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Finding a Baking Community in a Remote Town in Maine

Posted on Tue, 08/20/2019 - 1:13pm

The 2019 Kneading Conference


Kyle, Frank, Hazim, & AmandaEarlier this summer, my coworkers, Kyle Purcell, Frank Carollo, Hazim Tugun, and I traveled to The Maine Grain Alliance’s Kneading Conference in Skowhegan, Maine. A car full of bakers, we were excited to spend two days talking, sharing, and learning about grains. Yes, we were looking for a moose on the side of the road, too, but we were most ready to pick up any tips, tricks, or facts that others wanted to share about bread making. 

Attending the Kneading Conference for the first time was a great example of a vision actualized—their goal is to bring back the grain economy through with the contributions of farmers, millers, bakers, and customers. This is also right in line with some of the goals in our Zingerman’s Bakehouse 2023 vision—we’re committed to becoming grain experts and incorporating freshly milled whole grain (FMWG) into a variety of our products to share with our community.

 

kimberley bellThe conference started off with a great speaker. Kimberley Bell is the owner of Small Food Bakery in Nottingham, England. As soon as she started telling her story, you could tell she was a passionate person who believed in what she was doing in her bakery. Supermarket monopolies are the main food source for the UK and she is an advocate for breaking them up. She believes in keeping ingredients traceable and local—that was her mission when she started her bakery and she makes every decision based on that vision. “Be more than a baker,” is a motto she tells herself, that is supported by the friendships she’s made with farmers and other vendors and the stories behind each product. That all makes the work more fulfilling for her and her team.

 

naturally leavened bagelsThe message of bringing community and thoughtfulness to one’s work was the theme that would continue throughout the next two days.  A variety of demos and presentations filled the sunny days with topics spanning from sourdough pastries and bagels to baguettes and wood-fired pizza, and, of course, grains. 

One of my favorites was given by Kerry Hanney of Night Moves Bread + Pie and Blair Marvin of Elmore Mountain Bread. Both women presented their way of making their bakery’s country loaf. One would do a step in the process and then throw it back to the other. They would compare the process they were taking with the knowledge in mind that both lead to great bread. Even while they were presenting their own method, they were just as fascinated to learn the other’s method. Not that it was going to result in a change to their current production, but for the pure purpose of learning, respect, and support. Both women are trying to make their community better with their food and it is a good lesson to remember that though we may have done things a certain way for a long time, the practice of making bread is ever-changing.

 

Kyle and Hazim with grainsTo be able to go to a bread conference is always a great opportunity to talk to both professional and serious home bakers, and hear what brought them into the world of grain. So while we spent two days in the middle of Maine taking in nuggets of information, it was also about the renewing of passion and knowing that other bakers are out there, too, turning on their ovens at 2 in the morning, just trying to create the most flavorful, nutritious, traceable loaf they possibly can. Bell really captured the feeling of bread baking and why we enjoy it so much, saying, "The overall sense of nourishment is enhanced when others are smiling at the table."

 

By Amanda Benson
Bakehouse Bread Supervisor

Photos by Amanda Benson & Frank Carollo

Gateau St. Honoré—A Dessert Made of Other Desserts

Posted on Tue, 08/13/2019 - 10:40am

Every year, on May 16, the French celebrate the Feast of St. Honoré, honoring the 6th-century French bishop who eventually became the patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs. And since the French hold their corner bakery right up there with the Catholic Church, the celebration is not complete without a big bite of the show-stopping confection named for the revered saint.  A classic French torte, the Gateau St. Honoré is a tasty marriage of the fundamental elements of the pastry baker’s craft: pâte feuilletée (puff pastry), pâte á choux (choux pastry), crème pâtissière (pastry cream), whipped cream, and caramelized sugar. The torte has a puff-pastry base, topped with pastry cream and whipped cream, surrounded by profiteroles (cream puffs) of pâte á choux, which have been dipped in caramelized sugar, their sugary tops resembling saints’ halos.

Gateau St. Honoré

 

The torte’s namesake, Honoré, also known as Honoratus, became bishop of Amiens, in the north of France, in 554 AD. According to tradition, a number of miraculous events occurred during his service, which spared farmers, millers, and bakers from natural disasters. After his death, processions in his honor supposedly stopped both droughts and deluges, ensuring good wheat harvests. This won Honoré the admiration of bakers across France. In 1204, a Parisian baker built a chapel (no longer extant) to commemorate him, and in the 17th century, the French baker’s guild anointed him the patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs. In religious and popular imagery,  Honoré is often depicted holding a baker’s peel—the flat wooden paddle used to move loaves to and from a hot oven—often with loaves of crusty French bread nearby and with bakers at work, in the background, kneading dough and manning wood-burning ovens. 

Fast-forward to the 19th century, when Parisian pastry bakers began bringing glory to the saint's name in the best way they knew how—with a fabulous show-stopping confection. The Gateau St. Honoré was developed at the legendary Chiboust pastry shop on Paris' Saint Honoré Street, which, alas, no longer exists. It started out as a ring-shaped brioche filled with pastry cream that Chiboust lightened with an airy Italian meringue, creating a new kind of filling that came to be known as crème Chiboust, which French bakers still use. According to Parisian pastry chef, Pierre Hermé, one of Chiboust's bakers, August Jullien, came up with his own version, replacing the ring of brioche dough with a ring of little cream puffs. 

cream puffs

 

By the late 19th century, the Gateau St. Honoré had taken its present form, incorporating a disk of puff pastry filled with pastry cream, topped with a crown of cream puffs dressed up even further with a crunchy cap of caramelized sugar, and draped with swags of whipped cream. The plain version of the torte—simply flavored with vanilla and the bittersweet notes of burnt sugar—is most common, but you can find fanciful seasonal variations, showcasing everything from tropical fruits to green tea.

