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This German Bread is a Holiday Highlight

Posted on Mon, 12/16/2019 - 10:27am

Stollen, a quintessential German Christmas bread has been a highlight of the holidays at Zingerman’s Bakehouse for more than two decades. And no wonder. We make ours with a symphony of great ingredients: sweet butter, Bacardi® White Rum, candied orange and lemon peel, lemon zest, fresh orange juice, Michigan dried cherries, citron, currants, toasted almonds, golden and Red Flame raisins, organic wheat flour, Indonesian cinnamon, lots of real vanilla, and more. We brush each precious loaf with rum butter—not once, but three times—and finish it with lavish dustings of cinnamon sugar, followed by snowy-white powdered sugar. The colors and flavors are very festive and all the butter and sugar allow the bread to keep for weeks throughout the holiday season. Just the thing to slice and serve with a pot of tea or glass of champagne, best enjoyed by a crackling fire with the ones you love.

slices of stollen bread

Photo credit: Antonis Achilleos


Now for some history

Stollen has been a German Christmas tradition since the early 14th century. The name is derived from an Old High German word, stollo, meaning a support or post, and its characteristic shape—oblong, tapered at each end with a ridge down the center—is believed to represent the Christ Child in swaddling clothes, hence the name Christstollen sometimes given to it. 

Culinary historians trace the first iteration of stollen—created as a Catholic offering during the liturgical season of Advent leading up to Christmans—to 1329, in the German city of Naumburgh an der Saale (near modern-day Leipzig) in Saxony (Central Germany). Composed solely of oats, water, flour, and oil, medieval stollen was hard and rather tasteless, a far cry from the rich, buttery, fruit-filled, sweet confection we know and love today. The meager recipe, devoid of milk and butter, was in keeping with Catholic Germany’s then strict observance of fasting during Advent, when animal food stuffs, such as meat, butter, and dairy, were, by papal decree, forbidden to be used or consumed in any fashion.

It wasn’t until the 15th century that stollen began to shed the culinary shackles imposed on it by Catholic doctrine. Around 1450, in their desire for a more flavorful and indulgent offering with which to ring in the Christmas season, two Saxon nobles based in Dresden, Prince Ernest, Elector of Saxony (1441-1486) and his brother Albrecht III, Duke of Saxony (1443-1500), wrote to the Catholic Pope in Rome, Nicolas V (1397-1455), imploring the Pontiff to rescind the so-called “butter-ban” then in effect during Advent. 

Posthumous Portrait of Prince Ernest, Elector of Saxony (1441-1486), ca. 1580. 
By Lucas Cranach the Younger (German, 1515-1586). 

The brothers claimed that their Dresden bakers needed to use butter in their stollen, as oil in the Saxon region was expensive, hard to come by, and had to be made from turnips. Pope Nicolas denied their appeal, as did the next four succeeding Pontiffs. In 1490, after forty years of persistent Saxon entreaties, the Catholic Church finally acquiesced, prompting Pope Innocent VIII to send a letter to Prince Ernest’s son and successor, Prince Frederick III, Elector of Saxony (1463-1525). Known as the “Butterbrief” or “Butter-Letter,” the papal decree granted that butter and milk could indeed be used in baking the Christmas stollen and could be done with a “clear conscience and with God’s blessing,” after making the “appropriate penance.” The catch, or “penance,” entailed paying an annual fee of 1/20th of a gold Gulden to support the building of the Freiberg Minster (in southern Germany)—a sort of revenue-generating ‘butter indulgence’ for the Catholic Church. The butter decree, along with its obligatory fee, was officially revoked in 1527 when, in the midst of the Protestant Reformation sweeping Europe, the Electorate of Saxony renounced Catholicism and became Protestant, making the region no longer subject to papal authority. 

The Stollen Tradition in Dresden, Germany

While stollen can be found all over Germany, especially around Christmas time, it has long been closely tied to the city of Dresden. It’s named in official city documents as early as 1474, in the accounts of the Christian Hospital of St. Bartholomew, where it is referred to as a cake for the fasting period of Advent, consisting of only flour, oats, and water, as then required by Catholic doctrine. Yet with the lifting of the papal butter ban, in 1490, thanks to the persistent efforts of Prince Ernest and his brother Duke Albrecht, stollen in Dresden was now free to evolve, becoming a celebratory bread fit for royalty. In addition to butter, Dresden bakers started adding more expensive and indulgent ingredients, among them sugar, exotic spices like cardamom, cinnamon, and clove, and candied fruits, nuts, citrus peels, and marzipan. With those additions, the stollen we know and love today was essentially born. And while bakers have their own take on stollen, each with their own secret blend of spices and mix of candied fruits, the recipe for the rich, fruit-ladened bread/cake has changed very little over the past 500 years.   

