The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

bakingbadly's blog

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

Hi, I’m Zita, co-founder and head bread baker of a small bakery-café “Bang Bang” in Siem Reap (Angkor), Cambodia.

This post is an attempt to connect with fellow pro bread bakers, especially with experience in bakery management. I seek encouragement, enlightenment, and even guidance. If you’d like to pass your insights to a growing, primarily self-taught baker, please comment below or contact me privately via TFL or email: zita@bakerybangbang.com

Anyways, it’s been 9 hectic months since we launched our bakery. Let me show you what we've experimented with and accomplished so far.

·

 

  • Me (Zita), on the right, with my friend Diddy on the left, posing for a photo impromptu

 

  • Bang Bang’s bread & cake display

A little about us. The name Bang Bang is derived from the Khmer / Cambodian word “nombang”, in English meaning bread. I specialize in (sourdough) breads and my partner Jana specializes in cakes. The style of our goods can be described as… strongly influenced by North America and UK, plus a mix of Germany, France, Italy, and other countries. 

This cluster of influences is the result of our upbringing and nationalities. I’m Canadian-Cambodian and my partner is German-English.

 

  • Scandinavian-style open-faced sandwich: house cured salmon (gravlax), fresh radish & cucumbers, butter, horseradish mayo sauce on Danish Rye; this beautiful construction is thanks to my partner Jana, a former chef

A while back, I successfully baked a Dansk Rugbrød (Danish Rye Bread) featuring whole grain rye flour, rolled rye and wheat, roasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds, dark beer, and of course whole grain rye sourdough. In total, a 4 day process including a requisite 1 day of cooling.

Just when we were on the brink of introducing Scandinavian-style open-faced sandwiches to our menu, our supplier abruptly ran out of whole grain rye flour. It’s been two months and still no news on its future availability.

Absolute bummer.

 

  • Gluten-free vegan sourdough bread experiment

Made with roasted whole grain red jasmine rice, whole grain oats, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, and buckwheat sourdough. Inspired by the traditional Westphalian Pumpernickel of Germany; baked for 18 hours at a low temperature to achieve thorough caramelisation (technically Maillard reaction), imparting a subtly sweet, complex roasty flavour. In total, a 4 day process.

Unfortunately, the formula still needs further adjustments to achieve satisfactory bread with balanced flavor and moisture.

 

  • Top: Light Rye Sourdough
  • Bottom: Multigrain Sourdough

In regards to loaves of bread, we’re now selling more sourdough than non-sourdough in our shop---huzzah! This is great progress considering demand for sourdough in Siem Reap was nearly non-existent several years ago.

 

  • Photo I took of the Colosseum in Rome, Italy

  • Before-baked Roman-style pizza: pork salami, red bell peppers & cherry tomatoes roasted in garlic infused olive oil, fresh onions & garlic, homemade sweet basil pesto, passata pomodoro (strained tomato) on semi-sourdough (also includes fresh mozzarella but not pictured)

  • After-baked Roman-style pizza

Inspired by "pizza al taglio" (by the slice) after visiting Rome last year (2017), I began my quest on pizza making with help from my partner Jana. What makes Roman pizzas distinct from other styles is its crispier, crunchier base and unusually long fermentation, from 3 to 4 days, to enhance flavour. Because of these characteristics, a heavier layer of toppings is possible, allowing bolder flavours to shine and complement each other.

 

  • Vegan version of our "Caprese Sandwich": cashew & cultured soy milk mozzarella, fresh & marinated sun-dried tomato, homemade sweet basil pesto on ciabatta

We currently have 3 sandwiches on our regular menu: The Smokey (featuring smoked scamorza cheese), Parma Ham & Rocket Sandwich, and Caprese Sandwich. On my own accord, I made a vegan version of our Caprese Sandwich. First, I created "soy yoghurt" (cultured soy milk) from scratch, learnt and applied a few culinary techniques, conducted many trials and errors, and voila, a vegan substitute for fresh mozzarella. I'm not vegan, but we have an increasing number of vegan and vegetarian customers.

Interestingly, as an indirect result of making a vegan substitute for fresh mozzarella, I acquired more in-depth knowledge on other forms of fermentation, namely pickling and growing mold.

 

My partner Jana has been churning out an assortment of cakes. Nearly every week a new creation is put in our cake display for public consumption. We’ve now established a reputation for our "comfort cakes" including New York-style baked cheesecakes, carrot cake (with passionfruit cream cheese frosting), tiramisu cake, as well as fun, colourful custom made cakes.