In modern-day France, the Feast of St. Honoré still survives as a time to appreciate all sorts of breads and pastries. French baker Dominique Geulin, who grew up in Normandy and is now based in Portland OR with his bakery St. Honoré Boulangerie, fondly remembers how bakers in France (including his parents) would open their doors on May 16 for community festivals, school field trips, and public demonstrations. The modern-day French baker's organization, Confédération Nationale de la Boulangerie-Pâtisserie Français, also takes that week as the occasion to hold its annual meeting during a full-on festival of bread.

caramel coated cream puffs

 

This fall, in October and November, BAKE!, the Bakehouse’s hands-on teaching bakery, is offering two classes on the Gateau St. Honoré, where you’ll learn all the classic French techniques—pâte feuilletée (puff pastry), pâte á choux (choux pastry), crème pâtissière (pastry cream), whipped cream, and caramelized sugar—that go into making this show-stopping dessert, a six-hour project well worth the effort! (Don't worry, we provide a great Bakehouse lunch, too.) Any dessert that is built out of other desserts is a winner in our book and the Gateau St. Honoré is sure to impress your guests! (Check out the Bakehouse’s Instagram highlights for more behind-the-scenes shots from this class!)

By Lee Vedder
Bakehouse Historian

From Kipferl to Croissant: A Brief History

Posted on Thu, 08/08/2019 - 1:15pm

The history of the crisp, crescent pastry we all know and love is quite a storied tale. People often think of France when they hear mention of the croissant, but its origins are actually Austrian–Viennese to be precise. In fact, as recently as the 19th century, the French viewed the croissant as a foreign novelty, sold only in special Viennese bakeries in the more affluent neighborhoods of Paris. The pastry’s Austrian origins and how it came to France in the first place are shrouded in legend.

croissants on a sheet pan

 

Culinary historians concur that the modern-day croissant was inspired by the Austrian kipferl, a crescent-shaped morning pastry made with brioche-like dough, which is denser and less flaky than the croissant we know today. According to popular lore, the kipferl originated in 1683 as a comestible celebration of Austrian victory over the Ottoman Turks at the siege of Vienna. The story goes that a baker, up early to make bread, saved Vienna when he heard the Turks tunneling underneath the city and sounded an alarm to the Viennese authorities. The kipferl’s curved shape, said to mimic the crescent moon of the Ottoman flag, would then seem to pay poetic tribute to the indomitable spirit of a city that resisted a powerful invading force. But the kipferl existed long before the Ottoman siege of Vienna. A poem mentions it as one of the Christmas treats that Viennese bakers presented to Duke Leopold in 1227. Moreover, crescent-shaped breads in general date back centuries earlier.

So, does the croissant’s Austrian ancestry belie its French fame? “Of course not,” says Jim Chevallier, an independent scholar and author of a book on croissant history, August Zang and the French Croissant: How Viennoiserie Came to France. “The croissant began as the Austrian kipferl, but became French the moment people began to make it with puffed pastry, which is a [17th-century] French innovation,” says Chevallier. “It has fully taken root in its adopted land.” Order a kipferl in Austria or Germany today and you’ll likely be handed a crescent-shaped cookie. 

A more romantic tale from the 18th century attributes the origin of the croissant to the French Queen and Austrian Archduchess, Marie Antoinette (1755-1793). Legend has it that the Queen, homesick for the taste of her native Vienna, would often bow out of royal dinners, only to sneak away to indulge in the sweets and coffee of her country. The story thus credits her love of Viennese kipferls and the christening of the kipferl as the “croissant” as having introduced the pastry to French high society. 

one whole croissant and one croissant cut in half

 

Legends aside, historical evidence as to the croissant’s evolution in France points instead to August Zang (1807-1888), an Austrian entrepreneur who opened the first Viennese bakery in Paris in 1838. Located at 92 Rue Richelieu on the Right Bank, his upscale Boulangerie Viennoise specialized in bread and pastries from his native Vienna, most notably the kipferl, along with pain viennois (a Viennese-style sandwich bread), both of which became widely popular in the city within ten years. Equipped with his patented steam oven, Zang made his kipferls with noticeably flakier dough than traditional brioche-based versions and the French began referring to the newfangled pastry as a croissant due to its crescent shape. 

References to croissants made with true, yeasted pâte feuilletée (puff pastry dough), however, didn’t materialize until the early 20th century.  For that development, we have the French baker, Sylvain Claudius Goy, to thank. In 1915, he wrote a recipe that specifically mentions pâte feuilletée, calling for the rolled puff pastry to be yeast-leavened and laminated with butter, a technique that remains at the core of how the modern-day, all butter, homemade croissant (croissant au beurre, fait maison) is made in France. 
And it is this traditional French croissant we are dedicated to making here at the Bakehouse. Like bread and other baked goods in America, croissants can be made with shortcuts causing them to fall short of the intended texture and flavor. There are very few places in the world outside of France where you can get a truly great, flaky, buttery croissant—Zingerman’s Bakehouse is certainly one of those places. We pride ourselves on their rich flavor, tender honeycombed interior, and crispy exterior that shatters a little when you bite into it. It’s mostly about taking the time to do it right and not using fake ingredients or pre-made frozen doughs. And we think it's well worth the time and effort to do so. Like we say, you really can taste the difference. Visit the Bakeshop to pick up our 4 variations on the French croissant: classic Butter, Juliette's Almond, Chocolate, or Parmesan and Prosciutto.

chocolate croissant with a bite out of it

 

Or, learn to make croissants yourself in one of our most popular hands-on baking classes: Ooh La La Croissant: French Pastry Class. You’ll learn the key techniques for creating a butter-laminated dough (layering the dough with butter and folding it over), filling the croissants, proofing them properly to achieve the right texture, and finally, baking them to a rich golden brown. In class, you'll make our butter croissant recipe, as well as fill them with both our rich almond frangipane (we'll give you the recipe for that, too) and bars of intense dark chocolate imported to us in Ann Arbor from renowned French chocolatier Michel Cluizel. There are few more sublime things in our book than enjoying a freshly-baked croissant that is still a little warm. We can't wait for you to try it. It's going to be life-changing. Reserve your spot now

By Lee Vedder
Bakehouse Historian

All Roads Lead to Megan Phillips Goldenberg—Grain Hubbing in the Upper Midwest

Posted on Wed, 06/05/2019 - 10:55am

Meet a favorite oat hawker, beer lover, and turner of center of the regional grain economy


Sourcing within the state of Michigan is uniquely advantaged because agriculture in our state is so richly diverse. In fact, as a state, we are second only to California in terms of the diversity of what we grow here. Of these myriad things we grow, a lot of them are apples. Our state’s noteworthy agricultural stats also include being third in the nation for volume of apple production. Given all them apples, it makes sense that, like our current whole grain rye source, Molly, I first bonded with our current oat source, Megan, over apples.