Indeed, by the sixteenth century, stollen was at the heart of Dresden’s holiday baking tradition, taking a star turn at the city’s annual Striezelmarkt, the oldest existing German Christmas market. Beginning in 1560, the city’s master bakers and their journeymen ushered in a new Christmas tradition—baking one or two festive stollen for the Saxon sovereign at the royal court in Dresden. In its inaugural year, the ceremonial Christmas stollen baked for the Elector of Saxony weighed in at 36 pounds and was carried through the city to Dresden castle, the royal residence, by eight master bakers and their journeymen. 

This annual Dresden tradition continued until the eighteenth century, when the Elector of Saxony, Augustus II the Strong (also King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania) (1670-1733), probably Saxony’s most famous elector, instituted yet another stollen custom that has persisted throughout the centuries up to the present day.

Portrait of Augustus II, The Strong, Elector of Saxony, King of Poland, and Grand Duke of Lithuania, ca. 1720. By Louis de Silvestre (French, 1675-1760), court painter to Augustus II and director of the Royal Academy of Arts in Dresden.

In the spring of 1730, to show off the strength of his military forces at the end of the Great Northern War (1700-1721), Augustus invited the important nobility and military figures from all over Europe to a military display and festival known as Zeithainer Lustlager. The highlight of the celebration was a giant stollen, which Augustus, who was also a self-confessed stollen enthusiast, commissioned from one of Dresden’s master bakers, Johann Andreas Zacharias and 60 journeymen bakers. Working for nearly a week, Zacharias with his baking crew combined 3,600 eggs, 326 churns of milk, and 20 hundredweight of flour to produce an enormous stollen weighing just shy of two tons! To bake the goliath, Augustus had his court architect, Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann, design a huge oven for baking and then had his carpenter craft a special stollen knife, around five feet in length, for slicing and serving. Once completed, the giant stollen, with its slicing knife, was brought to Augustus in a procession to the festival grounds, paraded on the back of a carriage pulled by eight horses, and then sliced up into 24,000 portions, which were distributed among the thousands of festival guests and soldiers. 

Baking of the Giant Stollen for Augustus II the Strong’s Zeithainer Lustlager, 1730. 
Engraving by Elias Baeck called "Heldenmuth" (German, 1679–1747).

The inscription on the engraving, roughly translated from German, reads as follows:

Praise and glory of the laudable Beckhen handicraft. Illustration of the large baking oven at the Royal Pohln and Churfürstl held in June 1730 at the Campiment bey Zeithayn between Großenhayn and Mühlberg, in which the large Strietz or cake was well baked by a Dresden based master named Zacharias; to make such a large Stritzel 18 bushel white flour, so 21 ct. 36 ℔ are weighed, 1½ ton of yeasts, 326 cans of milk, 60 shock or 3600 pieces of Eyer, 3 ℔ muscat flowers. The cake, which was pulled on a slider, for which 57 boards were used, by rolling with 2 chains and 1 thau in and out of the oven. The machine was long 8 Elen, the Strietz 18 Ellen in the length, 8 in the width, 1½ Schuch diek, and led with 8 horses on a scaffold into the Royal Main Quarter at Radewitz, where himself with a large knife, like a sabre (the same was several Ellen long), the Brod was cut up and divided out.

Dresden’s Annual Stollen Festival—A Highlight of the Christmas Season

The festive tradition ushered in by Augustus and his giant stollen is alive and well in Dresden today with its annual Stollenfest. Every year in December, hundreds of bakers and pastry makers that comprise Dresden’s Stollen Association come together to bake a giant Christstollen, which they then parade through the city’s Old Town in a custom horse-drawn carriage, joined by marching bands, actors in historical costumes, and military regiments. Cheered on by tens of thousands of festival goers, the giant stollen is then cut up and sold in slices, with a majority of the proceeds going to a charitable cause. Calling to mind Augustus’s Zeithainer Lustlager, the festival celebrates the centuries-old baking tradition and vibrant craft that is the Dresdner Christstollen.