 

  • Top: pecan Nutella brownie “cake shake”
  • Bottom: cherry cheesecake “cake shake”

One of our latest creations: “Cake Shakes”.

Essentially, it's our already decadent cakes blended with the richest, creamiest, heaviest gelato ice cream we could find in Siem Reap. Yes, it's sinful. 

 

  • Lox cream cheese bagel: house cured salmon (gravlax) on freshly baked bagel & cream cheese, served with capers, cherry tomatoes, red shallots & frisee lettuce

It was a big hit when we introduced our lox cream cheese bagels months ago. Prior, we only had (flavoured) cream cheese bagels for breakfast. However, earlier last month (August 2018) we hired a seasoned cook, reorganized our kitchen and launched a small but appetizing breakfast menu. If you didn’t notice, they all involve bread of some sort (of course, our own and baked on premise), a critical component to our bakery’s concept.

Once a nearly deserted bakery in the mornings, Bang Bang is now gaining buzz for breakfast and brunch.

 

  • Mrs. Panha, our coffee aficionado / barista

  • Skilled latte art

Although we’re primarily known for our cakes and breads, our investment in espresso coffee equipment and training is beginning to pay off (we love espresso coffees). Mrs. Panha, an enthusiastic coffee barista, is driving us forward and gradually luring more and more people to our coffee.

 

Quite frankly, we don’t know where our bakery will lead us. It’s continually evolving, with our creativity as the catalyst. However, I do have a few personal goals: 1) to import or build a grain mill and experiment with freshly ground flour; 2) to experiment with other (whole) grains; 3) to teach or educate Cambodian locals about bread baking, free of charge (most locals have little to no knowledge on how bread works).

Some days I feel lost as a baker, not knowing if my efforts will amount to anything. Other days I’m grateful for the obstacles we’ve overcome, while keeping in mind that we’ll face unexpected and ongoing challenges.

Nonetheless, we strive.

Thank you for following our journey. If you wish to get regular updates on us, feel free to visit our Facebook or Instagram page below. Happy baking, all!


Mr. Zita
Head Bread Baker
Bang Bang

[f] www.facebook.com/BakeryBangBang
[I] www.instagram.com/BakeryBangBang

 

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

About 5 months ago, on July 20th, 2017, my partner Jana and I (Mr. Zita) opened our bakery called “Bang Bang” in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The name Bang Bang is derived from the Khmer / Cambodian word “Nombang”, meaning “bread”. We specialize in sourdough breads and cakes, with heavy influences from North America, UK, Germany and France. Why so international? Simply because I’m Cambodian-Canadian and my partner is German-British. ;)

 

  • Shopfront of Bang Bang bakery

 

  • Me, baker Zita, amidst our bread display

  • Jana's Spinach & Feta Quiche, Cherry Bakewell Tart, & Apple Crumble / Crisp

As a predominantly self-taught baker, with zero practical work experience in a bakery, I expected big challenges---oh boy, was I right! During the first week of opening Bang Bang, I slept an average of 1 to 3 hours per day! Long, weary work days (14+ hours) became the norm; progress also impeded by lack of money, equipment and skilled bakers.

 

  • Coffee-Almond Brioche Braid (topped with toasted almonds and pearl sugar) & Caffe Latte

 

  • Cambodia-made, German-traditional smoked Black Forest ham on freshly baked French-style country sourdough (Pain de Campagne), with fresh arugala / rocket, & housemade spiced mustard-mayo sauce

 

  • Locally produced fresh mozzarella (100g), fresh & marinated sun-dried tomatoes, with housemade sweet basil pesto on freshly baked Italian-style ciabatta

Before opening Bang Bang, it wasn’t our intention to serve coffee, tea, or sandwiches. Our bakery, we thought, would primarily offer breads and cakes. We realized we made a grave mistake after several friends and long-time supporters asked us what beverages they could pair with our (cream cheese) bagels and sweets...

The week before opening our bakery, we hastily bought a new espresso machine, new counters for the espresso machine, and scrambled to find an adequately skilled barista---luckily, we did!

 

Despite criticisms, after operating Bang Bang for 2 months we decided to close the bakery for a month (October) during the rainy season / low tourist season.

Jana and I were fatigued and exhausted, at the brink of our mental and physical limits, the bakery still understaffed and unable to efficiently accommodate dine-in customers. We needed time to recover, to rethink and reorganize the bakery.

Off we went to Europe for inspiration and rejuvenation.

