30 August 2009

Sunday night

The end of another week, and MozBak's 2nd in operation. I must admit its going a little slower than I would have liked. Despite the loss (hopefully temporary) of my one sole employee, I have struggled on and am happy to say I've baked enough bread to repay my stock purchases earlier
this week.

Lessons learnt? I'm always learning but I guess I'm realising how reliant I was on the baker. Just 2 weeks in and his absence has had a major effect. Chatting to someone today I realised that it should actually be me passing on the baking trade to someone else, and hence the project should only be relying on me right now. Perhaps it is too soon but I am definitely still toying with the idea of bringing someone else on at apprentice level. They may not be able to bake unsupervised (the night shift but can hopefully bake under supervision for now. That would be real on-the-job training, upliftment and passing on of skills, goals I've always had for this project.

On a positive note I received an offer of sponsorship for a larger oven today, who would have thought, it came pretty much out of the blue and I don't really know what to make of it just yet. stay tuned... Keeping things positive I have posted a picture of the small lemon tree thats growing outside the front of the Bakery. I didn't plant this but it was growing wild and I discovered it upon clearing the site. I've given it some careful pruning and hopefully it will grow and bear fruit as the metaphor for what I wish MozBak to become! :)

29 August 2009

Slow Slow Slow

Everything that goes up must come down. Just when I ithought things were off to a fantastic start it all seems to have ground to a halt now. I say a halt but yesterday I still managed to bake 17 breads myself, in itself not a bad thing but what income was missed... Last night I had orders for 200 breads that I obviously fell way short on, but a little bit of income is still something.
Perhaps I need to look into having another baker, even if they're just part time, they can come on board when the need arises, such as now!
On a different note, I went to visit Alfonso in his village today, a very sad sight. He had some family and friends around but looked obviously depressed. Speaking little Portuguese I tried to pass on my condolences and gave him a hug but felt unsure what else I could do. I think he might be back at work earlier next week, the funeral is tomorrow, but i'm not pushing it and will just have to wait and see what happens.

27 August 2009

Andy attempts to bake once again

There I was thinking of a graceful early retirement from physically baking, when I've had to step in once again. Since I knew Alfonso wouldn't be in today I made an early start, lighting up the fire at 9am, since then I've been cutting wood, mixing dough and baking all day till now. Just waiting for supper then I have another mix waiting to be rolled out and baked, after that I'll be ready for bed I think, what a day!

Bad News...

Got some very unfortunate news early this morning, Alfonso the bakers' daughter died late last night. Couldn't really have come at a worse time. He's asked me for some financial help for the funeral. But unfortunately having just spent the last of my cash on stock I can't even help him out in that regard. I have however arranged to give him 25 kg or rice for the funeral as he'll have a lot of family and relatives to feed over the next few days as they come to visit and mourn.

more news later...

26 August 2009


Just received some fresh stock in, and not a moment too soon. Could only make 100 breads tonight as the stock of flour ran out, not ideal when I'm trying to boost sales, now we'll lose out on the sale of +/- 30 breads tomorrow. Income we can't afford to be losing at this stage.
I am happy though that I am now the proud owner of 10 Kg of instant yeast. I could start brewing beer, but alas my drinking days are behind me and I have bread to sell! This should last me a good few weeks I hope as right now I'm spending our income on ingredients as fast as we're earning it. This doesn't sound great but I would like to always be in a position of having stock on hand, this 'fly by the seat of your pants' inventory control is not what I had originally envisaged.
Other stock to arrive tonight included cooking oil, which up until now hasn't been in my dough. However, following comments from two of my colleagues, who have slightly more knowledge of all things culinary, I am going to try adding half a cup into one of tomorrow nights dough mixes and see what difference it makes. Change isn't for everyone and I don't want to change the basic 'Pao' recipe too much and lose business.

Tools of the trade; #1 the oven shovel

Yes, before you ask, I did make up the name "oven shovel" myself. Who knows what its really called but it looks like a poop-a-scoop and I can't really call it that, well, I couldn't call it that and expect many people to be buying my bread!

