The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

bakingbadly's blog

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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

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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

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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

 

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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

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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

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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!

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bakingbadly

Man oh man, how long has it been? 3 months since my last post on TFL? Well, it’s about time I post a quick update on my progress.

For those who don’t know, I’m an amateur baker turned pro (for about a year), now operating a sourdough microbakery called Siem Reap Bäckerei in Cambodia, Southeast Asia.

 

In my previous post, I mentioned the launch of a Farmers’ Market in Siem Reap, the first of its kind in the city. Initially, traffic was high and steady but since then has slowly dwindled.  

The future existence of the Farmer’s Market seems doubtful, but I’ll remain optimistic until the ship sinks.

 

About a couple of months ago I discontinued the production of my bread rolls. Too much effort for too little money. Some of my regulars were upset with the decision, but what else could I do? Plus, my health and happiness was compromised. The bread rolls weren’t naturally leavened and my heart belonged to sourdough. 

 

In early April, one of my clients, a luxury resort in Siem Reap, requested me to prepare challot (plural for challah) to their specifications for a Jewish event in March. Having little experience with challah, I was reluctant to accept the request but did so anyway. I had one month to prepare myself, so why the heck not?

Every week thereafter, I tested and adjusted my recipes, offered and sold my experimental challot at the Farmers’ Market.

 

Finally, trial after trial I was satisfied with my final product. Made with a stiff sourdough, unbleached T65 French flour, whole durum wheat flour, free-range chicken eggs, natural mineral water, extra virgin olive oil, honey, sea salt, and commercial yeast, topped with poppy seeds.

Praise the bread gods, my client and their customers were super happy with the challot!

 

Not too long ago, in mid-March, we celebrated the birthday of my business partner. We hosted 100 or so guests, with the majority being local Cambodians.

I was shocked to discover that my breads were depleted by the end of the party. Sourdough breads are generally incompatible with the palates of locals, and I was certain that the bulk of my breads would be left untouched!

For about 2 or 3 weeks I have been delivering my breads to an acclaimed Khmer restaurant called Garuda. Garuda is situated in Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia.

It’s official! My bakery’s reputation has reached beyond our home base in Siem Reap!

 

Currently, I produce only 2 sourdough breads on a regular basis: a 7-grain loaf and a muesli loaf (containing walnuts, almonds, raisins, and rolled oats). I’m now working on a third loaf I call “Snow White”. It’s a French-style country bread whose greatest advantage is its food pairing versatility. Cheeses, cold cuts, sweet or savoury dips and spreads, soups, you name it.

Trials are nearly complete, perhaps as soon as the end of this week. I’m convinced the Snow White will be a big seller, so I’ve been anxious about its completion.

 

Look! Eco-friendly, paper bag packaging!

We’re now on our way to supplying sourdough breads to a few major supermarkets in town---but mini-sized. Why? Because we now know there’s high demand for tiny, adorable breads, more so than our standard 1 kilogram and half kilogram loaves.

As a test, last Sunday I made mini 7-grains (200g each) for the first time at the Farmers’ Market. Unexpectedly, they all sold out within a few hours.

 

My latest project: opening Phsa Aha (i.e., Cambodian for “food shop”), a cooperative artisanal food shop and restaurant.

For months my business partner and I searched high and low for a cafe or restaurant to house our breads. But, then, we realized dozens of food artisans in Siem Reap were in a similar position.

In the span of a few weeks, we’ve hunted down some of the best food artisans residing in Siem Reap, including a master butcher from Germany, a pastry chef from France, a former barista / now coffee consultant from Australia, a cheese producer from Italy, a free-range egg producer from Switzerland, several farmers of organic produce, and a few other skilled persons in the food arts.

Phsa Aha is coming into fruition, folks, and I can hardly contain my excitement!

 

Although I’m not around as often as I like, please feel free to message me for tips, thoughts, or whatever. It’s nice to stay connected with fellow bread bakers, especially in a country where they’re far from many.

Thanks so much for reading up on my bakery. Farewell and may your breads give you and others everlasting happiness!

Zita
Head Baker 
Siem Reap Bäckerei

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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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bakingbadly

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

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

Several months ago I took a risk and plunged. I opened a microbakery focusing on central European-style breads... in Cambodia, Southeast Asia. Crazy, ain’t it? Prior to that, I was just an amateur baker, with a mediocre office job, who was obsessed with sourdough.

Anyway, during the last 2 weekends I sold my breads at a local craft market. So far we haven’t done too well, but before I get into details let’s fill you in on what we’ve been doing to stay afloat.

Caution: Photos of delicious German food ahead.