 

 

  • Birmingham, England. Left, The Bull Ring; right, St. Martin's Church

 

  • Birmingham, England. Coffee, coffee, coffee

 

  • Birmingham, England. Peel & Stone Bakery

Our first stop in Europe was Birmingham, England (my partner’s home city). Of course, as many as we could, we visited bakeries, cafes and coffee shops. Unquenched by our findings (Birmingham surprisingly had few independent bakeries), we later visited nearby cities Bristol and Bath, and discovered Bristol had a thriving, artisanal bakery scene.

 

  • Bristol, England. Train Station

 

  • Bristol, England. Hart’s Bakery

 

  • Bristol, England. Hart’s Bakery

 

  • Bristol, England. Hart’s Bakery

 

  • Bristol, England. The Bristol Loaf

 

  • Bristol, England. The Bristol Loaf

 

  • Bristol, England. Pinkman’s Bakery

 

  • Bristol, England. Pinkman’s Bakery

 

  • Bristol, England. East Bristol Bakery

 

  • Bristol, England. East Bristol Bakery

 

  • Bath, England. The Bertinet Bakery

 

  • Bath, England. The Bertinet Bakery

 

  • Our hotel room in Birmingham after returning from Bristol & Bath

Never having been in England, or Europe for that matter, I received a number of complaints before leaving Siem Reap. “Why are you going to England?” they said. “Food in the UK is bland and terrible,” and a bombardment of similar comments. To my relief, I found out it was the contrary!

After doing “research” at a plethora of pubs and restaurants (including dining at a Michelin Star restaurant), I concluded that English / British cuisine has something unique and tasty to offer that most countries will find difficult to replicate. Additionally, it was a major learning experience for me. I now understand the British palate better (quite different from North American and Australian), enabling me to cater more effectively to my British customers.

 

  • My happy team and I (middle)

Stay tuned for part 2 where I summarize our trip to Rome, Paris, Barcelona and London, and the solutions we implemented to keep our bakery going!

Happy baking, all! And hope you had a wonderful Christmas / holidays!

Mr. Zita
Head Bread Baker
Bang Bang

[f] www.facebook.com/BakeryBangBang
[I] www.instagram.com/BakeryBangBang

 

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

After the success of my "Monster Multigrain Miche", I went on to develop sourdough rye breads. Again. Failing repeatedly across the span of 2 years, I finally achieved what I call "Strong Rye".



  • "Strong Rye": German-style sourdough rye bread (Roggenmischbrot) featuring 80% whole grain rye flour (T170) imported from France and freshly ground German-style spice mix (caraway, fennel, etc)

The formula is an adaptation of Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread recipe "80% Sourdough Rye with Rye Soaker." The crust; crackly and boldly baked. The crumb; dense, smooth, and moist (or "juicy" as Germans would say), with a light tang accompanied by a strong, earthy, sweet aroma and flavour of rye. Unfortunately, no photo of the crumb. I keep forgetting to snap a shot!

Approved and thoroughly enjoyed by 2 German taste-testers. I am happy to say, to my surprise, the Strong Rye is now picking up in popularity by my customers!



  • My farmers market bread display. Left to right: Bagels, Strong Rye, Monster Multigrain Miche, Ciabatta. Top: "Normandy" white bread

After attending my local farmers market nearly every Sunday for 2 and a half years, I have begrudgingly decided to discontinue my attendance as a vendor starting from this Sunday. To hasten progress, I must concentrate my efforts into opening our bakery-shop with my partner (Cake Baker) Jana. 

 

Major construction and installations are completed. Now on to "minor" tasks: designing uniforms, designing signage, designing menu, procuring tableware, packaging and outstanding equipment, setting up POS system, hiring and training new staff, and the list goes on and on and on.

We hope to launch 3 weeks from now but further flexibility and patience may be required.


A week ago we received our proofing baskets (Brotformen) from Germany. I'm unreasonably excited as these do not exist in Cambodia. However, now having these baskets at hand, I will likely search for rattan crafters to produce custom baskets for our bakery. Another lengthy but worthwhile project!

Cheers and happy baking, all. I shall update you again in the near or distant future!

Mr. Zita
Head Bread Baker
Bang Bang

[f] www.facebook.com/BakeryBangBang
[I] www.instagram.com/BakeryBangBang

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

Since my last post on TFL (see here), I've been steadily working on my shop with my partner Jana. Roof repaired and renovated, parking repaved, custom fixtures and furniture in progress (photos to be posted on a later date). Additionally, sooner than expected, I restarted my sourdough starter last month, February, and conducted countless experiments. 



  • Type 65 bread flour & Type 80 high extraction flour 

What prompted the resuscitation of my starter? Well, understandably, the flours above! After waiting for several weeks, I finally received 25 kg each of Type 65 bread flour and Type 80 high extraction flour from France.

