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rossnroller's picture

Hi folks. Very long time no post. I felt I just had to emerge from obscurity to let you know about my recent visit to Zita's Bang Bang Bakery in Siem Reap, Cambodia. (Zita's handle on TFL is BakingBadly, which I can tell you must be read as supremely ironic!).

Fortunately, our hotel (the Mekong Angkor Boutique Hotel - great value BTW) was just 10 minutes' walk away from Bang Bang Bakery according to Googlemaps . It seemed longer and we were relieved to locate the bakery, which looks gleaming new.

Bang Bang Bakery

Retreating inside out of the building heat and humidity, we asked for Zita. There's a good reason he wasn't front of house. As the sole baker he's always on the graveyard shift. He hadn't mentioned that to me when agreeing to my suggested meet-up time of 10.30am. I imagine he would far rather have been off premises and catching up with some zzzs in bed than meeting up with someone whose only connection with him was The Fresh Loaf. The camaraderie of bakers...

My partner and I both liked Zita a lot. He's centred and quietly spoken, LISTENS (something of a rarity these days, I find), and is considered and articulate in conversation. Lovely young bloke. Need I say, he's the one on the left?

Zita with Ross

We had a really enjoyable chat about baking and Cambodia. Zita's taken on some serious challenges in establishing a commercial artisan bakery in Siem Reap. Followers of his blog posts on The Fresh Loaf will be acquainted with some of these, so I will not detail them here. Suffice to say, I greatly admire him for his courage and persistence in pushing on through all the barriers.

Here's some pics of Bang Bang's produce - I'll zip up and let them do the talking. The cakes, by the way, are the work of Zita's talented partner (Jana, from memory - do I have that right, Zita?).

Zita with produce

Bang Bang Bakery cakes

Bang Bang Bakery assorted Produce

I sampled one of Zita's bagels back in the hotel and am pleased (but not surprised) to report that it lived up to expectations.

Thank you, Zita, for meeting up with us and showing us your bakery, and may you, Jana and your business prosper. You deserve to.

To any readers thinking of visiting Siem Reap, I say do it. It's a very tourist-friendly town, somehow without being too touristy. There are restaurants everywhere serving Khmer food and all sorts of cuisines. Mostly v good quality and very cheap (high-end is there if you want that). The beers are cold and at 50c each during all-day "Happy Hour" are hard to resist. But of course, the great attraction is Angkor Wat. The entire vast temple complex - and especially Angkor Wat itself - is truly a wonder of humanity. I've been to every country in SE Asia, and India, and have seen a lot of temples, but Angkor Wat is really something else. Then there are the Cambodian people themselves, whom we found delightful, and I'm not just referring to hospitality staff. They're not only charming, but have a ready sense of humour, and they don't mind paying out on tourists as well as each other. I observed to Zita that they seemed to me to be a nation of jokers, and he agreed.

And if you make it to Siem Reap and have a day off from hard-core temple clambering, do make the effort to pop into Bang Bang Bakery, sample the wares, and have a chat with Zita if he's there. I'm so glad we did.

PS: An update from Zita: he now has an assistant night baker, so hopefully that should lighten his load somewhat - and give him some nights off.

rossnroller's picture

Hi TFL folks.

Long time, no post, but I couldn't let an Easter pass without my customary hot cross bun report. First, some eye candy (healthier to indulge via the eyes than scoff these fat-and-calorie bombs, especially if, like me, you allow yourself the indulgence of  slathering on the butter - it's fortunate Easter comes but once per year).



As always, made a swag of 'em, and as always these included SD and yeasted versions (those pictured are today's yeasted batch). As per last year, the yeasted were superior to the SD. I've reached the stage where I don't think I can better these babies - they are the best I've tasted and the result of years of experimentation, and tweaks upon tweaks. That said, some batches are inevitably better than others, despite the recipe and baking conditions being more or less identical. That's bakin'!