Images from the 2014 and 2016 Dresdner Stollenfest, Dresden, Germany

Here at the Bakehouse, our annual month of holiday stollen baking is now in full swing. Our passionate dedication to incredible ingredients, tradition, and mastery of technique comes through in our stollen’s amazing flavor and texture. We package the festive loaves in lovely cloth bags for gift-giving and offer it by the slice in the Bakehouse Bakeshop. By season’s end, we expect to make close to 3,000 total pounds of stollen for our community! Come in ask for a taste…

By Lee Vedder, Bakehouse Historian

Our 8 Most Popular BAKE! Classes

Posted on Wed, 12/04/2019 - 11:27am

Since 2006, we have hosted thousands of home bakers in our baking classes, helping them get started on the path to success in their home kitchen, regardless of skill level or previous experience. 

Our mission at BAKE!, the teaching bakery at Zingerman’s Bakehouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has always been to spark a love of baking and keep that tradition alive in our community. We go about it with care, offering one-on-one instruction in a casual and intimate learning environment led by our expert instructors. We’re confident we can teach anyone to bake! 

instructor and student


Ready to get baking? 

Our original class lineup is still where it's at. These classes have been around since we first opened BAKE!, and they’re the place to learn the necessary building blocks for baking from scratch. They include recipes and techniques that will give you the foundation you need to start having fun in the kitchen and successfully whipping up delicious breads and treats. You’ll be impressed with what you can do!

Most Popular Baking Classes

Whether you are new to our baking school or have been around the block a few times, we highly recommend these classes. They teach the fundamentals of baking and some of our favorite recipes. A great refresher for some of our more seasoned bakers or a solid way to jump-start your home baking for newer BAKE! students, these classes cannot be missed.

Noodling About Strudelling

Remember when you were little and the gym teacher pulled out a compact plastic bundle and magically unfurled it into a huge parachute that the whole class could fit under? Well, you’ll have that experience all over again when we take a grapefruit-sized piece of strudel dough and stretch it out to cover a 24 sq. ft. table. Then we’ll make sweet and savory fillings to finish it off. This is just about the most fun you can have making food, and there’s nothing like enjoying warm, flaky strudel fresh from the oven.

coconut cream pie

 

Baking Pies A Plenty

Learn how to make a perfect pie crust the Zingerman's way—creating a flaky crust with butter, and another crust using lard and butter (no shortening allowed!). We'll teach you how to make the dough by hand, successfully roll it out, par-bake the crust, and crimp the edges to make your pies look beautiful. You'll make a double-crust fruit pie and a single-crust baked custard pie. Roll up your sleeves and join in the fun. These are recipes and skills you’ll use again and again.

Fabulous French Baguettes

One of our best bread classes for new bakers! We teach you to make the traditional French baguette recipe, starting with a flavorful poolish, hand rolling your dough, proofing and baking them just right, and ending up with a crisp crust surrounding a soft, airy interior. Imagine serving your guests and bringing out a perfect baguette that they swear must have been airlifted from Paris—but you made it yourself!

4 french baguettes

 

Scones 3 Ways

Learning to make a really good scone will have you ready to host high tea. In this class, we share the secrets to flaky and tender scones and biscuits, such as how to properly cut butter into flour. These are downright simple to make and will surely become a recipe staple at home!

Cinn-ful Cinnamon Rolls

You know that enticing cinnamon-sugar smell you notice every time you walk past the mall food court? After taking this class, you’ll be able to recreate that sumptuous scent in your very own home (and the results will taste a whole lot better). Learn the basic techniques of creating a yeasted sweet dough, including mixing, kneading and rolling, hand-shaping, and properly proofing the dough before baking. We'll also demonstrate how to make pecan sticky buns, a staff favorite. Wait until you taste these warm from the oven in class!

pan of 10 cinnamon rolls


 

Ooh La La Croissants

Few foods are more magical than a buttery, flaky, beautifully layered croissant. There are some tricks to baking them perfectly, but it's mostly about taking the time to do it right. You'll learn the techniques of creating traditional folded and butter laminated dough, then turn it into plain, almond and chocolate filled croissants! You’ll reach for this recipe at home again and again.

Mambo Italiano—Italian Breads

Take an Italian bread-baking tour and return home with loads of Paesano, Rustic Italian, Focaccia, and Sesame Semolina breads. What’s more, you’ll learn the skills to make them any time you want to satisfy the craving for warm, fresh bread at home. You'll get plenty of hands-on practice at working with yeasted doughs, including kneading, shaping, and proofing too. While your loaves are rising, we'll sneak over to Zingerman’s Bakehouse to see the professionals at work.

loaf of paesano bread

 

Bake Me A Cake

Learn to make three cakes, each requiring a different mixing technique: rich, yellow Buttermilk Cake (which we'll use to make pineapple upside-down cake); fluffy, white angel food cake; and dark, intense flourless chocolate truffle cake. We'll talk about choosing great ingredients and helpful tips for proper cake baking, plus you'll get hands-on practice properly mixing your cake batters. These cakes will outshine the box mix versions any day. Add them to your baking bag of tricks!