 

  • 2.2 kg / 4.8 lbs Sourdough Multigrain Miche

  • Crumb of Sourdough Multigrain Miche; contains unbleached wheat & rye flour, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, rolled oats, red rice & polenta 

What resulted after a month of experimenting was the "Sourdough Multigrain Miche". Previously called "7 Grain", my sourdough multigrain originated in early 2014, an adaptation and combination of Jeffrey Hamelman's "5 Grain Levain" and Chad Robertson's "Oat Porridge Bread'. Since that time, I have gradually refined the formula. However, the latest and greatest change is the final weight (from 800 g to 2.2 kg), the addition of flaxseeds and red jasmine rice, and the "incubation" temperature of the sourdough. The Sourdough Multigrain Miche now has an improved balance of acidity, namely increased acetic acid by developing a stiffer starter at approx 21C for 13 hours. 

Besides better flavour, the sheer size and inclusion of (cooked) rice improved the softness, custard-like texture of the bread, as well as extended shelf life. An important factor when, hopefully sometime this year, I sell and deliver my sourdough breads to other cities in Cambodia. 



  • Hybrid baguettes using poolish & sourdough starter

In tandem with the Sourdough Multigrain Miche, I've been experimenting with "hybrid" baguettes incorporating a poolish and sourdough starter. Similar to Tartine Baguettes by Chad Robertson, but still not satisfied with results. Admittedly, I'm also having difficulties shaping the baguettes beyond its standard hydration but will continue practicing. 

Thank you for taking the time to read my post, possibly with keen interest. I promise, I shall post further updates on my bakery and shop.

Cheers and happy baking,

Mr. Zita
Head Bread Baker
Bang Bang

[f] www.facebook.com/BakeryBangBang
[I] www.instagram.com/BakeryBangBang

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

In September 2016, I had the opportunity to meet TFL member Derek (yozzause) in Fremantle, Australia. Having developed my baking skills exclusively in Siem Reap, Cambodia, Derek took me to an Italian bakery called "Il Panino" and provided my first, real experience at a proper bakery kitchen.



  • Nick, founder and head baker of Il Panino, with his shop assistant

 

  • Baker Nick and retired baker / baking instructor Derek

 

  • Dough roller machine churning out... rolled dough

 

  • Derek positioning rolled dough onto a couche (baker's cloth)

 

  • 4 deck oven with rotating hearth!

 

  • Baker Nick scoring dough

 

  • Il Panino's bread display

 

After briefly volunteering at Il Panino and accumulating vast amounts of insight, Derek took me to a TAFE institution where he formerly taught. However, on this particular day, we were given permission to teach and assist a student in preparing sweet fruit buns. 

Fast forward 2 weeks, I find myself in Melbourne, Australia, with my partner Jana. Of the bakeries we visited, 2 stood out and filled my heart with inspiration: "Lune Croissanterie" and "Frank's Elsenwood Bakery".



  • a team of bakers at Lune Croissanterie skillfully preparing puff pastries by hand

 

  • Frank's Elsenwood Bakery: a small, humble bakery specializing in German-style sourdough breads

 

After returning to Siem Reap in October 2016, my partner and I decided to collaborate and launch a new bakery: "Bang Bang". (I had previously owned and operated a microbakery called "Zita's Bakery".) The name Bang Bang is derived from the Khmer / Cambodian word "nombang", meaning "bread". With much assistance from our concept designer, our logo was finalized after a month of deliberation---no exaggeration, a month!

Despite our bakery's name, we will offer more than breads. My partner Jana, a trained chef and cake baker, will also contribute her cakes, tarts, and other sweets. 



  • my baking assistant and I (wearing a blue shirt) at a local Sunday farmers market

 

  • our cakes, tarts, and quiches by baker Jana at the farmers market

 

We now have a rented shop space, making slow but steady progress on our layout design while consulting with our interior designer. When our bakery will open, only the future knows. In the meantime, we will continue to bake our breads and cakes for the local farmers market every Sunday. Additionally, until our shop is open, I've put my sourdough breads and doughnuts on hold due to its high maintenance and my need for flexibility with time. I admit, it's driving me insane considering sourdough breads is my passion...


Thank you for reading. If there's any interest, I will continue to post updates on my journey towards opening and operating a retail shop in Cambodia.

Best regards and happy baking,

Mr. Zita
Head Bread Baker
Bang Bang

[f] www.facebook.com/BakeryBangBang
[I] www.instagram.com/BakeryBangBang

 

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

So far it's been a wild and unexpected journey this year. Who would've thought, I'd stray into a different direction: sourdough doughnuts.