Obsessives and masochists can check out my previous posts on my HCB Quest as follows:


Cheers all, and hope you've enjoyed a safe and pleasant break.

rossnroller's picture





After years of trying multiple recipes and developing my SD and yeasted hot cross buns, I can now state that the latter wins. As good as the SD ones are, this yeasted baby is as close to my ideal bun as I've tasted. But I've done enough banging on about my hot cross bun quest in previous years. This year, I'll let the pics do the work (NB: pics are of yeasted buns only). Masochists can check out my previous posts on The Quest as follows:

Cheers all!


rossnroller's picture


Some time ago, Yozza (Derek) started running bread baking classes for the public after hours at his place of work, an educational institute near Fremantle, Western Australia, that runs commercial cookery courses (among many others). Yozza worked for years as a pro baker, and although his official position at the institute is essentially clerical, he has never really taken his baker’s cap off. When I first visited him some years back (after we linked up through TFL), I noticed containers of starter sharing space with paperwork in his office! I do believe there was also a 25kg bag of flour propped up in a corner.

Yozza is a high energy person lit up by all things baking. I struggled to keep up with him on that first visit as he led the way at frenetic pace to the wood-fired oven he had managed to convince the institute to have installed. He had organised some students to lend a hand in its construction during some weekend busy-bees. The effort had been worth it. It’s a fine-lookin’ fine-cookin’ son of a gun. Yozza was clearly proud of it, and justifiably so.

In fact, the WFO was the reason he had invited me on campus. I had developed a sourdough pizza that I was very pleased with. I thought it better than any dry yeasted one I had turned out of my domestic oven in my years of pizza baking and experimentation, and mentioned in a PM to Yozza that I’d love to see what a WFO would do for it. No sooner said than invitation issued! That’s the sorta bloke Yozza is.

Anyway, the pizza night was a lot of fun. I wrote it up on my TFL blog (includes a pic of the WFO): see Yozza and Rossnroller’s Great Wood Fired Oven Adventure.

That was a while ago, and Yozza is now approaching retirement. He hasn’t lost any of his fervour for baking, though, and his energy levels have not dropped in the slightest. No chance of him going gently into that good night – way too much bread to bake, and knowledge to share!

I believe he’s intending to keep running the public baking classes post-retirement and that’s just as well. Somehow, I don’t see him being able to stay away from the campus bakery area he has made his own over the years. Indeed, if the institute management has half a clue – rare for management in my experience, but let’s not get bitter and peripheral – they won’t let go of an asset as valuable as Yozza just cos he’s retired. All that means is more time to share his pro wisdom and love of all things floury with students, the public – indeed, anyone remotely interested.

I’ve tapped myself off track somewhat, so time to impose a bit of self-discipline. To the baking class, then.

There were twelve attendees in all. Most were friends or work colleagues of Yozza’s, many with little or no baking experience. This night was invitation-only. The main focus was sourdough. Yozza’s objective was to fine-tune his content and presentation prior to advertising the class to the public. He’d asked if I would consider writing up a promo piece for the local paper, and I was happy to oblige. Besides, as a sourdough nut, I was interested in comparing and contrasting Yozza’s modus operandi with my own.

During my pizza night visit, I’d been struck by the vast differences between the pro and amateur baking worlds. So it was again this time. It’s largely down to a matter of scale. I do one 1kg bread at a time, hand-mixing in a plastic basin, bulk proofing in a 10L plastic container, using baking paper as a couche (often torn, scungy and singed from multiple bakes). I use Sylvia’s wet towel steaming method during the first 15 minutes of the bake, which I subsequently micro-manage by reducing the oven temperature at set intervals to achieve the finish I like. All very attention-intensive. That is the luxury of the amateur baker.

Yozza, on the other hand, weighs out kilos of flour, water and starter on a commercial set of scales that make my little domestic Target battery digital job look like a kid’s toy, then dumps the lot into a whacking great Hobart spiral mixer, turns it on and stands back while it does its thing.

The institute ovens are high-tech marvels. They take 6 trays (I think) of bread or buns per bake, and heat up at a rate of one degree per second. There is digitally controlled steam injection, and steam reduction. A fan, similarly precisely controlled. And all sorts of other functions I didn’t catch. At $8K each, pretty reasonably priced, too, for anyone who wanted to start up a small bakery.

Cinnamon scrolls a-baking in one of the two ovens


But of course, the contrasts between pro and amateur bakers are not simply down to equipment.