The Bakehouse had become acquainted with her several years earlier, in 2014, when she met founding partner, Frank Carollo. I personally was connected to her by Bakehouse baker and miller, Hazim Tugun, who met her in 2017 when he went to an oat field walk she was putting on that he had heard of via Instagram. This connection between Megan and the Bakehouse has been growing ever since then and serves as proof that sometimes scrolling bears fruit and serves its highest purpose as a tool that facilitates connection surrounding shared interests and goals. I tend to be a few steps behind Hazim; I just got my very own ‘gram a few weeks ago and didn’t meet Megan until the summer of 2018. As you now know was statistically likely, we met at an apple orchard and one that I had been to before as part of a project for an agroecology course. The orchard was Plymouth Orchards, owned by Mary Emmet and Mike Adsit, a gorgeous organic apple orchard, cider mill, and semi-experimental grain haven thanks to Megan’s vision and Mike and Mary’s service-oriented farming philosophy and insatiable curiosity.

Plymouth Orchards sunset

 

Just as many of my grain sourcing connections come back to apples, many an inquiry into Michigan grain will eventually lead back to Megan. When I began working to expand our regional, whole berry grain sourcing to feed our new stone mill last year, I reached out to many an extension agent and our conversations would all end the same way—you need to talk to Megan Goldenberg. Megan is the owner of multiple businesses, working in food systems advising for clients across the country, craft malting, grain cleaning and processing for direct to consumer markets, and grain brokering to feed these ventures and other businesses across the midwest.

In our recent blog posts and at our recent events, we’ve talked a lot about working to rebuild a less centralized, more regional grain economy both out of self interest—so that we can get the grains we want to work with grown in ways that meet our standards, needs, and values—and out of concern for our community who needs robust regional grain economy to achieve the kind of food sovereignty we ultimate hope all communities can experience. To do this we’ve been breaking away from our reliance on very centralized, industrialized flour sources. This process leaves a gap in our food supply chain that requires new connections to function. Megan has played an important role in filling that gap. Less like a link in a typical supply chain, Megan serves more like a hub, a driver of a more circular food system. To the Bakehouse, she is a source of ingredients that align with our values and a connection to ever-better grains, to the community as a whole she is this metaphorical hub that allows local businesses like ours to be part of a greater wheel. A wheel that is turning a regional food system, a simple but powerful machine transferring force and moving us all forward.

zilke rye field

 

It is the depth and breadth of Megan’s academic past that both led her to this role and lent her a particular capacity to spot gaps in the food system and to strategically leverage our existing structures and tools to build new things. She Megan and Zach earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Chemistry, and then went on to earn a Master in Agricultural and Resource Economics degree from Colorado State University. While working on her graduate degree, Megan began her first venture, The Growing Project. The Growing Project functioned as a non-profit seeking to support a just, localized food system in Northern Colorado through education and advocacy. In 2010, she expanded her food systems development work and began the consulting firm, New Growth Associates. While continuing her work in consulting, in 2015, she and her husband, Zach, founded Macon Creek Malt House with the goal of adding value to Michigan small grains. This business both aggregates and processes grains. Processing can be as simple as cleaning and selling raw, ready to use, oats and grain berries or as involved as malting barley for beer brewers.

Processors like Macon Creek play an important role in functional local grain economies that allow niche grains to be cleaned in custom ways and with a match of scale. Malting as a process more specifically is key to elevating the craft beverage industry that Michigan is so well known for. Without processors like Megan, it can be difficult for farmers that aren’t growing commodity wheat to find places to have their grains cleaned and local craft beers have to rely on more industrial malts that don’t align with the rest of their craft process and philosophy. Despite this need, it can take time for end users to adjust their business models to absorb higher priced, higher quality ingredients and this lag between demand and willingness to pay meant that the malting part of her business needed to pivot. Though it remains under the name Macon Creek Malt House, Megan’s business now functions more as an Upper Midwest grain hub / non-commodity grain brokerage firm.  

The various manifestations of Megan’s work impact us here at the Bakehouse both directly and indirectly. Directly, Megan provides us with ingredients we bake with and flours we retail in our Bakeshop. Indirectly, it supports growers that we work with and helps their farms to flourish, ensuring they’ll be around to supply us long term. Since last summer, we’ve been using her rolled oats in our baked oatmeal, and Country Scones. The oats are certified organic, raw rather than steamed, milled fresh to order, and grown here in-state by Roger Kiger in Elsie, Michigan. More recently, we’ve switched to using these same oats in our Big O cookies. Not only do we believe these oats to be the most sustainable available, with the elimination of high heat processing common in industrial rolled oats, but they are also more flavorful and nutritious, too.