 

January, this year, I was churning out new sourdough and (French-style) yeasted breads for clients and the local Sunday farmers market. After a year of resisting, I launched my own version of poolish (demi) baguettes, containing a small portion of whole durum wheat flour. And after months of anticipation, I launched sourdough breads with varied ratios of medium rye flour (the only rye flour available in Cambodia) and spices (caraway, coriander, fennel, etc). However, due to extreme and fluctuating temperatures in Cambodia, plus lack of equipment, I was unable to retain consistent or successful results. With much dismay, the rye breads were discontinued.

Of course, I haven't given up.

 

 

Collaborating with various partners at the farmers market, I found myself selling a limited range of artisanal goods to pair with my breads. Local honey by an artisanal beekeeper. Fresh, healthy dips such as chickpea hummus and eggplant baba ganoush by a boutique hotel. Tropical fruit jams by a French creole restaurant.

Whatever the reasons, early February I was inspired to make doughnuts. Viola! With help from the French creole restaurant, my mango jam and pineapple jam Berliners came into existence. (Berliners are German yeasted doughnuts, with high ratios of butter, typically filled with plum butter, fruits jams, and sometimes cream.)

 

Mid February, I learnt I had an aptitude for making palatable, perhaps great tasting, flavoured cream cheese. Without delay, I advertised and promoted a Sunday farmers market "bagel brunch special". I began with plain cream cheese, roasted garlic & Italian herb cream cheese, and walnut honey cream cheese, on a freshly baked plain, poppy, or sesame seed bagel. Combined with my reputation for making some of the best bagels in town, plus my new tropical jam doughnuts, I managed to lure in a flock of new customers. 

 

Since then, my so-called Berliners evolved into a different entity, thus losing that classification. Through curiosity and experimentation, I introduced ripe starter into my doughnuts, significantly reduced yeast amount, proofed the rounded dough overnight in a chiller, and deep fried them at a specific temperature range. My discovery: the delicate, thin crust was more crisp, the crumb more light and airy, the flavour more buttery and complex. Further enhancing its flavour, last week I learnt how to make pastry creams. Calling it the "Zebra Cream Sourdough Doughnut" (photo above), the doughnut contained 2 separate fillings: vanilla bean cream and Belgian dark chocolate (70% cocoa) cream. 

Moreover, as requested by customers, I made the "Everything Bagel", topped with... well, everything: poppy seeds, sesame seeds, coarse sea salt, dried garlic and onions. (Blasphemy to bagel purists, I know.) I also added smoked back bacon & scallion cream cheese to the bagel brunch menu, and improved the walnut honey cream cheese by adding cinnamon and cider soaked raisins. 

With these new offers, last Sunday at the farmers market my sales nearly tripled (compared to sales from a month prior), with rave reviews.

 



What's next?

I honestly don't know. Sometimes the best things in life are unexpected, made without planning or thoughts. I can only say, I will go where the heart goes.

Best wishes and jolly baking to all,

Mr. Zita
Head Baker
Zita's Bakery

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

I've a lil' free time so I'll post something for your eyes to feast on. Plus, I promised to put more effort into posting. Apparently, a handful of you are keen to read about my progress.

 

Several weeks ago I attempted rustic-style ciabattas. Repeatedly. In the photo above, that particular ciabatta contained a bit of durum semolina (pasta flour), about 30% baker's percentage. Absolutely gorgeous, nutty, buttery aroma, I remember, but too chewy crumb.

 

For last Sunday's Farmers Market, I switched to fine durum wheat flour (and less amount) for the ciabatta and increased its hydration. I also baked up a few seeded "Couronne Bordelaise" and 6-strand honey challah topped with poppy seeds.

To attract more customers, I collaborated with 2 partners. Santa Clara (boutique hotel) produced a range of fresh, healthy dips and spreads (such as coriander pesto, smoked eggplant dip, and spicy hummus). George's (restaurant & rhumerie) supplied 3 natural, tropical fruit jams (mango, orange, coconut pineapple).

Did my strategy work? Hard to say but I was ecstatic after selling nearly all of my breads, including the Couronne! 

 

Earlier this week I made a batch of demi-baguettes for a client. For months, years even, I resisted making baguettes, going as far as denying requests from restaurants and hotels. Dozens of bakeries in town make (Vietnamese-style) baguettes by the hundreds, daily, a few producing French-style baguettes. Do I really want to compete with that, I thought?

Yes. Yes, I do now. 

 

For about 3 weeks, I developed a formula for my "brioche rolls" (aka brioche feuilletée or flaky brioche). It's a laminated brioche dough, resulting in a lighter, more flaky, more buttery brioche. Another twist: my brioche rolls contains a dollop of ripe sourdough for flavour enhancement and leavening.