For example, Yozza’s dough shaping is deft and fast-motion in contrast to mine. I tend to be fussy and fastidious; he takes a dough ball in each hand, which he tightens and shapes in two quick dragging and rolling motions that seem to morph into one. The results beat my best efforts…and in quarter the time. 

The class was well organised, packing two sourdough breads and some yeasted cinnamon scrolls into 3.5 hours. Yozza had prepared his ‘Black Sesame Sourdough’ the day before, baking it early in the class, then consigning it to the cooler so we could sample it sooner than the usual two hour post-bake minimum.

The second sourdough, his ‘50% Wholemeal with Home Brew Stout’ (a stout and wholemeal flour soaker is one component of the formula), we made from scratch.

The class appraises their scoring of Derek's 'Black Sesame Sourdough'


With the trusty old Hobart making easy work of the mixing, Yozza took us through assessing gluten development via the window test (which I never do at home). He then moved to stretching and folding the dough, which he spread out across the benchtop like a fleece. The dough was then left to proof with a couple more S&Fs at 45 minute intervals. Towards the end of the class, it was weighed out into 500gm loaves and shaped, Derek mentoring and sometimes coming to the rescue if impending disaster loomed. Each participant was given a foil container of shaped dough to take home and bake next day.

Baked straight out of the foil tin at home, not the most aesthetically appealing finish I've ever managed, but the bread was delicious. The stout lurks in the background, adding an enticing maltiness to the flavour profile.


Speaking of which, Yozza gave us a sample of his home-brewed stout during the class, and very pleasant it was: dark but smooth and mild, with a lovely fine, creamy head.

One of the attendees, who once worked with Derek as a baker, owns a small property in the middle of some prime wine country in the state’s south-west, and he treated us to a couple of bottles of his own wine – a respectable sauvignon blanc. Went well with some lavishly buttered slices of Derek’s ‘Black Sesame Sourdough’. Oh, and one of the hospitality students brought in a tray of home-made chocolates. It was all too delish to worry about the cal hit.

Which didn’t stop there! Each attendee was given a dozen cinnamon scrolls to take home. My partner also attended the class, so we ended up with two dozen. I scoffed two with a cup of tea when we got home, my partner one, and we had another two each next day. The rest are stored away in the freezer. They might have to stay there a while! We’re trying to lose weight prior to a coming travelling stint in Thailand. Were on track to be in reasonable shape, but we have a bit of work and abstinence in front of us after Derek’s class!

glazing the cinnamon scrolls


With effective advertising and promotion, Derek should have some packed classes in front of him. If I recall correctly (and chances are I don’t), he’s intending to charge the public a paltry $85 per person. Outstanding value for a fun evening of baking education and mentoring from a true pro, and an array of tasty baked indulgences that go on giving for days at home!

Thank you Derek!

Cheers all


rossnroller's picture

Made a pain de campagne first thing, and had some slices for lunch with some of the best smoked salmon I've tasted.

Followed up with a cuppa and a serve of my partner's incredible (and lethally rich) Easter fruit cake, which she made back in November, and has been feeding fortnightly with brandy ever since. We've been away in Thailand for the last month, and she was a bit worried that not feeding it during that time might have resulted in some drying out, but those fears were groundless. Just superb. Unfortuneately, didn't take any pics of the cake. Will do so when we have some more in the coming days, and will post a pic or two.

For now, here's the bread and salmon component of our modest but oh-so-delectable Sunday lunch.


BTW, my starter roared back into baking readiness with one feed after sitting in the fridge neglected for the 4 weeks we were away. What a trooper!





Best to all!

rossnroller's picture

Every Easter, I try out multiple dry yeast recipes and set them up against my SD buns, which I make to a recipe I've developed over the years and now consider finely tuned. I can't better my current SD HCB recipe, and have not found a yeasted version to rival it, although last year's came quite close (see 2012 post here, which includes a link to my SD bun recipe - now simplified and tweaked a little more, but essentially the same).