Big O Cookies

 

Less directly, Megan has provided the Bakehouse with great ingredients by connecting us to other processors across the Midwest. Namely, we met Harold Wilken, owner of Janie’s Farm and The Mill at Janie’s Farm in Illinois, through Megan. Our warthog wheat, used in our new fougasse and our holiday demi-baguette wreath, also came to us from Harold. You can find delicious, certified organic bread, cake, and pastry flours blended by Harold in our Bakeshop. Megan’s grain-centered friendship with Harold has led to their newest business plan—expanding Harold’s local grainshed to a more regional scale that includes us. This essentially means supplying freshly milled flour from Harold’s mill to bakeries across southern Michigan and then back-hauling Michigan-grown grain berries to be milled by Harold at The Mill at Janie’s farm in Ashkum, Illinois. The plan is elegant in its efficacy, it means the truck is full both ways, allows Harold to more consistently feed his mill, and gives Michigan bakeries access to a less centralized, industrial flour source that is freshly milled, certified organic, and sourced regionally.

As we enter our third growing season working with Megan, we feel grateful for all she does. Trailblazing is more effective and fun when done with friends and we feel happy to be sharing a path with such a determined and pioneering fellow grain lover. Come try a cookie, a scone, or some fougasse to celebrate this collaboration and taste the sweet rewards of our partnership with Megan!

By Hailey Schurr
Bakehouse Sourcer-ess

Photo credits: Plymouth Orchards (1), Megan Phillips Goldenberg (2 & 3), Antonis Achilleos

Summer's Perfect Pair: Graham Crackers & Marshmallows

Posted on Thu, 05/30/2019 - 2:20pm

Remember summer nights spent toasting marshmallows over a crackling fire? The smell of a bonfire that lingered on your sweatshirt for days? Crunchy graham crackers layered with perfectly toasty marshmallows and melty chocolate? We remember those s’more-filled days fondly, but there's no reason they need to remain a happy memory. We're here to help you recreate this childhood favorite (only even better than you remember).

S'more by Emily Hanka

 

No self-respecting s’more is complete without a perfectly crisp graham, so we’ll deliver the graham cracker your campfire treats deserve. Nostalgic for this American childhood favorite, we wondered what would happen if we changed up the recipe for graham crackers using great ingredients. What we created was an intensely flavored cookie more addictive than what we munched on as kids. In the spirit of constant improvement, we further wondered how we could make these crowd favorites even Graham Crackers by Antonis Achilleostastier. Lo and behold, the flavor boost obtained from milling our own flour from organic soft white wheat grown in Michigan was the easy answer! We love the crackers’ amped up flavors of toasted wheat, honey, and ginger—not to mention their more hearty, crisp texture—and you will, too!

The original “Graham” cracker was not the tasty sweet treat we know and love today; it was a bland, unsweetened biscuit made from finely ground, unbleached wheat flour, wheat bran, and coarsely ground germ, which also came to be known as “Graham bread.”  First conceived in the 1830s, the crackers were consumed as part of a strict vegetarian and fiber-rich diet developed by the crackers’ namesake, the Reverend Sylvester Graham (1794-1851), an eccentric Presbyterian minister from Connecticut who became a social reformer and ferocious advocate of healthful living during America’s health craze of the 1820s and 1830s.

Exercising some combination of pseudoscience and faith, Graham believed that physical lust was harmful to the mind, body, and spirit and that a healthy diet, devoid of meat, fat, spices, and refined white flour, would aid in suppressing sinful carnal excess, which he saw as a genuine human affliction and the scourge of his time. His preaching and promotional writings on maintaining a healthy, plant-based, fiber-rich diet for physical, mental, and spiritual well-being won countless converts over the course of the nineteenth century, who came to be known as “Grahamites.”

So, Dr. Graham, thanks for making graham crackers. Now, if ya don’t mind, step aside and let us take them to a new level! Enjoy our crisp, flavorful, and not-too-sweet crackers. They’ll take you right back to those summer campfires.

 

marshmallows and graham crackers for smores by Emily Hanka

 

Pick up our Graham Crackers and Zingerman's Candy Manufactory's Marshmallows (Vanilla or Chocolate) in our shop, or take our Graham Crackers and Marshmallows class at BAKE!, our hands-on baking school.

In class, we’ll have fun making chocolate and vanilla marshmallows and learning how to make up our own flavors. Strawberry marshmallows? Mint marshmallows? Birthday cake marshmallows? You betcha. Any marshie you can dream up, you can make. You won’t believe the difference between your homemade marshmallows and the packaged varieties of your childhood. Join us and increase the flavor of your s’mores by 100% and go home with a dozen graham crackers, chocolate and vanilla marshmallows, graham cracker dough to bake later, and great coupons.

Photos by Emily Hanka (1 & 3), and Antonis Achilleos (2)

Conversions with a Kitchen Scale

Posted on Thu, 05/23/2019 - 1:30pm

Making Peace with the Baking Gods

Some things are forgiving—your favorite stretchy pants or an understanding friend, perhaps—but baking typically isn’t one of those things. It’s an exacting science that requires equal parts precision, artistry, and know-how. Today’s topic? Precision. If you’re not already baking by weight, we’re here to make the case for switching.

Here’s a situation that might sound familiar: You find a recipe that makes your heart go pitter-patter. You’re ecstatic to pull out your mixing bowl and whisk and give it a go. You follow the recipe in painstaking detail, pop it into the oven, and wait with bated breath for it to bake and cool. And then, when the time comes to taste test, something is just… off. Maybe it’s too dry, or it’s too oily, or the texture just isn’t right. Why have the baking gods forsaken me?, you ask, shaking your fists at the sky.

The answer may be sitting quietly in your drawer of kitchen tools. The humble measuring cup, the one you use to scoop and level your flour, is often the culprit behind disappointing bakes.

hands whisking blue background before measuring on kitchen scale

 

American bakers commonly use volume measurements. Many of us learned to measure by plunging a measuring cup into a crinkled bag of flour, leveling it off with a dusty finger, and dumping its contents into a mixing bowl. Here’s the problem, though: A cup of flour could weigh anywhere from 113 grams to 170 grams depending on the brand, the measuring cup you’re using, the method you used to scoop it… You can see how volume measurements open our bakes up to inconsistencies and imperfections. The best way to get consistent final products is to make the switch to weight measurements.

