“My main concern is to cook as natural and healthy as possible — without additives and fillers — plus limiting artificial flavours or colours.
“It’s not easy — a lot of trial and error, studying the recipes and learning how to make them better.
“I learned to improve my baking slowly because these things take a lot of patience.
“I applied various techniques and tried different ways. Even if all the recipes look similar, adding each ingredient according to its sequence, the amount, the temperature and so on will affect the final product.”
Citing her pandan cake, she said she had made many adjustments to get it just right.
“Thank God, my customers love the blended pandan.”
Noor who was born in Kuching but raised in Miri, said the best part about baking was when customers accepted her products, knowing she uses only natural healthy ingredients like her own peanut butter — no fillers or additives.
“My mom has been making peanut butter for us since I was in elementary school but she used margarine.
“I improvised on her recipe, so now I also sell natural peanut butter and am thankful people are accepting it.
“I invested in a machine for grinding the peanuts into a fine powder without adding oil or butter.
“The best part is when my customers compliment the peanut butter, saying their parents or their kids love it.
“For me, old people are the best judge. They have tasted all kinds of food and when I learned my customers’ parents also like my natural peanut butter and pandan cake, I’m delighted.”
Noor’s other specialty is éclairs which even celebrities like Daphne Iking love.
“I have been doing choux pastry since secondary school, so whenever anyone in the family wants to eat it, I will make it.”
Study in Scotland
Noor spent 20 weeks in Montrose, Scotland, studying to be a field engineer. She always bought profiteroles at Tesco — a choux pastry but the cream content is just like her éclairs.
“That’s why I make my éclairs with the same style,” she said, adding that éclairs were introduced to her customers in Nov 2018.
When her first child was 19 months old (in 2011), she returned to work as a reservoir engineer consultant and was allowed to work from home.
“By 2014, oil prices dropped badly and I no longer got job assignments. So that was the end of my oil and gas career.
“Then friends encouraged me to start selling my bakes. I did and made a good go of it. The rest, as they say, is history,” she said.
Asked if she missed working, Noor said “some times” but she prefers what she is doing now because she can work and also take care of her three children, aged nine, six and three years.
Noor ventured into her baking market first at the Summer Boutique in June 2017 at Piasau Boat Club, and later at the Small Town Art Market STAM), the Miri Artisan Market at the Coco Cabana Miri and the Digi Mini Carnival 2018.
“Getting into the market is satisfying and tiring at the same time but I’m grateful my husband is there to help me and my friends to introduce to me the markets such as Karen Ping and Ramzan Epi.”
Ramzan was featured in thesundaypost in July 2017 and is now known by his ‘Lucky Find by zan’.
Fruits and veggies
Besides natural ingredients, Noor also emphasises on healthy ingredients such as fruits and vegetables.
“I like to include fruits or veggies in my bakes. Fruits — pineapples, bananas, mangoes — and varieties of nuts are good and I want to encourage kids to eat more of them,” she said.
The middle of 2019 marked another chapter in her own baking business. Her baking studio, built within her compound, was completed.
The studio enables her to work on her baking in her own place where she has installed her baking equipment, including the commercial 3-deck oven and others.
Noor said her interest in baking came from her mother and since deciding to quit her job as an engineer, she has never looked back in pursuing her passion for baking.