For this Sunday's Farmers Market, my brioche rolls comes in 3 different delicious fillings: cinnamon palm sugar, smoked back bacon & cheese, and dark chocolate. (Which of these 3 appeals to you?)

Also, for the first time I'll sell demi-baguettes (and sourdough English muffins) to the public. Somewhat anxious because the majority of my customers are French!!

Wish me luck!

Mr. Zita
Head Baker
Zita's Bakery

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

Sometimes when my heart's heaving, when I'm struggling to smile or lift my head high, I think about my friends, my beloved customers.

One time, a regular at the farmers market gifted me a bag of organic rye flour (non-existent in Cambodia) & a glass bottle of baker's yeast... manufactured in 1956!

My jaw dropped.

Another time, another regular surprised me with a bottle of 100% pure, natural maple syrup (another scarcity in Cambodia) harvested by her family in Canada.

As a Canadian, f**king eh!!

Other times I reminisce about enthusiastic encounters with visiting bread bakers from across the globe---USA, UK, France, Germany, Italy, wherever---a few who took time & effort to find me!

When I reflect deeply on my life as a bread baker, I'm reminded of 3 critical things: I am respected; I am appreciated; And I am loved.

Despite the hardships of running a traditional sourdough bakery in Cambodia, combined with personal afflictions, its moments like these that pushes me forward.

Mr. Zita
Head Baker
Zita's Bakery​
Siem Reap, Cambodia


A brief timeline of my progress this year:


  • Earlier this year I acquired a new, triple deck, stone hearth oven from Taiwan. No steamer. I named her "Poppling". 

  • My bakery's new logo (previously "Siem Reap Bäckerei") & business cards. Made from fibrous banana tree stalks in Cambodia. Natural, biodegradable & fair trade.

  • My bake sale stall at the Sunday Farmers Market.
  • Front row: Muesli Sourdough (left) & 7 Grain Sourdough (right). Back row: an assortment of yeast breads (bagels & German-style bread rolls). 
  • Notice the "Z" on my 7 Grain loaves? They're my bestselling breads. 

  • Me, organizing my bake sale stall at a cafe. Yes, those are pretzels I'm handling.

  • My breads can be found in a few luxurious, top rated restaurants & boutique hotels in town---my preferred clients. Why? Because they make custom orders (I love new challenges) & they're willing to pay higher price for greater quality.

  • I launched a separate brand called "Kookie King" months prior to my bakery's new branding (Zita's Bakery). Besides my reputation as the "Bread Baker" in town, I'm also known to do cookies well. 

  • Challenged by my friends, I created a tropical, vegan, gluten free cookie, using as much local ingredients as possible. I call them "Cashew Kiss". Inspired by the Italian "Baci di Dama". Contains salak (snake fruit) & lime cream. 
  • Next steps: create a variety of flavours, design & produce packaging, sell them in specialty shops, cafes, restaurants, & hotels across Cambodia. (Yes, I'm highly ambitious.) 

  • Latest creation: Cider English Muffins & Swiss Cheese Buns. (Bagels are my second bestselling breads.)

An invitation to serious bread bakers: if you're heading to Siem Reap, Cambodia, please feel free to contact & visit me. I'd be honoured to meet other bread fanatics, especially established, experienced bakers. (I still consider myself a novice baker.) 

Cheers!

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

More than two months has passed since my last post on TFL, yet it feels like a brief moment in the grand scheme of things...

Anyway, never mind that. Updates, updates, updates. A few major, life changing events have happened in the past couple of months. And today I finally have a break from my bakery (in Siem Reap, Cambodia, Southeast Asia), so now’s my chance to reconnect with my fellow TFLoafers.

 

  • Greek-style pitas

  • Poppy and sesame seed mini-bagels (AKA baby-bagels)

  • Bauernbrot (German-style spiced rye sourdough bread)

For a brief while, I was regularly producing Greek-style pitas, mini-bagels, and the Bauernbrot (spiced rye sourdough bread) for clients and a weekend handicraft market. However, after much thought, I discontinued making these breads due to physical and mental exhaustion.

Really. I was pooped!

My most critical mistake was postponing staff hiring and training. Consequently, I was baking nearly every day, with less than 4 hours of sleep at a time, and developed aches in my joints from head to toe. The aches were likely the result of working large masses of dough by hand for prolonged periods. (I didn’t have a mixer and I still don’t by choice.)