There you have it! Our most popular classes that will get you well on your way to better baking. We hope to see you in an apron soon!

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

How Pumpkin Pie Became a Thanksgiving Classic

Posted on Mon, 11/25/2019 - 1:15pm

...For pottage and puddings
And custards and pies,

Our pumpkins and parsnips
are common supplies

We have pumpkins at morning
And pumpkins at noon

If it were not for pumpkins
We should be undoon...

From an American Pilgrim Verse, ca. 1630

...But see, in our open clearings, how golden the melons lie; 
Enrich them with sweets and spices, and give us the pumpkin-pie! 

From “The First Thanksgiving Day, A.D. 1622,”
a ballad by Margaret J. Preston, 1887

Few foods that make up our traditional holiday fare can claim deeper American roots than the pumpkin (cucurbita pepo). Thought to have been first cultivated in Central America around 5,500 BCE, pumpkins had spread north up the eastern seaboard into Canada by the time Europeans began exploring the North American continent in the 15th century. With its thick shell and solid flesh, pumpkins were a sustaining dietary staple for Native Americans as they could be stored through the winter and preserved by slicing and drying them. They also were baked, boiled, stewed, and roasted over a fire for everyday consumption.  

Engraving by Theodor de Bry (Flemish-German, 1528–1598), ca. 1590, shows a pumpkin patch, marked with an "I," at the center of a 16th-Century Native American village located in the Outer Banks region of present-day North Carolina.

 

Versatile and easy to cultivate, New World pumpkins were among the first botanical specimens European explorers brought back to Europe. They are mentioned in European works beginning in 1536 and within a few decades were grown regularly in England and France, where they were called “pumpions” and “pompions,” respectively, in reference to their rounded form. By the 17th century, pumpkins, whether baked, fried, mashed, roasted, or stewed, featured prominently in English and French cuisine, with myriad recipes, both sweet and savory, appearing in the most influential English and French cookery books of the day. A favorite preparation was to scoop out their seeds, fill the cavity with sweetened, spiced milk, and cook them near a fire. Pumpkins were also used to make puddings, pancakes, pies, soups, stews, and tarts.
 

Watercolor of pumpkins, ca. 1585, by Jacques le Moyne (French, c. 1533-1588).

 

When the Pilgrims set sail for America on the Mayflower in 1620, landing on the shores of Cape Cod, they were most likely already familiar with the pumpkins cultivated by the Wampanoag, the Native Americans who helped them survive their first year at Plymouth Colony. From the Wampanoag, the Pilgrims learned how to grow life-sustaining crops, including pumpkins and corn, and how to weather the brutal climate of coastal Massachusetts. A year later, despite losing nearly half of their group to disease and scarcity brought on by a harsh winter, the Pilgrims, together with the Wampanoag, gave thanks for a bountiful autumn harvest with a three-day celebration feast. On the table would have been local root vegetables, like carrots and onions, dried fruits and nuts, waterfowl, wild turkey, venison, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, and pumpkin and squash. Lacking butter, lard, wheat flour, and a dry oven for pastry crust, the closest the Pilgrims would have come to preparing pumpkin pie at the first Thanksgiving and during the early years of the colony, would have entailed, according to some accounts, hollowing out pumpkins, filling the shells with milk, honey, and spices to make a custard, then roasting the gourds whole in hot ashes. 

 

Frontispiece to François Pierre La Varenne (1615–1678), Le Cuisinier François, Paris: 1651.

 

Meanwhile, back in 17th-century England and France, pumpkin pie continued to evolve, taking a number of forms. François Pierre La Varenne (1615–1678), in his Le Cuisinier François, 1651, the revolutionary cookbook that laid the foundation of classic French cuisine and was translated into English as The French Cook in 1653, instructed cooks when making their “pompion” pie to prepare a simple pudding and bake it in a pastry crust:  

...boile it with good milk, pass it through a straining pan very thick, and mix it with sugar, butter, a little salt and if you will, a few stamped almonds; let all be very thin. Put it in your sheet of paste; bake it. After it is baked, besprinkle it with sugar and serve.

 

Frontispiece to the English translation, The French Cook, 2nd edition, London: 1654. 