It can be unnerving to change your measuring method. Looking at a recipe listed in grams, ounces, or pounds, when all you’ve ever touched is an old plastic measuring cup, might be enough to send you running away from your oven. But fear not, dear baker! Weight measurements aren’t as frightening as they may seem. You can pick a weight unit that feels right for you, then head back into the kitchen to master the art of weighing.

How to succeed in weight measurements without really trying

Step one: Get your hot little hands on a kitchen scale. Choose for accuracy ratings; it’s important for your scale to get the numbers right every time. This doesn’t mean it has to be costly—you can purchase an effective scale for less than $20.

Step two: Learn the tare function. This lil’ button sets the scale back to zero, so you can measure ingredients directly in your mixing bowl without having to worry about, ya know, math. Forget about dirtying all those tiny measuring spoons, because those days are over! Just plunk a bowl on the scale, tare it, and add your ingredients one by one, taring in between. Or you can do one better and measure as we do at BAKE!, our very own baking school, for ultimate accuracy. Here, we measure each ingredient into its own container so we can easily double check weights and ensure that we’ve measured everything.

And the final step? Well, it’s more of an ongoing project. It’s helpful to familiarize yourself with some common conversions so you can comfortably replicate recipes regardless of their units of measurement. Luckily, we’ve already given you a head start.

Here’s a handy conversion guide for some common ingredients so you can conquer metric measurements with ease. Embrace your new scale with open arms, because it’s time to repair your relationship with the baking gods over a cup of coffee and a perfect scone. Your baked goods (and those who eat them!) will thank you.

So, how ‘bout it, folks?
Would you convert to a kitchen scale?

 

DOWNLOAD YOUR PRINTABLE CONVERSION GUIDE HERE!

Zingerman's Bakehouse Baking Conversions Table for kitchen scale

 

Let Them Eat... Brioche?

Posted on Mon, 05/13/2019 - 1:53pm

Brioche is one of the most satisfyingly rich bread in the world. And while it might seem a little trendy (brioche burger buns are popping up on many restaurant menus), the funny thing is, brioche is on record as being made over 600 years ago. It is believed to have originated with the Normans. Many years later came the famous Marie Antoinette quote “S’ils n’ont plus de pain, qu’ils mangent de la brioche,” commonly translated as “If they have no bread, let them eat cake.”

In case you’ve never had the pleasure of a soft, buttery slice of brioche, we’ll gladly fill you in. It’s really a small step away from being a pastry (hence the translation from “brioche” to “cake” in Miss Antoinette’s quote). It has a golden color and rich, soft texture from all the eggs and butter added to the flour, yeast, and salt. It’s great on its own, of course, but it makes rich bread pudding and French toast and takes sandwiches and burgers to another level.

brioche loaves

 

In our Bring on the Brioche BAKE! class, the scent of butter will fill the room when you learn how to make brioche dough, shape it, and bake it to perfection. You'll get plenty of hands-on practice in class with mixing, kneading, and proofing yeasted doughs—and you’ll be amazed by just how much butter you knead into the dough!

We’ll show you how versatile this dough is by making a variety of treats with brioche. You’ll learn how to make a traditional round shape, called brioche à tête — the brioche dough is baked in a round, fluted pan, and a small portion of the dough is placed on the top to form the head or tête. You’ll make stuffed brioche rolls, with both sweet (chocolate) and savory (sausage) fillings, and a sweet loaf called Craquelin. This national bread of Belgium is rolled up with a layer of fresh orange zest and sugar cubes soaked in Grand Marnier®. The additions form a sweet swirl inside each slice and their dark orange flavors seep into the surrounding dough. We’ll also demonstrate Bee Sting Cake (Bienenstich), a German dessert made with brioche, pastry cream, and a honey almond topping. We’ll also send you home with dough to make another batch of something you made in class—or something else entirely! 

Bostock type of brioche on a baking sheet

 

If you need more inspiration, you can find brioche at the Bakehouse in a couple of different forms. Frank and Amy, Bakehouse managing partners, tried bostock well over a decade ago and were still thinking about it, so we just had to start making this pastry creation and sharing them with you. Every day, our bakers begin with a thick slice of our buttery brioche bread, brush it with orange-flavored simple syrup, spread it with almond frangipane, sprinkle it with toasted almonds and bake it. It’s a breakfast pastry totally worth getting out of bed for (but it’s good for dessert too!). We also make small brioche rolls (with or without a sprinkling of sea salt on top) that make an irresistible addition to any dinner spread.

Ready to reserve your spot? You'll leave BAKE! with two loaves, eight rolls, AND dough to bake later.

Supporting Great Grains with Dr. Stephen Jones

Posted on Wed, 05/08/2019 - 12:16pm

They say don’t meet your heroes. But I highly recommend it. I have told everyone who will listen that meeting Dr. Stephen Jones was the highlight of my life, thus far. I have been a big fan of his work since learning about him last year, so when we invited him to Zingerman’s Bakehouse as a guest speaker in our Brown Bag Lecture Series at BAKE!, I volunteered to be his tour guide and chauffeur for one day of his visit. We visited the Zingerman’s Southside businesses, took tours at Cornman Farms and Mail Order, had lunch at the Roadhouse, and he spoke at BAKE! that evening.

Dr. Stephen Jones

Jones is a plant geneticist at Washington State University, where his research focuses on wheat breeding. He also serves as a professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences and as the director of The Bread Lab. Stephen is well known in academia and industry alike for being an expert in his field; is credentialed by degrees, professional experience, and the status of tenure; and is well funded by an endowed fellowship—he’s basically the textbook picture of success as a scientist. Stephen, though, is much more than a successful scientist. Particularly through his work at The Bread Lab, Stephen provides a model for food systems transformation, inspiration to scientists looking to serve their communities, and a technical framework for biological research that supports local economies. Perhaps most impressively, in his work Stephen tells a beautiful story that can help us move from industrial, commodity agriculture, which dominates our food systems today, to less centralized food webs that are refocused farming for just that, food.  