 

  • Left to right (dips): Obatzda (spiced Camembert cheese spread), wasabi sour cream, seasoned tomato sauce
  • Left to right (sourdough): German-style spiced rye bread, French-Swiss influenced muesli bread, multigrain bread

  • Left to right: Homemade beef cold cuts, smoked salmon

  • Left to right: Italian pasta salad, homemade pork cold cuts

  • Left to right: Chicken roast, assorted cheeses

Late November was my birthday. I took this opportunity to host an all-you-can-eat buffet for my friends, as well as test a new sourdough bread I called “Madame Muesli”. This effort was a collaboration between me and my pseudo-brother / business partner Michael (a German chef and caterer).

(By the way, we both launched a catering company many months ago and since then have established a good reputation in town.)

 

The Madame Muesli was inspired by the French “pain de campagne” (country bread) and the Swiss muesli. 90% wheat (T65 French bread flour), 10% medium rye, featuring rolled oats, freshly toasted almonds and walnuts, and soaked black raisins.

After its positive reception at my birthday bash, I produced it for the handicraft market on the following weekend and still do to this day.

 

In early December, with just 5 vendors including myself, the first Farmers’ Market in Siem Reap was born.

Besides my breads, locally produced fruits and veggies, palm sugar, black pepper, sea salt, brown rice, free-range whole chickens and eggs were available. Miraculously, my breads sold out in only 3 hours, including the box of breads I had set aside!

 

The Farmers’ Market has opened only for the last 3 Sundays and the initiative has already acquired a few more vendors, one being Master Butcher Hagen. With over 3 decades of (butchering) experience, Mr. Hagen took the plunge and recently moved into Cambodia to start the production of artisanal German cold cuts and fresh sausages.

I’m extremely honoured and happy to say that Mr. Hagen will collaborate with my business partner and I, working closely together to improve each other’s specialties as Chef, Baker, and Butcher.

All we need now is a German beer brewer and cheese producer, then we’ll become an unstoppable culinary force in Cambodia!

 

Additionally, an Australian couple has joined the Farmers’ Market, specializing in healthy, homemade spreads and dips. Because of their worthy enterprise, sales of my breads at the market spiked!  

Funny story. They were my regular customers at a separate handicraft market. I wouldn’t have guessed that they would join the Farmers’ Market and form a partnership with me. Goes to show you, it pays to treat your customers well.


My latest creation after a month of experimenting: Chocolate Chili Brownies.

Made with chunks of Belgian dark chocolate (70% cocoa), enriched with clarified butter, free-range chicken eggs and natural palm sugar, a dash of espresso powder and buckwheat flour to amplify the earthy flavours of chocolate, a splash of Madagascar Bourbon pure vanilla extract for greater depth and roundness, and a healthy dose of freshly ground spices and chili powder to take flavours up another notch.

With a description like that, you’d expect it to be a big hit at the Farmers’ Market last Sunday. And you’re right---it was! A handful of my customers went to the Farmers’ Market specifically to purchase my brownies. A woman even did a lil’ dance while sampling them! That is, without a doubt, one of the best compliments I ever received as a baker.



So what does the future hold for me?

Well, I anticipate that I’ll venture more into brownies and cookies. I seem to have a knack of making delicious, edible squares and circles. I also foresee the production of sausage rolls and savoury pastries, thanks to Master Butcher Hagen. 

But whatever happens, I need to stay true to my heart. I’m now at the point where I must decide: will my bakery remain small and humble, or will it become more industrial and dependent on machines? Of course, I can achieve a balance... but I’ve been warned by established bakers. 

Thanks for the read and keeping me motivated. I still visit TFL every now and then, but sadly I’m often too tired to comment or post. If you wish to stay updated with my journey, to transform Cambodia into a culinary hotspot for sourdough breads, please visit my Facebook page and “like” or bookmark it.

www.facebook.com/SiemReapBackerei

Farewell bread brethren!

Zita
Head Baker
Siem Reap Backerei

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Nearly 2 months has passed since my last post. Since then, a few major events has happened. For anybody who doesn't know, I've been trying to open a specialty sourdough bakery in Siem Reap, Cambodia (Southeast Asia).

It ain't easy, that's for sure!



  • Roasted lamb, potato fries, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, tzatziki (Greek yogurt sauce), wrapped in a pocketless pita

I've made over 1,000 Greek-style pitas by hand now---my best seller and unexpectedly a favourite of the locals. And it still amazes me that I learn something new with each batch of pita dough. Most a small, minute lesson, but all accumulates into practical knowledge.