 

Frontispiece to Robert May (1588-ca. 1664), The Accomplisht Cook, 1st edition, London: 1660

 

In the influential English compilation, The Accomplisht Cook, 1653, by Robert May (1588-ca. 1664), the recipe for pumpkin pie takes on a completely different character and complexity:

Take a pound of pumpion and slice it, a handful of thyme, a little rosemary, and sweet marjoram stripped off the stalks, chop them small, then take cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, and a few cloves all beaten, also ten eggs, and beat them, then mix and beat them all together, with as much sugar as you think fit, then fry them like a froise, after it is fried, let it stand till it is cold, then fill your pie after this manner. Take sliced apples sliced thin round ways, and lay a layer of the froise, and a layer of apples, with currants betwixt the layers. While your pie is fitted, put in a good deal of sweet butter before you close it. When the pie is baked, take six yolks of eggs, some white-wine or verjuyce, and make a caudle of this, but not too thick, cut up the lid, put it in, and stir them well together whilst the eggs and pumpion be not perceived, and so serve it up.

These varying recipes for pumpkin pie, along with the English and French cookbooks that contained them, made their way to colonial America as English settlers continued to colonize New England throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. By the time Amelia Simmons of Connecticut (dates unknown), published her American Cookery in 1796—the first cookbook published in America and the first to meld together Northern European cooking and baking methods with American-sourced ingredients—colonial American cuisine had come a long way since the Pilgrim’s first thanksgiving. Pumpkins were now a dietary staple and a potent symbol of American plenty with American cooks employing them not only in puddings and stews, but also in beer, breads, johnnycakes, porridges, butter, syrups, and last but not least, the bone fide pie in a pastry crust.  

 

Frontispiece to Amelia Simmons, American Cookery, Hartford, CT: 1796

 

Amelia Simmons did not invent the pumpkin pie we now know and love today, but her cookbook contained the earliest American recipe for what has become a Thanksgiving Day classic. Her two recipes for “Pompkin” pie called for similar ingredients to what we use today:

Pompkin

No. 1. One quart stewed and strained, 3 pints cream, 9 beaten eggs, sugar, mace, nutmeg and ginger, laid into paste No. 7 [all butter] or 3 [butter and lard], and with a dough spur, cross and chequer it, and baked in dishes three quarters of an hour.

No. 2. One quart of milk, 1 pint pompkin, 4 eggs, molasses, allspice and ginger in a crust 

pumpkin pie sliceThis basic custard and single-crust format continued to be embraced by American cooks well into the 19th century and up to the present day. 

So when did pumpkin pie become the quintessential dessert of the Thanksgiving Day holiday? By the early 18th century, giving thanks for a bountiful autumn harvest with an annual celebratory feast, as the Pilgrims did, had become an important regional holiday in colonial New England and pumpkin pie had earned its iconic place at the table. Indeed, the dish had become so traditional in colonial Connecticut that, in 1705, a temporary shortage of molasses forced the town of Colchester to postpone its Thanksgiving from the first to the second week in November, until the essential ingredient for the pie could be obtained.

The historian Tad Tuleja notes, in his chapter on “Pumpkins,” in Rooted in America: Foodlore of Popular Fruits and Vegtables (1999):

Popular literature of the nineteenth century gives ample evidence that pumpkin pie was considered, in many circles, an indispensable feature of Thanksgiving….Women’s magazines carried recipes for it, and numerous memoirs also attest to an association with the supposedly New England holiday. Sara Josepha Hale, whose tireless promotion of the feast day led to its nationalization by President Lincoln [in 1863], noted in her 1827 novel, Northwood that pumpkin pies were “an indispensable part of a good and true Yankee Thanksgiving.” Without exaggeration, a recent historian of the holiday claims that turkey and cranberry sauce notwithstanding, pumpkin pies constituted “the first culinary Thanksgiving tradition.”

whole pumpkin pie

 

We’re happy to carry on the tradition here at the Bakehouse. Our Classic Pumpkin Pie may look wholly different than the pumpkin stews and custards of yore, but it’s just the thing that adorned our Thanksgiving tables as children. We deck out our pumpkin filling with Indonesian cinnamon, ginger, clove, Michigan honey, Guernsey Dairy cream and a cozy touch of Muscovado brown sugar to round it out. It’s a rich, creamy, and decadent celebration of a very storied gourd!

