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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
- 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
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!
Head Bread Baker