By the way, the photograph above is a Greek-style gyro by a popular pizzeria in town, fitted with my pitas. It was offered as a one-week special and, surprisingly, sold out in 2 days. Although the lamb was the main attraction, I'd like to think my pitas played a vital role in its deliciousness.

 

Because of my pitas, my business partner Michael and I were hired to cater for an event for the Embassy of India and APSARA, an organisation responsible for protecting the Angkor archaeological park.

Apparently, the host of the event wanted to sample my pitas for personal reasons at a local craft market. I was absent at the time, but Michael told me that she purchased a pita, tested it on spot, and was so impressed that she requested our staff for contact information.

The rest is history.

As Michael enlightened me with this story, my eyes began to well up with tears. Of course, I had to look away from him to retain my composure. It'd be strange to cry in a public setting, now wouldn't it?

 

Many, many months ago, don't know when, I sporadically tested an assortment of sourdough multigrain breads. Most were what I considered failures, few were satisfactory in flavour and aesthetics, but never both. For whatever reason, I halted my experiments and dove into other breads.

That changed after reading Golgi70's (Josh's) blog post on his 5 grain levain in May. It was the kindling I needed to reignite my interest in multigrain breads.

 

  • The Se7en Grain (Siebenkornbrot), final trial

On the 27th of September, or late last month, I finally took the plunge and sold my first sourdough bread to the public: the "Se7en Grain". Prior to then, I was strictly selling yeasted German bread rolls (Brötchen). Easier and less temperamental than sourdough, but not what my heart longed and desired.

I was struggling to bake larger quantities of sourdough breads because of high ambient temperatures (above 30C / 86F). However, the game changed after dedicating an air-conditioned room to bread / dough prepping.

For months I told myself the first sourdough bread I offer to the public must WOW them, blow their taste buds away, and redefine what bread was to them (particularly if they're only familiar with mass produced white bread). Did I do that? Well...

 

  • Crumb of the Se7en Grain

I had mixed responses.

The majority of my American, Australian, British, and European clients were WOWed by the Se7en Grain. In contrast, the local Cambodians and other Asians weren't sure what to think of it. 

Ingredients of the Se7en Grain: Sourdough (cultured bacteria & yeast), Unbleached wheat and rye flour, Natural mineral water, Toasted seeds (Sesame, Sunflower, Pumpkin), Rolled oats, Cornmeal, and Sea salt.

The Se7en Grain was inspired by Jeffrey Hamelman's Five-Grain Levain (Bread, pg. 182, 2nd edition), with minor influences from Chad Robertson's Oat Porridge Bread. It has a nutty, wheaty flavour, accompanied by a subtle to mild tang. And the flesh is soft, somewhat custard-like, yet pleasantly chewy.



"We sell bread, not air."

Our new slogan.

It's a humorous (and arguably disparaging) attempt to help differentiate ourselves from the French bakeries in town. At present, we sell the most heaviest, densest breads in Siem Reap, which I reluctantly admit to take pride in. But hey, a handful of our clients and passerby were amused by the slogan. On several occasions, people would stop at our stall, read it, then crack a smile or break into laughter.

 

Last Friday Michael (my business partner) and I opened our trial restaurant called "The German Bistro". It's a small, modest, Bavarian-style restaurant, opens only on Friday and Saturday evenings, featuring all-you-can-eat menus with authentic German dishes and central European-style breads (made by me, of course).

Now I know what some of you are thinking: "How the heck does Zita have time to open a restaurant?!"

The answer is simple. Because it requires little to no effort for us to open a restaurant. Michael and I already operate a thriving and reputable catering business. We have chairs, tables, tableware, and cutlery, and plenty of staff who are willing to get involved in our latest project. Our workplace also has a spacious, fully functional kitchen that's inactive during the night. And the premise can accommodate 30 or so guests. 

We don't know if our concept will work in the long run, but I'm crossing my fingers and hoping the restaurant succeeds. If it does, I can create new specialty breads and have a permanent location to station my breads for the community---a problem I've been having since my bakery startup.

 

This weekend at our local craft market I'll be selling my newest bread called "Farmer's Field" (Bauernbrot) to a wider audience. I'm still anxious about it. It's a sourdough with 55% rye flour, therefore a "Roggenmischbrot", and contains freshly ground German spices. It has a sharper tang, a crustier crust (which may be problematic since most of my clients don't own bread knives), but is the most authentic German rye bread in Siem Reap. Actually, I don't know that for certain, but I'd say it's a high probability.

Wish me luck!

Farewell for now and best wishes to my fellow bakers, supporters, and everybody who watched me grow into the baker I am today. You're all lovely and inspirational people, to me at least. :)

Zita
Head Baker
Siem Reap Bäckerei

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