By Lee Vedder, Bakehouse Historian

Our 7 Favorite Tools for New Bakers

Posted on Thu, 11/21/2019 - 10:04am

Ready to hop into the kitchen and fire up the oven? Every beginning baker needs a well-stocked arsenal of tools to create cookies, croissants, pies, and pastries. To help you build your collection, we assembled a punch list of must-have essential tools for those brand new to baking. There are tons and tons of cool gadgets out there to create a baker’s dream kitchen, but we think this is all you need when you’re just starting out.

Keep in mind that we’re making some assumptions here. We’re guessing that you already have an oven in your kitchen at home and a few cooking basics like a large mixing bowl, a wooden spoon, a wire whisk, a sharp knife, measuring spoons and a couple of sheet pans. If not, start there!

hands making croissants


 

Digital Scale

We are firm believers in measuring by weight rather than volume. (Read about our thoughts on the matter here!) Recipes in our cookbook and at BAKE!, our hands-on baking school, are listed in both weight and volume. To ensure maximum accuracy and consistency in your baking, we recommend ditching the measuring cups and making the switch to a kitchen scale. Look for a simple digital scale in your price range, making sure it has settings for multiple units of weight, including grams, ounces, and pounds.

Mixer

Most recipes can be mixed by hand with a whisk or wooden spoon, but sometimes it’s a workout! So a stand mixer is a solid investment and something you can use nearly every time you bake. Baking on a budget? Pick up a hand mixer to start. Your upper arms will thank you.

using a plastic bench scraper to measure


 

Plastic Scraper

A silicone spatula or bowl scraper is an inexpensive and useful tool when it comes to bowls of batter or dough. This little spatula hugs the curves of the mixing bowl when you are scraping down the sides and bottom in between additions, to ensure your precious ingredients are properly incorporated. No more dry pockets of flour at the bottom of the bowl!

Dough Knife

Like the rounded plastic version mentioned above, a straight-edged metal dough knife or bench scraper is a low cost and high-value tool. Professional bakers use them to easily cut or divide doughs and to clean work surfaces. Use ‘em to scrape up dry dough or batter spills from your countertop.

Parchment Paper

This is a handy convenience that really saves on time and clean up in a baker’s kitchen. Parchment paper is a disposable, nonstick, oven-proof surface for your sheet trays and baking pans that makes clean up a breeze.

rolling dough with a rolling pin


 

Rolling Pin

A rolling pin is a necessity for rolling out pie dough, cut-out cookies, puff pastry, and more. Our pick is a traditional French wooden rolling pin with tapered ends. They are a lightweight alternative to pins with rotating handles, and easier to control for a beginning baker.

Portion Scoop

Using a scoop to dole out batters and doughs can ensure everything in the batch is the same size, meaning even baking across the board (er, baking sheet). You can certainly eyeball it, but this is a pro tip for uniformity that is easy to add to your toolbox.

 

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

Since 2006, we’ve shared helpful tips and valuable techniques for successful home baking at BAKE!, the hands-on teaching bakery at Zingerman’s Bakehouse in Ann Arbor.

Pie-fessionals: The Power of a BAKE! Class

Posted on Mon, 11/18/2019 - 12:59pm

Most people have a pie history. There’s something about this particular baked good that causes good people to lie and causes otherwise rational people a level of anxiety and frustration that I have not seen with any other item we teach at BAKE!. Students in the Baking Pies a Plenty class will confess to buying a Pillsbury crust and passing it off as their own. Students will say that one time, when the stars and planets aligned, they made the perfect crust...and were never able to recreate it. Most students have a mother, an aunt, or some relative that made the best pie crusts...that were never passed down and could never again be replicated. 

pecan pie

 

I didn’t make a good pie crust until I came to Zingerman’s. Growing up, I used the Joy of Cooking recipe and a food processor. Inevitably, I always added too much water  ("1-3 tablespoons more") and ended up with a soggy blob of dough. I used the Cook’s Illustrated recipe of vodka in place of some of the water, which allows the dough to roll with more ease and less cracking but lets the vodka evaporate in the oven, which prevents the crust from being brittle (which can happen when you add more water than necessary). I tried all the ingredient combinations; ice-cold water, frozen butter, half butter/half Crisco, a teaspoon of vinegar, a tablespoon of granulated sugar, but I never made a crust I was proud of. 

