The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Coconut Cashew SD & Brezeln (German Pretzels)

bakingbadly's picture

Coconut Cashew SD & Brezeln (German Pretzels)

Long time no read. :)

For the last month I've been busy testing new sourdough formulas, adapting them, testing them---repeatedly. So much so that I was confident enough to launch a taste-testing party. Why? Because I intend to open my own bakery, here in Cambodia, Southeast Asia.

Two days ago was the BIG day. And prior to the BIG day was three weeks of planning and preparation by my German friend / business partner (Michael) and I. This entailed inviting strangers who were raised or lived in central Europe for several years, primarily Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Reason being, I'm attempting to specialize in central European breads or breads reminiscent of them.


The taste-testing party was held at our house. Yes, Michael and I share a two-story house. We often joke and say this is a perfect arrangement. Formerly a chef and F&B manager at restaurants and hotels, he can cook for me, while I can bake for him (and his wife).

We also borrowed tables, wine and beer glasses, plates, cutlery, and other equipment from restaurant owners. Further, by my request, Michael prepared pork roast (cooked for 7 hours in a drum barrel), beer can chicken, and ratatouille (vegetable stew). My duty was to bake a "European-style sourdough" and "German-style pretzels". 

I opted to bake a coconut cashew sourdough. Yes, I know, that's nowhere near to "European-style". However, I have been working on this formula for nearly a month, conducting many, many failed trials.

Ingredients: Sourdough culture, Unbleached white wheat flour, Whole durum wheat flour, Natural mineral water, Toasted cashews, Sea salt, Toasted coconut.

Note: I accidentally discovered that toasted coconut, in small amounts (i.e., 1% in baker's percentage) keeps the bread moist for days, without compromising the flavours of the bread. It's truly amazing.

Sadly, this is not a laugenbrezel (lye pretzel). Food-grade lye does not exist in Cambodia and I cannot in good conscience use drain cleaners as part of food preparation. Are food-grade lyes and drain cleaners one and the same? I don't know, maybe. But for now I'm going to play it safe.

The best alternative was baked soda, a.k.a. sodium carbonate. It gets the pretzels nice and dark, but the taste isn't exactly on the dot. Remember, my goal is to prepare German-style pretzels.

But I should mention: Despite my goal I've added my own twist to the pretzels (did you catch my joke?... Twist, get it?) My pretzels are made with sourdough and contains freshly ground spices: caraway, fennel, coriander, and Kampot black pepper. 

Kampot black pepper is grown only in Cambodia. It is highly revered by many chefs around the world because of its unique flavour properties. Not only does it have heat, but it has a floral aroma, a hint of sweetness, and pairs well with many foods.

Locally produced Italian cold cuts, assorted cheeses and crackers. *Drools.* If you look closely, you can see my sourdough in the right hand corner.

Surprisingly, Cambodia has a superb variety of cheeses and wines, considering it's a "third world country". Our guests (friends, acquaintances, and strangers) brought their own cheeses, which included the following: Danish blue cheese, Camembert, Brie, Cream cheese, Roquefort, Gouda, Parmigianno-Regianno, Feta, and Irish cheddar.

Only a few hours into the "bake". (The drum barrel behaves similarly to an oven.) You cannot smell it through your screen but believe me when I say it's divine.

In the end, the beer can chicken was tender, juicy, and succulent. I still think about it now, in fact. However, the pork roast was good but not at its optimal quality. This was due to a number of factors that we couldn't control.

Here we are performing critical analysis of the pork roast. Michael is on the left, I'm in the middle, and our Swiss-German friend to the right. You can see it on our faces. We know our pork roast and we weren't totally satisfied.

I also want to point out that my (custom) chef coat was a gift from Michael. The taste-testing party occurred on the day after my actual birthday. Thus, the taste-testing party was also treated as a belated birthday party. Now that's called being efficient. :)

So what's the verdict on the pretzels? And the coconut cashew sourdough? Was it reminiscent to central European breads?

Well, according to a handful of German and Swiss natives (couldn't find any willing Austrians) and ex-residents of Germany, YES! The visuals, aroma, texture, and taste of my breads reminded them of breads of their (former) homeland. And they enjoyed it---a few of them, ecstatically. 

So what's next? First, I need to eat all these delicious leftovers. Second, I will continue to improve my existing formulas and recipes. 

Hopefully sometime this month I'll cross the borders into Thailand and find the right contacts. We need higher quality flour and food-grade lye. And yes, a suitable oven and mixer. 

I'll keep you updated with my progress. In the meanwhile, I won't be as active on TFL but I'll lurk around. :)

Have a wonderful day / night, fellow bakers. 



dabrownman's picture

Sounds like it was a hit besides the less than perfect pig.  I'm so glad to see you working on you bread craft and recipes.  Hope your bakery becomes a reality soon!

Happy Baking Zita

bakingbadly's picture

:) Thanks Dab! 

The humidity was too high, thus preventing the formation of crackly skin, and the pig wasn't mature enough. It lacked a lot of flavour despite being marinated hours beforehand. It was still good, but could be much better.

Take care and happy baking,


hanseata's picture

To your birthday and this exciting venture! I wish you and your partner all the best, and cross my fingers that it works out for you.

Interesting, your observation about toasted coconut in bread, I'll keep that in mind.

Best wishes,



bakingbadly's picture

Thank you, Karin! It's great to hear from you... I can't remember the last time I heard/read from you!

I had conducted 3 separate trials (plus a few more to make sure it wasn't a fluke) using nearly the same formula: 1) without desiccated coconut; 2) with un-toasted desiccated coconut; 3) with toasted desiccated coconut. It was evident that the toasted coconut sharply increased the moisture retention of the bread. Also, the coconut was freshly toasted, not pre-toasted. So I don't know if you'll achieve similar results with pre-toasted coconut.