When I picked him up, we bypassed small talk, did not pass go, and immediately began deconstructing the role of hubs like The Bread Lab in scaling out agroecological farming and the role of businesses, like Zingerman’s, in making these hubs as functional as possible.

A cool 15 minutes and a PhD thesis’ worth of theories to test later, we met up with Amy Emberling, managing partner of the Bakehouse, who toured Stephen around our facilities. We wound our way through the Bakehouse, from pastry scaling to the cake department and pastry production, ending up at our new mill, where we connected with baker and grain nerd, Hazim Tugun. You haven’t toured the Bakehouse until you’ve got the tell-tale flour on your nose from smelling our freshly milled flour. Stephen pulled each close to his face, hovering them right under his glasses. As part of this ceremonious meeting of our grains, Stephen was holding a handful of Molly Breslin’s rye and pointed out that the rye grains were relatively small, signaling to him that they were bred with cover cropping in mind, not food. Tiny rye kernels aren’t inherently a problem; they just mean there is room for improvement. With selective breeding, the farmer could get more out of her plants and we could get more out of the resulting grains of rye. This exemplifies Stephen’s overarching goal—arriving at improved grain lines by breeding for food, and breeding for farmers, rather than breeding for agriculture and for commodity traders.

grain trials

 

Stephen is so good at breeding for food precisely because he spent decades breeding for commodity systems. He saw what was being lost because of the commodity approach, which is characterized by yield at all costs, reliance on agrochemicals, loss of farmer agency over seed saving and grain price setting, and the bleeding of grains’ value from local and regional food systems. Stephen grew tired of supporting this system. So, he decided to take back grains as a food and to take back science as a means of supporting farmers instead of big business. This cost him his role as commodity wheat breeder and the six-figure salary that went with it. Washington State University is very invested in supporting agriculture that supports big business, as is the case with most land-grant schools.

Stephen describes himself as a terrible businessman because he does not patent any of his grain varieties and gives the seed away for free. Good for food justice, bad for profit. This approach is just one of the many things that distinguishes Stephen’s research from that conducted by companies like Monsanto (Bayer). Another point worth clarifying is that Stephen doesn’t engineer transgenic grains; he just uses human selection (much like natural selection) to breed for desired traits. Basically, he impacts the grains’ DNA like evolution would in the wild, not like Monsanto does via techniques like gene splicing in a laboratory; just good old fashioned plant reproduction.

Over fried chicken and mashed potatoes at the Roadhouse, Stephen recalled other noteworthy visitors he’s hosted and trips he’s been able to take as the Bread Lab has captured more attention internationally. He has been visited by Yvonne Chaunard and Bill Gates, and been a guest at the White House and in the home of the owner of Bruichladdich Scotch. The famous distillery requires its barley to be sourced exclusively from the little island of Islay, Scotland. The challenging nature of sufficient barley production on a tiny island is how an American geneticist ends up sipping Scotch from a CEO’s personal collection on the Hebridean isle—in order to consult on how to effectively grow Islay barley production in ways that don’t sacrifice quality or sustainability. This is one of the things I find most refreshing about Stephen’s approach: in a world full of incredibly polarized and polarizing discourse, he eschews the idea of all or nothing and breeds for yield, but never “yield at all costs.” Today’s media avoids dealing with complexity that accurately reflects reality, I believe, because they think dichotomies are more sensational and attention-grabbing. In turn, they’ve trained us to deal less in complexities in our work, our eating, and our decision making as well.

Grain varieties

 

The way Stephen has captivated both some of the most powerful people, the companies and institutions they represent, and his rural community in Northwest Washington, betrays a global capacity and readiness to deal with complex co-goals and nuanced solutions. We see what is working, what centralization and agronomy and land grants have provided, and what they have taken that we want back. Stephen invites us to retrace our steps and stop at the peak of the optimization curve, not return all the way back to the starting point. Stephen uses his own archetypal hero’s journey to tell a story about wheat breeding that complicates the middle ground. In ecology, another way to think of complexity is diversity, and another way to conceptualize an ecosystem’s diversity is its richness, a richness that can support a whole movement from consuming globalized agriculture to eating regional food.

I left the Roadhouse, after lunch, toying with the idea that another favorite scientist of mine, Helda Morales, would probably term the storytelling that Stephen weaves his work together with a type of “mobilizing discourse.” Mobilization was exactly what I saw at our informal community coffee date later that afternoon at the Coffee Company. In attendance were bakers, farm owners and managers, maltsters, grain brokers, and grocery store owners, all from the Ann Arbor area. When asked by the group about his vision for change, Stephen emphasized his desire to spend his time and energy creating an alternative food system, rather than fighting the powerful players that perpetuate the broken one we find ourselves in. Early in his career, his strategy included more direct opposition to Monsanto, an approach he didn’t find effective, saying, “I stormed their gates with a torch in hand and when I turned around, no one was behind me.” Instead of fighting, he now focuses on providing an alternative breeding program and seed source and allows people to come to him. He explained to us that Monsanto and other large corporations are built to fight, and he just isn’t. He doesn’t care to fight for changes in corporations, or in government, or even to be heard. In an ultimate demonstration of the power of this philosophy, his current major funding sources have all approached him instead of him going to them. Stephen also emphasized his belief that each region should be well supported by public servants, like himself, that can link grain growers and grain end users with the resources and information these relationships need to be successful.

Dr. Jones at the Roadhouse

Environmental and socioeconomic conditions are different here in Michigan than in Washington, and though The Bread Lab provides great proof of principle, we need our own context-specific data and seed to be truly successful. To this end, the Bakehouse is partnering with master’s students at the University of Michigan and Nature Nurtures Farm to set up Bread Lab-inspired research that will help farmers and bakers better select grains that meet everyone’s goals.