How did something so simple take on such tremendous weight? The way we make our pie crusts so delicious at the Bakehouse comes with 4 ingredients and two techniques: Fat, flour, salt, water, alongside "butter raincoats" and fraissage. In our class, we teach one crust with all butter and one crust with half butter and half lard (lard is the "good fat" as it is non-hydrogenated). The technique is the same regardless of the fats you use: With a pastry blender or your hands, cut and rub most of the cold fat into the flour until the flour takes on a yellow-ish appearance and fat is green pea size or smaller. I have to give Sue credit for her ‘butter raincoat’ analogy but it’s so perfect: by working the fat in this way, you are coating each particle of flour with fat, essentially putting a ‘butter raincoat’ on each one. This gives us a tender crust. With the remaining fat, you leave these pieces larger. When you add the water (always the same amount, never 1 tablespoon more or less!) and mix the dough, there is always a moment of panic. Students say, "Are you sure this is right?" They say, "This looks dry." They say, "I don’t believe this will work." I promise them it will. It is time for fraissaging! By schmearing dough across the table, the larger pieces of butter hydrate the dough and leave streaks of butter. This is what gives us a flaky crust. The water in the butter turns to steam which helps to lift our layers up. By hydrating with fat and not water, our crust doesn’t shrink in the oven (which happens when water evaporates from a pie crust). 

coconut cream pie

 

Whenever I teach Baking Pies a Plenty I always start the class by asking people to introduce themselves and share their personal pie history, if they’d like to. The most recent class I taught was a great group and we had a lot of fun and learning—and included an especially touching pie-fessional. 

Linda was a first-time student. After the class, I was in the room cleaning up. Linda came up to me and told me a story about how when she was growing up, her mother wouldn't teach her how to make pies (said Linda made too much of a mess in the kitchen). Linda loved to bake but was always afraid of making pies. Linda said her brother was "the golden child" and when he got married, Linda’s mother taught the brother's wife to make pies but never Linda, still. The sister/daughter-in-law then started making the pies for all the family gatherings, something which I can tell causes Linda some emotional strife.

As Linda is telling me this story, she starts to cry. She said that she's never felt like she had the confidence or ability to make pies her whole life and that we've given her this gift, this confidence and faith that she was not a mess or a failure when it came to pies. She said she is a nurse and she 'gives' all the time and she honestly didn't have the words to explain what we at BAKE! had given her that morning in class. At this point, I started to get teary myself and gave Linda a big hug. 

rhubarb pie

 

I believe we all learn from each other all the time at BAKE!. I tell this story not as a testament to the way we make pie crust at Zingerman’s but as a way to show how baking can bring us together and sometimes tear us apart. Every day I value the community of bakers that support one another and appreciate the space that has been created at BAKE! for non-judgmental learning and sharing.  

 

By Sara Molinaro, BAKE! Principal

Photos by Antonis Achilleos

Turkey Urfa Chili—A Little Spice is Nice

Posted on Wed, 11/13/2019 - 11:03am

There’s something rather romantic about really good chili powder: Chilies from far-reaching regions across the globe, perfectly dried and ground to make a fragrant, flavorful concoction. A smoky, spicy, slightly sweet aroma rising from the jar as soon as you twist it open. A deep, saturated burnt sienna hue, red and fiery to match its flavor.

overhead shot of turkey urfa chiliIt’s easy, though, to feel disconnected from the little jar of red powder sitting in our spice cabinet when we pick it up at a big-box store. All too often it’s filled with flat-tasting dust from nondescript peppers. It’s there; it’s vaguely reddish; it’s been there to flavor many a pot of chili. But a good chili powder, thoughtfully sourced and artfully blended, is a complex work of art.

Our Turkey Urfa Chili gets its smoky, spicy flavor from Urfa biber, a dried Turkish chili pepper from the Urfa region of Turkey. It’s truly something to behold: a deep burgundy, almost black, with a surprising, unique flavor that strikes a perfect balance between smoky, salty and sweet. It begins with the Isot pepper, a bright red chili that looks a bit like an elongated red bell pepper. After harvest, the pepper is partially dried in the sun, then left under tarps to oxidize and ferment. 

Just picture it: rolling hills blanketed with bright white tarps and deep red chilies drying in the low autumn sun. We could wax poetic about this spice all day. We get ours from our friends at Épices de Cru, and we’re smitten with its fruity, chocolatey heat. It’s similar to Aleppo pepper in many ways, with raisin-like notes that start singing upon first sniff.