 

  • Boiled bread dumplings

  • Bavarian-style stewed cabbage with pork

  • Bavarian-style pork roast (slow cooked in vegetable broth, then broiled)

My German business partner, Michael, is infatuated with cooking. Unlike me, he has a lot of professional experience in the food and beverage industry. Over 20 years of it, actually. However, his culinary kryptonite is making breads and pastries.

That’s where I come in!

Together we launched a catering company (in addition to the microbakery as a subsidiary) in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and every Sunday we cook and deliver BBQ specials.

 

  • Pork tenderloin roast, imported beef pastrami, Cambodia-made black pepper & garlic salami

  • Seasoned cottage cheese with diced red bell pepper

  • Obatzda (German cheese-butter dip)

Two Sundays ago for a private party of 30 guests, from late afternoon to past midnight we prepared and served assorted cold cuts, cheeses, bread rolls, salads, meatballs, sausages, chicken drumsticks, satays (grilled meat skewers served with peanut sauce), and homemade dips.

The day after the party we provided Asian foods to a company event with approx. 500 guests.

So in the span of 3 days, we had to organize food for a craft market, a private party, and a company event. As you can imagine, it was a hectic and sleepless weekend.

 

On Thursday, August 21st, we launched a giveaway on Facebook, a social media platform that many of our clients use. Prizes included a new toaster oven, nonstick baking pans, and a one-year supply of German bread rolls. (Not a bad prize, eh?)

To our surprise, the winner was an American expat who was raising a family of geese and ducks with her husband. Talk about an unusual set of pets! What’s more unusual is that the flock came with their house lease.

Moreover, the giveaway had unintended consequences.

The Facebook giveaway indirectly led us to a professional event planner and a seasoned cook (garde manger) who has worked in a Michelin star restaurant. We’re likely to collaborate and join efforts in the near future---boo-yah for successful marketing!

 

  • Poppy seed and plain German bread rolls (Brötchen)

  • Thuringian-style sausages / bratwursts

  • Grilled chicken skewers

For our first craft market, starting at the end of last month (August), we sold fresh German bread rolls, bratwursts, Cambodian papaya salad with grilled chicken skewers, and sliced tropical fruits.

We nearly cancelled our attendance because of our busy agenda (prepping for a private party and company event) and the imminent downpour of rain. It’s currently monsoon season in Cambodia and the craft market is outdoors. Not a good combination! 

 

There were some amazing things at the market, by the way. Homemade infused rice wine and rum, paintings and sculptures, ceramics and clay pottery, clothing articles, jewelry, and the list goes on and on.

The craft market, as I saw it, was a community of local artists and artisans. It was encouraging to see and meet others who were passionate about their (handcrafted) products as we were passionate about our own. 

 

For nearly a month I’ve been working on a new bread recipe.

They’re shaped and poached like bagels, but lack the chew and density. They’re treated with an alkaline solution, but lack the punctuated taste of pretzels. They’re cracked like a Roggenbrot (whole rye bread) and contain sourdough and German spices, but lack the closed crumb. Rather, it’s well aerated like a French baguette.

So what the heck is it? I don’t know, but I stuck with “German spiced bagels” for the sake of brevity. Perhaps I should give them a new name because it’s nothing like a typical bagel, pretzel, or German bread.

Maybe “Zagel”? (My name is Zita and the breads are bagel-shaped.)

 

Last Saturday for the craft market I baked a small batch of the bacon and cheese “Zagels”.

Made with sourdough, unbleached wheat & rye flour, natural mineral water, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and freshly ground spices (caraway, coriander, and fennel seeds). No added sugar or commercial yeast.

The Zagels were also fermented for approx. 20 hours, poached in a baking soda solution, and topped with Cambodia-made panchetta (Italian spiced bacon) and caramalized cheese.

I also convinced Michael to prepare his "obatzda", a German-Bavarian cheese delicacy made with a soft cheese, cultured butter, Weissbier (German wheat beer), sweet paprika, and other seasoning. Believe me, it takes the flavour profile of the Zagels to another level. 

 

Despite its deliciousness, the Zagels did not sell well. Nor did my bread rolls or our food in general. As I mentioned earlier, monsoon season and outdoors market is a bad combination.

Michael and I expect to sustain a profit loss at the market until mid-October to early November, when dry season enters and tourists flock into the country. ‘Til then I’ll continue to experiment and bake happily.

Lastly, I’d like to thank TFL members for sending me heartfelt messages after my last blog post. I was working strenuously (I still don’t have a dough mixer or baking assistant) and slept only a few hours at a time. Some of you urged me to rest better and delegate a few of my duties, and since then I have. I’m now in much better condition, both physically and mentally.

Thanks for the guidance and encouragement, all!  See you around and best wishes to your endeavours!

Zita
Head Baker
Siem Reap Bäckerei

 

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