I have posted a few pics so you can visualise what its all about. This particular tool (the 2009 year Mk 2 model) was developed in a joint venture between two of my colleagues at the farms' toolshed. Construction involved the mating of an old shovel 'head' of which the handle had snapped off to the long wooden handle from a back hoe. The first tool I used in this capacity, the Mk 1, was just a broken spade, but we needed more reach to access the far recesses of the oven. The Mk 2 that you see here was born from this necessity, a classic example of form following function (or is it the other way round?).

Further improvements featured in the Mk2 include, a flatter head created by heating up the metal with a small blow torch and banging it with a hammer. Also the use of a grinding disc to sharpen the point for maximum scooping efficiency.

But what is this great tool used for? you may ask, well its quite simple really, to move around hot coals and the oven and also to remove ash. The original oven design featured an 'ash door' at the rear where ash could be pushed out from inside but this was an area of heat loss and we decided to seal it up. Sealing up necessitated that we remove the ash via the front oven opening where it is loaded into a bucket to be discarded later. If anyone has any brilliant ideas on what I can use this ash for, that I'm accumulating, please send suggestions via email.

25 August 2009

Mamana Mudada Community Project

Just want to give some free advertising to the girls and their community project, Mumana Mudada. Hopefully I'll be helping them to set up their own website/blog in the near future, but until then I've posted a few pics of the products they are teaching local ladies from our community to make.

This area is rife with HIV/AIDS and the poverty is appalling, on top of this women in the local society have to do all of the work, looking after the children, working the land, and often holding down a second job. Mamana Mudada was started to try and uplift and empower the ladies of the local community, teaching them skills such as jewellery design and enabling them to earn an income independent of that of their husbands (which in this community is unfortunately often spent on alcohol).

24 August 2009

Wheeling and Dealing

I bit the bullet and decided to buy some flour locally to ensure I could bake tonight and tomorrow night before the Maputo shop on wednesday. It cost me about 10% more than it might have at a wholesalers in Maputo but at this stage of the game I think thats an OK sacrifice. Of course nowhere in Bela Vista, our local 'town', sells flour by the 50kilos... I had to push my pigeon portuguese to the limit, bartering with a rival bakery owner to buy some of his stock. Word is evidently out and he was keen to grill me on how things were going at my little Bakery, well at least I think that was what he was asking. Competition didn't seem to deter him though and he was happy to sell to me

Not knowing if I would get more flour today or not kept me conservative with last nights bake, only 118 breads. All of which went to my one major customer. Tonight though I'm going to try for 150 and get back in the sales market. I'm becoming quite a regular sight, walking around the farm with a big sack of fresh breads over my shoulder, spreading the word (and aroma) and selling to anyone who wants.

MozBak 2

Yesterday I mentioned the possibility of a MozBak 2 already on the cards. Obviously its still very early days but I've posted a pic (see right) of where it would possibly be located, one of the most beautiful areas I've ever been lucky enough to visit!

23 August 2009

Work never quite finished

Hello from a beautiful sunny morning in Mozambique. Last night we didn't bake as todays order would have been so small as to make profit negligible and therefore i made saturdays Alfonso's day off. We'll start again from tonight though. Before then i'll have to organise more wood (this is going to be an ongoing story) and get sawing / chopping to make sure we have enough for tonight and maybe tomorrow.

I have posted a view of the rear of the building, as you can see its only half painted and it was here that the building cash ran out. Obviously we are now baking and I'm extremely happy about that, but the job is far from over. I am hoping to divert some of the income from the next week or two towards buying paint, wood for shelving and desk, making shutters and one or two other jobs that still need to be done. The french drain is also not yet completed, waste water from sink runs into it but it still needs to be covered with a sheet of thick plastic then covered in topsoil.
During a strategy meeting on friday afternoon for the way forward for the NGO (its not all about the bakery!!) I raised something that had been on my mind for a few months now, MozBak 2, yes I know its early days but i'll let you know more in the next post. stay tuned!