This year, I felt a little despondent about testing yet more yeasted HCB recipes - just couldn't get enthused over the prospect. Then the thought struck me that I might try adapting my SD bun recipe to a yeasted version. Would that not retain the flavour profile of my SD buns that I like so much? What about the texture? I was suddenly excited.

Well, to cut to the chase, I was astonished and slightly put out by the results, especially since I was intending to give some buns to some vegan friends, so adapted the ingredients accordingly. These yeasted vegan babies turned out to be the best I have tasted in decades of questing after the ideal HCB.

I made several batches, with minor tweaks, and each was superior to my SD buns. How? A little more rise, a little lighter while being more substantial than the typical fluffy commercial product, a little less 'doughy' than the SD ones, a slightly more appealing browning of the tops, and something tantalisingly better - can't quite nail it down - about the flavour.

I gave some of both types of buns to friends (vegan and carnivore), and received raves back. However, when pressed, everyone slightly preferred the yeasted ones.

So, by unanimous verdict, I have to declare a shock new winner for 2013! I have a few more tweaks to try, but basically, I think I have my recipe for the ages at long, long last. I would never have expected that to be a dry yeasted vegan bun developed from my SD recipe, but there ya go! Baking - and life - has its mysteries, and long may that remain so.

Here are some pics:


SD hot cross buns


SD buns side-on


Yeasted version


Yeasted bun crumb shot


Side by side (yeasted left, SD right)


Cheers all, and hope you've had a peaceful and pleasant Easter.

rossnroller's picture

Hi folks. Long time between blog posts for me. Been baking as much as ever but got lazy with taking pics and doing write-ups. I've fallen into a comfortable 3-bake-per-week rhythm cycling through our favourites, which these days are mostly variations on my pain de campagne. I like this rhythm after 3 years of working through scores of different breads. I've found it's a different type of learning, focusing on just a few breads - an incremental progression towards quality and consistency. Nice after all the experimenting, but perhaps not so conducive to regular posting, for me at least.

It's not really bread that has prompted this post. It's jam! Our backyard mulberry tree has delivered us a bumper crop this year, which my partner has turned into the most glorious jams (and cobblers!). Sensational on fresh-baked SD pain de campagne, and what a colour! Thought this was worth sharing:





Season's greetings to all.


rossnroller's picture

Having recently tried Syd's version of a San Fran SD, I thought it was a good time to revisit DM Snyder's very different version. When I baked it a couple of months ago, my sense of taste had been annihilated by a shocker of a head cold, so was curious to try it again now that I'm back to salivating, savouring, gluttonous normality.

I don't have an electric mixer or bannetons, so I modified David's recipe accordingly, but otherwise sought to stay as true to his recipe/directions as possible. The starter and dough mix was the same, but of course my local flours differ from David's. And at a temperate 20.5-21C (approx 70F) my ambient temps are now lower than those he baked at. Last time, I had to drastically reduce his bulk and final proof times, as it was evident from the state of the dough that it was ready to rock. The finished bread confirmed this. In fact, it was slightly overproofed - some classic early signs of this are observable in these pics of that bread:


I thought the overproofing might be explained away by the still summerish ambient temps at that time.

As anticipated, on this occasion I was able to stick closer to the proof times David used, since my temps were now so much lower. ie: BP was 4 hours, FP before retardation 1 hour,  retardation was 9 hours @ 5C/40F (fridge temp recently taken). However, I found that I had to completely cut out the post-retardation final proof period, as the shaped dough was clearly ready for the oven on removal from the fridge after its retardation. In fact, it was slightly over-ready - the baked loaf showed signs of overproofing!

I just sliced into some of the bread for lunch, and I must say, I was very impressed with the beautifully developed wheaten flavours - cool and almost creamy to the palate. As with the first bake, I like the textural quality of the crumb, too, which I can only describe as soft yet well structured. And the crust is crisp but not a jawbreaker, just how I like it. Very nice. Notably, though, NO hint of sourness! I don't mind at all, as I'm not a big fan of sour bread, but I do like a mild sour tang, and was expecting this of a SF style SD. I suppose my reduced final proof might have had something to do with the absence of sourness.