After coffee came the main event: Stephen’s presentation on local grain economies. What struck me most about his talk was its focus on beauty. This was surprising to hear as was his reference to one of his PhD student’s thesis chapter called, “The Sound of Wheat,” and the fact that he ended the talk with an image of a Chagall painting. Maybe this kind of tenderness towards your work is what is possible when you spend your time building instead of fighting.

The night before his talk, over dinner at Miss Kim’s, Stephen divulged that his favorite grain was buckwheat. When asked why, he told us that he is fascinated by the perception of the plant globally—in some cultures it is stigmatized as a food for the lower classes while in others it is traditionally featured at royal weddings. He explained that it is often planted as an emergency crop and is beloved by starving bees in late summer. He names his wheat lines with the same careful, yet almost whimsical, consideration. His is a consideration that acknowledges the chance to add a layer of meaning, of poetry, and he does so with joyful reverence. The first wheat he ever named he called Xerpha, after a former botanist at WSU who cataloged plant species that would be lost by the flooding caused from building dams, loss caused by progress. Stephen came to know about her when a photo of her in her wedding dress fell out of a book he was referencing. A fitting woman to honor in his own quest to understand what we’ve lost in the name of progress at any cost.

Our visit with Stephen brought into focus, for us, what a more robust grain economy could look like here in southeast Michigan, the philosophical and scientific frameworks that might best guide how we get there, and who we still need to bring to the table to see real and lasting changes. This is a journey we’d already begun at the Bakehouse, long before my arrival, and that we are committed to continuing. In a kind of beautiful balance, this far-away friendship with Jones gives us the solidarity and modeling that allows us to take the next step in deepening the community right in our own Midwestern backyard, to move from sourcing that relies on big, globalized companies to big networks of cooperation and connection that unite us all.

 

By Hailey Schurr
Bakehouse Sourcer-ess

Photo credits: The Bread Lab (1-3), Sara Hudson (4)

Everybody Loves Cupcakes

Posted on Wed, 05/01/2019 - 10:45am

If you know Zingerman's, you know we love finding out where our food came from. The story behind where it got its name, for instance, is often a forgotten tale. Did you know cupcakes have a history?

hummingbird cupcakes with a zingerman's napkin

 

These precious little pastries date back to a published recipe in 1796 calling for a light cake batter to be baked into small cups. Often times small clay pottery or ceramic ramekins were used, as the metal muffin tins and paper liners we use today were not yet available. Later recipes called for measuring all the ingredients in even cups to make cup cakes. Also known as 1234 cakes or quarter cakes, the cake recipe was comprised of 1 cup of butter, 2 cups of sugar, 3 cups of flour, and 4 eggs. A baker would call this a cup cake, whereas, for a pound cake the ingredients were weighed. Fascinating right?! (Can you tell that we really love this stuff?!)

And who doesn't love a cupcake?! It seems everyone does, probably because they're like a party in the palm of your hand. They can be passed around at parties, no knife required. Plus, one cupcake is the perfect gift to lift someone's spirits. The English refer to them as fairy cakes. Pretty accurate and sweet, we think, and we love having fun with our food. And we know how people somehow get really excited at the sight of miniature food.

buttermilk cupcakes with lemon buttercream frosting



If you, too, can't resist cupcakes, we invite you to join in our little cupcake-making party at BAKE! where you'll learn from the baking pros and go home with our Zingerman's Bakehouse cake, buttercream, and fondant recipes. Together we'll do a little baking and a lot of decorating, as you create your own tasty and cute-as-a-button cakes. First, you'll bake our moist and scrumptious recipe for vanilla buttermilk cake. Next, we'll demonstrate how we make our fluffy vanilla Swiss buttercream with a whipped egg white and sugar meringue. Then, we'll show you different ways to use both vanilla Swiss buttercream and dark chocolate French buttercream for piping on top to cover your freshly baked cupcakes.

And the fun really starts when you use our made-from-scratch fondant (ours is really delicious—we promise!) to decorate what you've made. This fondant melts in your mouth, tastes like sweet vanilla, and opens up a world of decorating possibilities. You'll have plenty of time to let the creativity flow onto your cupcakes as you create your own designs and make your own shapes. We think you'll be eager to show off your cake art to your friends, family, or coworkers when you're done with class. Watch as everyone gobbles them up like kids in a candy store or a cupcake shop as it were. Like all our cakes at Zingerman's Bakehouse, we believe in cupcakes that taste as good as they look. So be sure to enjoy your cakes responsibly, at room temperature for maximum flavor and ideal texture.

cupcakes with fondant strawberry toppers

 

Ready to join us? Reserve your spot here! You'll leave BAKE! with Zingerman's Bakehouse cake, buttercream, and fondant recipes; the knowledge to recreate them at home; ONE DOZEN CUPCAKES(!) you made in class; and great coupons. See you soon!

By Sara Hudson, Marketing Coordinator for Zingerman’s Community of Businesses

Banana Bread, Paradoxes, and Peels - A New Banana Bread Recipe

Posted on Mon, 04/22/2019 - 10:08am

LEt’s CelEbrate banAna PEels And ParAdoxes on EarTh DAy

 

I love playing with paradoxes. They help me create new realities, new possibilities. They are freeing.

A paradox that we’ve been playing with at the bakery this year has been “less is more.” Do less processing to the food and the result will be more — more flavor, more texture, more color, and more nutrition. The other less will be waste, because we will be reducing it by using the whole food. Hence the connection to Earth Day.

cooking with scraps coverIt all began when I met a woman last summer.  A former co-worker had gotten in touch with me to say that her friend was publishing a book about cooking with food scraps, the parts of food that we regularly assume have no value and throw away. My colleague knew that we sometimes invite people to give guest cooking demonstrations. She wondered if we’d consider inviting her friend. The friend and I talked. We made plans. Why not? It was an interesting idea. It’s actually an important idea—throwing out less food—and she lived right here in Ann Arbor. I wanted to support her for all of these reasons.