22 August 2009


Great success on sales volumes today, 11am and sold 212 breads already! makes me a happy man, also being able to give away breads yesterday to soup kitchen and the local prisoners is what I'm doing this for.

Stock of ingredients is going to be an issue in the next few days I see as I will almost certainly exhaust my flour and yeast by monday night and we're not doing a re-supply trip to Maputo till at least wednesday. Should I bite the bullet and buy over priced flour locally to keep the production up. I think I must, its early in the game to be shutting down production for 2 days and I don't want to turn away new customers just as word is spreading and sales are picking up...

21 August 2009

big night

Today was quite a success on a number of levels. We managed to bless 10 breads to the Prisoners at the local prison this morning and 13 to the soup kitchen this afternoon. In total 143 breads were produced and sales are going relatively well. Tomorrow is quite a test though as we have to get 200 breads out for the morning, as 80 of those breads will get sent through to the beach camp to last them the week (they get frozen, then steamed and toasted daily). Have included a quick picture I like to call "the bakery by night", perhaps i should invest in some outdoor lights...

trough finished / night baking

The mixing trough is finally finished, the tiling is not as aesthetically correct as I would have liked but beggars can't be choosers and the interior is at last coming along. I have also started painting underneath the concrete slab shelves with stoep (porch/veranda to you non-South Africans) paint. The only stuff we had lying around was a very rich red in colour, not my favourite but as with the trough, functionality is key right now and I need to paint over the cement to seal it otherwise there's permanently a layer of fine cement dust / sand.

20 August 2009

wood missions and a lost dog

Last night we made 140 breads, 20 of which i would have to try and sell myself. All was set to go this morning, then one of the dogs went missing. It just happened to be my favourite, Levi, so we got the guys together and went out in the bush. 3 hours later still no sign of him so I called it off for the morning and tried to catch up on the office emails. 10 emails in the space of one hour whilst I was out, haha it almost feels like a have a proper job!! All was not lost though at 3pm one of the local staff came to tell me Levi was caught in a snare a few hundred metres from the orphanage. Wire Cutters in hand I met with a very happy Levi who must think i'm his guardian angel or somehting as this is the second snare I've freed him from in 2 weeks.

The wood pile for the oven ran out today so I've been climbing trees, cutting branches, and hunting in the bush for the best pieces I can find. I have lots of good small dry stuff but the best is a native thorn tree here, according to my nature book its a type of Acacia tree, either the 'scented thorn' or 'Umbrella thorn'. Anyhow, it is a good hard wood and makes great coals, which should give it longer heat producing time.

The oven is on now and Alfonso, hopefully without wife, should be arriving soon... I'm off now to cut up the wood i collected earlier.

domestic bliss pt. 2

Yup its that time again... past midnight and I've just been and done my rounds checking on progress. 50 breads made so far, shame poor Alfonso's wife is sleeping on the floor of the office. Perhaps regretting her decision to try and bust him for playing away... Better safe than sorry though and yes I did feel bad for her and went and got her a mattress, its a cold night though, the sky is periodically lit up by lightning and it appears rain is on the way. Great news when you live in a reed roofed house with more holes in than an Iraqi submarine. Three weeks ago when we last had rain i woke in a huge puddle (no I didn't have an accident...) I'll take the mop down to the house just in case I think.

My first bulk order of flour came in from Maputo this evening, only 100 kilos but its a start. That should be enough to tie me through till early next week. Tomorrow I'd like to produce the full bread order for my primary customer and also be able to sell, from the oven, 10 to 20 breads for some much needed cash in hand.

