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.
- 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
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!
Siem Reap Bäckerei