Two months later the friend applied for a job at the bakery. What a fantastic surprise! She is now my co-worker and her name is Lindsay-Jean (LJ) Hard.

Our brief encounter in the summer had gotten me thinking about the scraps at the bakery. There are many parts of food that we throw out at the bakery in our process of cooking and baking - coffee grinds, egg shells, onion skins, the peels of many fruits and vegetables, as well as the peel of wheat berries otherwise known as bran. Could we find uses for all of these so-called scraps? I hadn’t acted yet. I was still chewing on the idea. Then LJ arrived and we had an expert to work on this with. Even more importantly we now had someone to actively encourage us.

We have always actively tried to limit the amount of food we waste, as do most food businesses. The foods we’re usually thinking of, however, are the raw ingredients we intend to use and the completed foods we’ve prepared. We minimize scraps, like peeling as little onion as possible, but we assume that some amount will not be used. I for one had blinders on about some of the parts of food we considered scraps. We’ve now begun to systematically look with fresh eyes at these scraps considering how to use or repurpose them in environmentally sustainable ways.

pureed unpeeled bananas for banana bread

 

So far this year, our fresh perspective has led us to stop our habit of peeling. We are doing less to our fruits and vegetables and to some of our wheat berries by leaving on the peels. Carrots in carrot cake. No reason to peel them. Apples for apple pie. No reason to peel them. Bananas for banana bread. No reason to peel them. Yes! I mean it! All of our loaves of banana bread are now made with unpeeled, fully ripened bananas. We were throwing away pounds of nutritious, flavorful food for no good reason. We’ve questioned our assumed practices and have stopped composting literally thousands of pounds of nutritious, flavorful peels. We had already been on the path to use more freshly milled whole grains in our baking. Now we just have another way of thinking about what we’re not doing to the wheat berries—we're not peeling them.

Why were we peeling? I don’t really know. I can tell you some stories, some ideas I have about it. I was trained in the French tradition, which I would say was the foundation of much professional cooking in the United States. Classic French cooking, in my opinion, is the epitome of refinement, purity, beauty, precision, and artistry. Unpeeled fruits and vegetables are crude and imperfect, perhaps. They need to be made refined and peeling is part of that process. White flour was also a sign of purity and refinement in many cultures. Peeling off the bran allowed for the refinement. Then there are the assumptions we have about peels — they’re dirty, the texture is distracting and maybe bad, they add a color we don’t want.

By playing with the paradox less is more, we have freed ourselves from the unexamined bias that we need to peel. Dirt isn’t a problem because we can buy organic fruit and vegetables and wash them. Texture has turned out to be a worry people have that isn’t well-founded. The peels tend to melt into the recipe and we actually like the added color. For example, our apple pie now has a very pretty pinkish tinge to it.

just baked banana bread

 

To celebrate Earth Day we want to share a recipe with you. Not peeling apples and carrots isn’t shocking but not peeling bananas is a surprising idea to many of us. Why eat banana peels? They are rich in potassium and contain more soluble and insoluble fiber than banana flesh. They contain lutein which is an antioxidant associated with eye health as well as phytochemicals such as polyphenols and carotenoids, which also act as antioxidants. Less is more!

Here is our basic banana bread recipe using the whole banana. Feel free to jazz it up with nuts or chocolate. I like a little lemon zest in it. Happy Earth Day!

(PS: I drafted this post in early April. Since then, LJ’s book was nominated for the Food Matters Award by the International Association of Food Professionals. It seems that others think it is important as well. Congratulations LJ! Come and see her demonstrate her ideas for Scrappy Sweets and a Scrappy Picnic this summer at BAKE!.)

By Amy Emberling
Bakehouse Co-Owner

cathy holding a slice of banana bread

 

Zingerman’s Bakehouse Banana Bread Recipe
 

Yield: One 8 x 4-inch loaf

Ingredients                              Volume                       Pounds                 Grams

Organic bananas                     3/4 cup              0.35 lb           160 g

(prep below, about 2)

Butter (melted)                  1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp      0.16 lb            73 g

Granulated sugar               1/2 cup + 1/3 cup     0.30 lb           136 g

Vanilla extract                         1/2 tsp               1/2 tsp           1/2 tsp

Whole eggs (XL, room temp)    1 each                1 each            1 each

All-purpose flour                     1 cup                   0.32 lb           140 g

Baking soda                        1/4 + 1/8 tsp       1/4 + 1/8 tsp    1/4 + 1/8 tsp

Sea salt                              1/4 + 1/8 tsp       1/4 + 1/8 tsp    1/4 + 1/8 tsp

 

For conventional ovens, preheat the oven to 350°F 20 minutes prior to baking.
 

  1. Prepare the bananas. Let them ripen until mottled with black spots. Wash them well, cut off both ends and freeze at least overnight. Defrost. As the bananas freeze and defrost they will turn black. They do not need to be black prior to freezing.

  2. Weigh the bananas and put them into a Cuisinart. Puree until they are a smooth paste. You may see tiny dark specks of the peel. This is fine.

  3. Put the bananas in a mixing bowl. Add the granulated sugar, egg, vanilla extract, and melted butter to the bowl and mix well. Scrape the bowl and spoon with a spatula or bowl scraper to incorporate into the batter.

  4. Mix the dry ingredients together and add to the batter.  Mix only to incorporate, scrape down the bowl and spoon, and stir in any streaks.

  5. Deposit the batter in a non-stick or sprayed 8x4-inch loaf pan.

  6. Bake in a preheated oven for 40 minutes.  

  7. Insert a tester into the center of the banana bread to check for doneness.  The tester should not have any batter stuck to it and the loaves should be a nice golden brown color.

  8. Allow the loaves to cool completely before slicing or freezing.  Banana bread can be stored at room temperature in plastic for up to a week or frozen for up to two months.  Thaw on the counter at room temperature.