Happy baking,


varda's picture

Zita, Glad to hear you had a successful tasting.   Looks like you put in a lot of work to make it a success.   Best of luck in your venture.  -Varda

bakingbadly's picture

Fast, indeed! And it wouldn't be possible without my business partner.

Thank you for the best wishes. Likewise, I hope you achieve achieve further success in your venture... I'll be keeping an eye on your posts. :)


Janetcook's picture

Hi Zita,

So good to read up on how you have been doing again.  You have indeed been very busy and how exciting to be so close to opening your own bakery!

All of the food looks delicious!

Interesting what you discovered about coconut in breads.  I wonder why that is?  I was using coconut oil in my breads for awhile as the butter/oil percent but switched back to butter because of the flavor it added to the breads.  Coconut oil is supposed to be a good oil to eat and I know it lasts forever at room temp. without going rancid so it was easy to store…..Maybe I will go back to adding it as part of the fat ratio…..always something to fiddle with.

ANyway, thanks for the update and best of luck to you on your food adventures!

Take Care,


bakingbadly's picture

Hello Janet,

Always nice to hear from you!

I've yet to experiment with coconut oil, coconut milk, and cream of coconut, but I've used coconut cream in my breads a few times. What I do know is that toasted coconut increases the moisture retention of my breads, whereas un-toasted coconut and coconut cream does not. Interesting, isn't?

Thanks for commenting and I hope life is treating you well.


Foodzeit's picture

See a German gentleman pouring a Weihenstephan Dunkel in a wheat beer glass while holding a Pretzel between his teeth and I know that both of them must taste authentic and delicious. Wish I would have been there and invited to have a taste of those and the suckling pig! 

I showed your pictures to a fellow German Chef that is living over here in China but lived in Cambodia before and he confirmed that this must be among the best options to eat European food over there (since he left that is :) )!. Way to go "bakingbadly", Do me a favor and let us know where to find your place. My next vacations to Cambodia are in planning and then I definitely will pop by your place.

bakingbadly's picture

Very keen eye you have. ;)

Also, thank you and the German chef for the lofty compliments. Much appreciated. 

Should you ever visit Siem Reap, Cambodia, please feel free to contact me. At this time we won't have a retail shop and will focus on wholesale. Nonetheless, I can still give you tips and suggestions on the best restaurants to visit in town. Don't trust "Trip Advisor" or any of those restaurant review sites. It's complete cattle excrement. 

Happy baking,


Foodzeit's picture

excrement indeed, so I heard at least. Many thanks Zita and of course I won't go for trip advisor. But there is a french place in town that has been taken over by a bunch of expats after the owner had to leave the country, that is my first secret earmarked place to go to when I travel there. Then I will get back in touch with you for other places indeed.

BTW, I read you are looking for lye? I can only say that they sell the stuff by tons over here. And I am 1000% convinced that getting it into Cambodia from China is the easiest thing in the world. So why don't you buy this kind of hard-to-get supply from over here? It's cheap and it's available easily. Only last week end I had a 5 KG can of lye in my hand but I am still too respectful to work with it without having anybody get me a precautionary course first (so no Pretzel for me so far).

bakingbadly's picture

If I may ask, what is this French place you're referring to? I can think of a few but nothing certain.

Ordering lye from China sounds like a viable option... but I'm not too versed in the postal delivery of Cambodia. I imagine it's unreliable. Although, somebody in this thread did mention about acquiring lye from a soap supplier. There's plenty in Cambodia, so that's another option.

Also, what were you doing with 5kg of lye? That sounds excessive!

Foodzeit's picture

O bistrot des copains. It's somewhere near the old night market and apparently not easy to find as it's new. It's more a tapas bar then a restaurant. 

I had a container of 5 kg in my  hands because that is how they sell it here on the bakery supply shops. It might be excessive but if you have a bakery, I am not sure how much of the stuff you really need in a month.

dosco's picture

Check around to see if there are any suppliers of soap making chemicals in your area or country. I live in Maryland and order from a supplier in Florida ... the sodium and potassium hydroxides are "food grade."

I would skip the drain cleaner ... I am not sure what is happening in Cambodia, but here in the States most of the manufacturers of drain cleaner have added all sorts of stuff to the hydroxide to make it unusable for anything BUT drain cleaning (dyes, metal shards, etc.). There is 1 brand here that might be close to "food grade" and does not have the nasty additives ... ...

bakingbadly's picture

Thanks for the suggestion, Dosco. Appreciate the help. There's a few soap manufacturers here so I may be able to get my hands on "food-grade" lye. 

Thanks again!


Mebake's picture

I'm glad your bakery plans are moving forward at a good pace. You are enthusiastic, and dedicated, that's what it takes to become a baker.

Nice post, Zita!


bakingbadly's picture

Thanks, Khalid!

Likewise, I can say the same about you. Your dedication to bread baking will take you far, hopefully far enough that you succeed in your endeavors. And I know you will.

All the best,


isand66's picture

So nice to hear from you Zita.  I am very excited for you and it looks like you are well on your way to realizing your dream.  I wish I could ship you some food grade lye.  I just made some pretzel rolls for our Thanksgiving dinner using the lye and I've yet to try baking soda to see the difference.

Anyway, good luck and I look forward to reading about your next event.


bakingbadly's picture

Good to hear from you, too, Ian!

I've had my German friend try my pretzels treated with a solution of baked soda and water. He says the taste is similar to lye pretzels. However, it just doesn't taste "pretzel" enough for him, he says.

Anyway, take care and keep up the creative bakes. Your breads continues to be inspirational to me.