I'm still puzzled by the proofing. Even with Syd's SF SD, which he makes in the much higher ambient temps of his Taiwan kitchen, my proof times had to be reduced to avoid over-proofing. I am well aware that fermentation and proofing times should be determined according to the dough, not the clock, and this has long been my modus operandi. Still I wonder, though, why at my kitchen temp of 21C/70F, my fermentation and proof times inevitably need to be reduced from those specified in recipes where ambient temps are around 24C (or in Syd's case, considerably higher). Manic starter? Seems far-fetched. Flour qualities? Maybe...but wish I could get a definitive answer. Any other suggestions, folks?

Here are a couple of pics of today's bake of David's SF SD, which show unmistable signs of overproofing: limited spread of slashes, some tunnelling under the crust and bubbling on the outside, and crumb compression at the base of the loaf. I have to reiterate, however, that the eating qualities of this bread were fine indeed.




Does overproofing explain all this caving? Maybe not - I am thinking the mousehole centre-right might indicate a shaping issue...

rossnroller's picture

Not drawing as long a titular bow as you might think! These two master craftsmen have much in common.

Rubaud bakes only one variety of mixed-grain sourdough bread, endlessly repeating his formula and process (while tweaking according to changing seasonal conditions and grain variations). By all accounts his bread is magnificent - the home version I (and many others here) have made using local flours and his formula/process certainly is. Farine has provided a series of terrific blog posts on Rubaud. See here.

Jiro is an 85 year old sushi master whose modest stool-and-counter establishment in a Tokyo subway station, Sukiyabashi Jiro, has been awarded a 3 star rating by Michelin. No other sushi establishment has been honoured so.

(NB: I'm not a fan of elitist food Bibles like the Michelin Guide - or of western food critics who rock up to an Asian country and start making pronouncements on purveyors of the local cuisine - but that's another conversation. While the Michelin Guide has put Jiro on the global foodie map, he has long been acclaimed in his own country and is considered a national living treasure.)

Like Rubaud, Jiro uses only premium quality ingredients, and has no "secrets". He is a master because he has single-mindedly devoted his life to his craft. The attainment of excellence through narrow focus applies to both Rubaud and Jiro. In Japanese terminology, both are shokunin - craftsmen who have become masters through repetition of process over many years (although Jiro has carried this to extremes, having committed 70 of his 85 years to developing his sushi-making expertise!!).

I became aware of Jiro via a terrific film, Jiro Dreams Of Sushi. It's currently running on limited release in Australia, but may have been released a few weeks ago in the States. Hopefully, it is still showing. If so, HIGHLY recommend TFLers seek it out. While sushi and bread may seem worlds apart, the similarities I have alluded to between Jiro and Rubaud point to much common ground. And while you will surely be able to pick up this little gem of a doco on Blu-Ray/video not so long from now, the drool factor of beautifully composed close-ups of utterly delectable-looking sushi on the big screen will be compromised on home theatre systems, no matter how high end.

Anyone who loves great food will love this film. If you're into sushi, it's an absolute must-see.

If you want further details on Jiro and the movie, I have written an expansive review. See here.

Cheers all!

rossnroller's picture

Every Easter I make sourdough hot cross buns, then try one or two new recipes using dry yeast. My sourdough recipe I've tweaked over years now, so no surprise that the SD buns usually get the nod over the yeasted ones. Last year's were terrif, and I was not expecting to better them this year. I didn't. Pretty good, but not quite up to 2011's batch. I compromised on a couple of ingredients and left out another, rather than sticking to the tried and true that had worked so well in previous years. Baker's slackness then. If anyone is interested in the recipe, which virtually guarantees an outstanding bake if you don't get lazy and compromise on quality ingredients, here it is.

And here are pics of the SD buns:


+ crumb shot


This year's yeasted buns, on the other hand, were a surprise - very good indeed! I adapted a prize-winning recipe published by a national online newspaper. Ingredient measures were in cups, which I weighed and recorded in grams as I worked through the recipe. I also needed to adjust the flour, and added spices and mixed peel to taste. I'm not sure whether this is a particularly good recipe (it seems pretty standard - similar to others I have tried), but it did work out very well. I'll type it out if anyone is interested in giving it a go.

yeasted buns


+ crumb shot


Cheers all!


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