The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Pitas, 7 Grain, & The German Bistro

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

Pitas, 7 Grain, & The German Bistro

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

Comments

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Best of luck, Zita!  Your loaves look wonderful, as do your pitas, the schnitzel, and everything else you posted. Were we all so luck to have such dining options nearby.

Floyd

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

:) Thanks, Floyd! Indeed, I consider myself lucky to having easy access to good food in- and outside of home.

Zita

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

they did a feature on the 25 greatest places to live in the world and your home made the cut!  Congratulations. Your new weekender restaurant sounds great and may lead to bigger things for sure.. Might as well have a bakery in there too - Germans love their bread!  Love the pita too.  Business is easy if you can find out what your customers want and then....just give it to them.  Well done and happy baking, catering and restaurant running:-)

Best of luck Zita

 

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

Whoa, really?! Can't say I'm too surprised, but after living here for nearly 5 years I can see the appeal in living in Siem Reap.

And you're right, the Germans really do love their bread. It's their staple food and, to some of them, no meal is complete without it. 

There's a few French-style bakeries in Siem Reap but no German-style bakeries, except mine. This is the niche I've chosen to cater to, quite happily, so heavy and dense breads is what I'll continually produce. I may stray away a bit and offer light, flaky pastries and a few French breads in the future.

Jolly bakings, Dab.

Zita

ElPanadero's picture
ElPanadero

You are such an inspiration. You toil hard but with passion and imagination and the results are abundantly evident. I predict with confidence that you will go far. Remember us mere mortals when you are rich and famous :-)

That 7 grain bread looks really super. A lovely colour and texture. What I notice with all your products is a fantastic consistency. It's like everything was mass-produced by machines rather than hand made ! Really good work.

Good luck with the restaurant, hope all goes really well. It's a shame you can't post more often but we all appreciate you're incredibly busy.

Good luck

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

Thank you so much! Your words are too kind. :)

I assure you, I won't abandon TFL after I become successful---in many respects, I already am. I say, why ditch one of my greatest sources of inspiration? That would be madness! :-P

Thanks again for the compliments. I appreciate it and wish you good luck on your (bread baking) endeavors as well.

Zita

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Nice work, Zita! Very impressive career evolution, and I'm thankful that you share it with us. So, were the pitas naturally leavened? That lamb wrap looks delicious. Out here, they call this bread Naan / Roti (Indian subcontinent flat bread). Lebanese Pita (my native bread) is thin and has pocket, and is called Khobez in Arabic.

I'm glad that you are gaining momentum and achieving milestones in your new baking career. You energy and passion is inspiring, and contagious.

Best of luck to the Restaurant, and may you have your own baking space soon!

Khalid

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

No, my pitas aren't naturally leavened. I seriously considered it, but opted to take the more traditional route. (Greek pitas are usually made with fresh yeast; mine are made with instant yeast.) What sets my pitas from others, though, is that I ferment the dough for a minimum of 48 hours. Gives it a slight sweeter taste and distinct yeasty, but non-pungent aroma.

Others have called my pitas naan and roti, but I believe the main differences between these breads and Greek pitas is that Indian flatbreads are traditionally made with durum wheat flour (atta) and may contain butter or yoghurt. Greek pitas uses olive oil as its fat based ingredient. All other processes are similar. But I have to say, until I started producing them, I never realized how complex flatbreads could be. I'm feeling more and more inspired to learn about other types of flatbreads and it's interesting to note the differences.

Thank you for the compliments and kind words, Khalid. You've been continuously supportive of my efforts and I'll always remember you for that.

Take care and best wishes on your baking activities!

Zita

isand66's picture
isand66

Zita, it is amazing to see how far you have come in such a short time.  Your passion for your craft shows and your breads look amazed and inspiring.  You have some lucky customers and I wish I lived closer so I could come visit and sample your food and bread.

Thanks for sharing your trials and tribulations with us and I wish you all the success you deserve!

Best Wishes,

Ian

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

:) Thanks, Ian. Luck, diligence, guidance from mentors, and encouraging people like you are reasons why I've succeeded as quickly as I did. If you ever visit Siem Reap, Cambodia, let me know and I'll treat you with my breads.

Jolly bakings,

Zita

hanseata's picture
hanseata

Your German bistro and bakery look fabulous! Your breads, of course, too. I'm very happy that all your efforts turned out so well, and wish you all the best for the future!

Karin

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

Thank you, Karin! Knowing you're a German, I'm happy that my breads and restaurant appeals to you. So if you ever head down to Siem Reap, contact me and I'll show you a good time. ;)

Zita

hanseata's picture
hanseata

to visit Siem Reap. My husband was there this spring, and was very impressed, not only by Angkor Watt, but also the city. I would really love to see it, too.

Karin

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Hi Zita,

Thank you for the update.  Always something new with you.  I love seeing how you are turning what inspires you into action by following where your passion leads you one step at a time in a very down-to-earth fashion.  

