The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Greetings from Cambodia (Southeast Asia)!

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bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

Greetings from Cambodia (Southeast Asia)!

Hello! My name is Zita and I've recently developed an interest--perhaps an insipient passion--in bread baking. Unfortunately, as a Canadian-born citizen now living in Cambodia, a country situated in Southeast Asia, I'm limited to fewer resources (e.g. lack of flour varieties, baking equipment, etc.). In spite of that, I shall persist and attempt to bake a decent loaf of bread. (In fact, as of now I'm educating myself on the wonders of sourdough bread!)

I've been lurking around The Fresh Loaf for several weeks and, nearly on a whim, decided to register to the site today. I didn't bother to join earlier because I felt that I had little to contribute to the community, being a complete amateur in baking. However, I hope to procure and share whatever insights I may gain throughout the course of my time as an amateur baker. Hopefully that entails many, many years!

Thank you all for creating this special community of enthusiastic bakers. It's pleasure to be a part of it.

yy's picture
yy

Welcome, Zita! I'd love to learn about the types of bread or other baked goods that people eat in your current community. To what extent does the French influence persist in the food? Happy baking!

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

Thank you for taking an interest in Cambodian foods!

Apart from the French, Cambodian cuisine is heavily influenced by Vietnamese, Chinese, and Thai foods. (However, it should be noted that Thai cuisine is based on Cambodian cuisine, not vice versa.)

Speaking as a mere observer, French bread seems to be common in the local Cambodian's diet. Often served in the form of banh mi or Vietnamese sandwiches, the locals prefer their French bread to have thin, chewy, pale yellow-brown crusts and a lighter, porous-less crumb. If I'm not mistaken, enriched white bread, typcially shaped in torpedos, batards or baguettes, are also popular. These types of enriched bread tend to be mildly sweet with a white, creamy, cottony-soft texture and often eaten with curries or condensed milk.

In Cambodia, baking is not a common method of cooking dough. Deep frying and steaming dough, on the other hand, is more typical. Baozi or Chinese steamed buns, particularly banh bao, are consumed as snacks, sold in street stalls in more urbanized areas. (I believe these buns are made with a combination of bleached wheat flour and rice flour to give them their characteristic sheen, white colour and cakey texture.) Further, many Cambodians enjoy eating foods prepared with (glutinous) rice flour, such as banh xeo and summer rolls. Occassionally, I will also spot street vendors selling what I believe are puris--frail sheets of Indian bread, consumed as snacks.

 

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

When my daughter was in Cambodia (7 years ago) she had the same problem with getting high quality flour.  She also stayed with yeast (rather than baking with sourdough) because it was more flexible/controllable - under the conditions of quirky power availability (up north near the Vietnamese border) she could punch it down and shape/proof it again to be ready when the power was perhaps back on.  I don't know where you are located, but in Phnom Penh things are perhaps a little better.

Let us know if you figure out how/where to get good bread flour and how you manage your starter in the elevated temperatures.  Others would benefit.

Zoologuy's picture
Zoologuy

Zita, 

 

Congratulations for taking on this craft in a place without obvious external support. I can relate to your situation, having recently lost the use of my mixer. I've been doing only hand-mixes for several weeks, mostly wild yeast (aka sourdough) mixes, so I know it can be done. My minimal equipment is a digital scale, a thermometer and a pair of cast iron "Dutch ovens".  Of course I'm assuming a bowl,smooth surface to knead on, and an oven (I have had some success with the Dutch ovens in a gas grill out on the patio in hot weather.). Baking boules in the DOs produces crusty loaves very close to ones I've baked in a professional deck oven during a baking class. A friend manasimilar get similar results in an electric toaster oven with a cast iron lidded pot, but I haven't found one with a big enough cavity to accommodate my 7" DOs.

 

Good fortune to you.

 

Michael

breaducation's picture
breaducation

Michael,

The setup you have is the best. Just some hands,  scale, thermometer and a dutch oven. You can get amazing bread this way as I'm sure you know and you can't beat the simplicity. I love it.

 

Zita,

Good luck with your baking! Can't wait to see the loaves you turn out.

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Welcome, Zita!  I'll be following your progress with interest.

-Floyd

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

Thank you all for your kind words! It's greatly appreciated.

hanseata's picture
hanseata

I can imagine that it is quite a challenge to bake bread in an environment where not every kind of flour or bread baking ingredient is easily available.

But why so self-deprecating to choose a user name like "bakingbadly"? I cann0t imagine that that is true!

Karin

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

My user name isn't necessarily a reflection of how I percieve my baking skills--well, not entirely. I will admit, I often make a slew of baking errors, resulting in deformed breads and pastries. In addition to that, it's not unusual for me to criticize and sometimes belittle myself when confronted by my failures. However, what's important to me, and I imagine many others, is that I learn from my mistakes. My countless misjudgments, faults and errors will mold themselves into a wealth of knowledge that I'll be able to utilize, and it is that which will permit me to hone my skills as an amateur baker.

That said, "baking badly" isn't always bad. If I were to extend the length of my username to better depict my baking skills, it would be "bakingbadlybutlearningalot".

I thank you Karin for sharing your kind thoughts. 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

No worries!  The one thing we all have have in common on TFL, when it comes to bread baking, is that we were all amateurs at one time - and most of us are still amatures - so you fit right in from the beginning of your bread baking journey and will still fit in when you become a pro! 

Haven't been to Cambodia since 1972.  Things have to be better there now :-)

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

Thank you for your kind sentiments!

And indeed, Cambodia has made much progress since that time. :)

invisiblechef's picture
invisiblechef

Hi Zita, I see that your last post was in 2012. We have a cafe/bakery in Battambang. I was trained in the US with wonderful, consistent ingredients and therefore bake wonderfully consistent product (most of the time). However, I really hit a wall when trying to bake artisan breads with the local Cambodian or Chinese flours.

Our muffins, cookies and quick breads are good. Pies, cakes and brownies are fine.Pizza is good. Still working on great croissants and baguettes.

Have you been successful in your pursuit of the perfect loaf?

I am currently stateside, but hope to attack the problem anew when I get back to Cambodia.

If you or our fellow Fresh Loafers have any new insights, I would greatly appreciate hearing them. If your travels take you to Battambang, please stop in to the Green Mango Cafe and Bakery for breakfast, lunch or desserts.

Cheers Chef V.

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

Hello Chef V.,

My latest post was in March 13th, 2014:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/37560/my-quest-flour-bread-bangkok

Since my introduction I've been consistently baking bread and I'm now attempting to open a sourdough bakery in Siem Reap.

My bakery is heavily German influenced and I've managed to get my hands on unbleached wheat flour imported from Germany, as well as medium rye flour. Next step is procuring my own mill and whole grains in bulk.

I'm not sure what you define as the "perfect loaf", but for me it's dense, hearty, crusty, and made partly with freshly-milled, stone-ground whole grains, without any artificial ingredients including commercial yeast. 

I suspect most wheat flours in Cambodia and China are bleached and contains lower protein (gluten) content. This equates to a greater lack of flavour and poorer structure of the bread. Perhaps that's why you're having trouble with them?

Should I ever find myself in Battambang, I'll be sure to visit your cafe and bakery.

Zita