Thats all for tonight, these 18hr days are wearing me out and I'm off to make a hot cup of Milo and walk down to my house. Ciao

19 August 2009

Domestic Bliss

Interesting incident happened this evening whilst I was on my way to drop off a colleague and pick up the Baker (Alfonso) . We called Alfonso and he said he was waiting for me but he was not alone... His wife had come to the bus stop with him as she didn't believe that he was going to 'work' at 9pm at night. He was very embarassed and humbled when i picked him up and his wife insisted on coming along too, just to check that there really is a new bakery down the road and her husband does in fact work there.
Ah the joys of marriage!!

18 August 2009

another day another bread

Well its 11:30pm and i'm still up, just finished watching 'Quantem of Solace", one of the better Bond movies. As for this secret agents movements, he's off to the bakery to supervise the night shift. Today went pretty well 89 breads produced but not on time in all cases. Thats why the baker was due back in at 6pm to prepare tomorrows order (120 breads). I'm keen to fill the larger order, to prove production can go to that scale but also because i need that cash to cover the purchase of further ingredients from Maputo tomorrow. Needless to say the baker (Alfonso) only arrived at 8:30pm, positively on time by Mozambiquan standards!

After using 1kg bags of flour these last 2 weeks I'm finally supersizing to 50kg bags tomorrow with two on order. This should make life easier and more economical. quite how i'm going to store the flower will be interesting. I have a large capacity Addis plastic trommel. hopefully that will work.

More pics to follow tomorrow...

Inside Oven

As promised a picture of breads in the oven. fitting 15 in at a time is a good amount for the moment, too many and you won't be able to see if one's getting a bit too crispy! Too few and it won't be very productive. As you can see there is still a bit of fire on the left of the oven, this is to maintain the temperature and stop the oven losing heat every time you have the door open.

Another long night..

I'm feeling the effects of a late night watching crap TV waiting to light the oven at midnight... Got to sleep at 1am then up at 5:50am to keep the fire stoked. After all that effort the baker couldn't find transport to get into work on time so i eventually picke him up at 7:30 which gave him 1 hour to make 100 breads, no chance.
Not a Glorious start to the second days proper baking I had to buy 20 breads in town, thats money lost but production is now going strong this morning so far. 42 produced and sold so far this morning, more news to follow....

17 August 2009

inside the oven

Had a special request today for a picture of what it looks like inside the oven whilst baking is underway. the pic on right shows the inside of the oven whilst baking the previously mentioned banana bread cookies. There is quite a lot of ash still in the oven but when baking bread we have come up with a system of cleaning out the oven with our shovel (extended) and a slightly damp towel. more pics of that to follow...

First proper bake :)

Today was a first, they said it would never work... but the oven was finally the right temperature and we churned out an impressive 23 breads, woohoo! tomorrow we're hoping for 100 by 8:30am. I'll be up half the night tonight keeping the fire going :(
the pics here show this mornings before and after.

Dough mixing 'trough'

This is to be the tile finished 'trough' to mix the dough for bread making, up until now we have been using plastic buckets which to be honest are a pain in the ass. Everytime you knead the dough heavily the bucket doesn't stay still, hence the need for a solid concrete re-enforced mixing trough. The tiles have a very shiny finish so the dough shouldn't (i hope) stick to the sides of the trough during mixing.

Cleaning is I'm sure going to be another story altogether. I can see the flour getting seriously stuck in grouting between tiles...

Some staff photos

A few of the staff; Alfonso the baker, Emilio and Solomau on wood chopping duty, and don't worry no child labour employed, the kid is just a visitor!!

16 August 2009

Banana Bread (muffins)

tried out the recipe below for banana bread, but cooked them in a cookie tray. tasted great!

500 g all-purpose flour
10 g baking soda
3 g salt
200 g butter
200 g brown sugar
5 eggs, beaten
1 kg mashed overripe bananas


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar. Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture; stir just to moisten. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
3. Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into centre of the loaf comes out clean. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, and then turn out onto a wire rack.

15 August 2009

burning out the wooden support structure

Oven getting its first firing, waiting for wooden structure inside to burn away and see finally if the dome stays in place (fingers crossed)