Your bistro idea is so perfect.  Those types of restaurants are what are gaining momentum around here along with small neighborhood coffee shops where people can meet and sit for awhile.  Nice community feel to them.

All of your food looks delicious and your Se7en Grain loaf is beautiful.  I can't help but think that in a years time it will be in high demand.

Thank you for taking the time to keep us updated on all of your success.

Take Care,

Janet

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

True true, it does seem something big and new is happening. I don't know what's in store for me in the future, but I try to be as flexible as I can. Rare opportunities might come along and I'll jump for it when I can.

And you're right about the bistro. It does have a close, community feel to them. It's small enough where friends and acquaintances can get together, interact with everybody, and have a jolly time.

Take care and jolly bakings, Janet,

Zita

CAphyl's picture
CAphyl

Zita:  This is so wonderful.  What an inspiration.  The breads look fantastic, and your food always looks so good.  We are really cheering for you.  Please keep us up-to-date on the restaurant.  I am a fan of the the five grain and made it as well, inspired by Khalid!  I remember when you said you were making a seven grain a long time ago and then didn't post it.  You probably ran out of time. Glad you got to share it now as it looks perfect.  Congratulations on your achievements so far and best wishes for even greater success in the future.  If I ever get to Cambodia, your place is a must visit.  All the best,  Phyllis

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

Oh yes, I remember Khalid's multigrains---they, too, motivated me to bake them! Also, the reason why I postponed posting about the Se7en Grain was because I wasn't satisfied with it. For months. Until now, of course.

Yes, I'll keep you all updated on the restaurant. We haven't invested much into it, essentially using the equipment and materials we already have on hand, but if it pulls in enough customers within the next few months, then there's going to be some major renovations to the bistro.

Thanks for dropping by, Phyllis. Always a big pleasure to read your comments. :)

Farewell and jolly bakings,

Zita

WoodenSpoon's picture
WoodenSpoon

That all looks awesome! great job.

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

Thank you, Spoon! :)

Kiseger's picture
Kiseger

Hi Zita,

What wonderful news, so exciting and all of your food and bread just looks fantastic.  I completely fell in love with Siem Reap many years ago, it's such an amazing place.  Great logo - just keep selling your bread, really inspiring to see what you have achieved since your first post!!  Keep going, we're all cheering for you!

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

Thank you, Kiseger!

I've visited Siem Reap off and on for nearly 2 decades and witnessed a lot of changes. But it wasn't until after living in the city for nearly 5 years straight when I began to appreciate its people, culture, and scenery. It's not for everybody, but it is indeed an amazing place, even more so after having my own bakery! ;)

Thanks again and jolly bakings!

Zita

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

Hi Zita. I don't post much these days, but I've been following your progress from day 1, and I have to say you've done amazingly well. I'm a frequent traveller to SE Asia, and a long-term home baker of SD bread, pizzas etc, so I'm aware of the challenges you've had to face, both practical and commercial. Then, of course, there's the personal challenges: self-confidence, self-belief, persistence through adversity, development of craft...no need to go on! You've negotiated all the hurdles and are not only undaunted - seems you're more motivated then ever. This is the mark of someone who is truly following their dream, and that's something many aspire to and few actually do. It takes a lot of guts and a clear vision. Congratulations.

Then, of course, there are your breads, pitas and other baked goods - they look excellent! It must be especially satisfying to have developed your pitas through to the very professional stage they're now at, and you're justly starting to reap the rewards.

You know what? I reckon it's time for a name change. Baking badly no longer fits the bill, if it ever did. Please consider!

My partner and I are planning a travelling stint taking in Siem Reap some time in the next 12 months, and whenever I get there I'll be sure to look you up and sample your goods. That German nosh looks pretty damned nice, too! I spent a year in Germany, which introduced me to the joys of quality bread, especially SD. No looking back from there, although it took a lot of years of fruitless questing to discover that the way to quality bread of the sort the Germans take for granted was by baking it myself.

Cheers and all the best for your business and baking.
Ross

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

Thank you so much for your encouraging words and support. It seems surreal that anybody was following my progress since the start. Makes me feel a little special. :P

I attribute my success to a handful of people and sources. From my posts, it looks like much of my success stems from luck and self-diligence. However, my mentor (who happens to be my business partner and a close friend), baking consultants, and friends deserve much credit as well. Perhaps I should go into greater detail about them in my next post. I think a few members on this forum will appreciate it.

Yeah, Baking Badly doesn't really suit me, considering what I've accomplished, but I'm reluctant to change accounts. Too many members here identify me with that username. Plus I've grown fond of it and appreciate its irony. :)

If you ever visit or pass by Siem Reap, do let me know. I will welcome you to my bakery / bistro with open arms and we can break bread. 

Cheers and all the best, Ross,

Zita