Maybe we’re biased, but one of our favorite ways to enjoy Urfa biber is in a big, steaming bowl of our Turkey Urfa Chili. We make it with a heaping scoop of those purpley-red chili flakes, plus some green chile powder to add some complexity. We serve it up in our Bakeshop every Thursday, and it’s a guest favorite for good reason. But if you find yourself craving it on any other day of the week, you’re in luck, because we’re sharing the recipe with you! Take one bite of that Urfa-perfumed chili, and you’ll be transported to the hills of Turkey.

urfa turkey chili with spoon

 

Turkey Urfa Chili
 Canola oil  2 Tbsp  25 g
 Diced onion (1/4 inch [6 mm])  1 ½ cups  170 g
 Ground turkey  16 oz  454 g
 Minced garlic (3 cloves)  1 Tbsp  25 g
 Ground cumin  2 ½ tsp  7 g
 Green chile powder  2 ½ tsp  7 g
 Urfa pepper flakes  1 ½ Tbsp  13 g
 Sea salt  1 Tbsp  13 g
 Ground black pepper  1 tsp  2 g
 Kidney beans, drained  3 (15-oz) cans  1,275 g
 Diced tomatoes (canned)  1 (28-oz) can  795 g
 Crushed tomatoes (canned)  1 (28-oz) can  795 g
 Sour cream for topping    
 Sour cream for topping    

 

  1. In a large stockpot, heat the oil and sauté the onions over medium to low heat until they are translucent. Add the ground turkey and minced garlic. Stir frequently and actively break up the turkey to avoid clumping. Cook the turkey completely. Add the cumin, green chile powder, Urfa pepper, salt, and pepper. Stir to incorporate the spices and cook over low heat for 2 minutes.

  2. Add the beans and both kinds of tomatoes. Mix well. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Stir frequently to avoid scorching. Serve hot in bowls with sour cream and chopped green onions as tasty garnishes.

 

By Emily Hanka, Bakehouse Marketing Manager

Recipe from Zingerman's Bakehouse by Amy Emberling & Frank Carollo, Chronicle Books (October 3, 2017)

10 Tips for Baking with Kids

Posted on Thu, 11/07/2019 - 12:44pm

Teaching children has long been a passion of mine. I knew in high school that I wanted to go to college to become an elementary school teacher. In 2002, I was about halfway through my schooling when my other passion, baking and cooking, started to call out to me, so I decided to switch gears and go to culinary school.

nikki teachingSince I graduated in 2004, I’ve worked in restaurants, convention centers, and universities. But there was always this lingering feeling of “Did I make the right choice?” “Should I have stayed with getting my elementary education degree?” “Why am I working summers in hot kitchens when I could have been off for 3 months?!” I loved sharing my culinary knowledge with the student assistants I had in the bakeshop at Eastern Michigan University, and after years there, I realized that what I really wanted to be was a chef instructor. Having a job that combined both of my passions was a dream.

In the summer of 2011, I saw a job posting for a baking instructor at Zingerman’s BAKE!. I grew up in Ann Arbor and, of course, knew about Zingerman’s. I didn’t even know about BAKE!, but when I looked at the schedule online, I knew I NEEDED to get the job. Luckily, I got the call from Shelby Kibler, former BAKE! Principal, at the end of August, and joined the BAKE! team the following month.

There were so many classes that it was a bit overwhelming, but I was excited to learn them all. What really energized me the most, though, were the family classes. I love getting to work with kids (and their parents) and teach them my favorite subject: baking and cooking! Their excitement for mixing, kneading, shaping, and tasting brings me such joy. Now, I’ve been here so long that kids I taught in family classes in my first few years here are now taking adult classes, and several are even in college now! 

In early 2015, the BAKE! staff decided that our next adventure would be kids’ baking and cooking summer camps. With shows like The Great British Baking Show and Food Network’s kids’ cooking challenge shows, along with the rise of YouTube cooking shows and food blogs, many kids in family classes were already pretty accomplished home bakers and wanted to expand their knowledge. We knew that with our extensive recipe collection, our already great reputation, and our passion for teaching, we could create something great.

decorating cookies

 

Overall, our kids camps have been amazing and we have so much fun teaching them every summer. Their enthusiasm is infectious, and we laugh all the time at the things kids come up with in class. It’s fun for us to see the same kiddos each year, although I have to admit that when I haven’t seen them for a year and they are suddenly taller than me and looking so grown up, it makes me kind of sad! Still, it’s such a joy to have them come back excited to learn new recipes, meet new friends, and help us engage the brand new students.

We hope that, whether or not your child has already taken a cooking and baking camp with us, they are learning to bake and cook at home, and that they’re engaging with food in a meaningful way. Here are some tips I’ve learned along the way for successful baking and cooking with kids. 

10 Tips for Baking & Cooking with Kids:

1. Start introducing kids to working in the kitchen as young as possible. There are many ways even a 2-year-old can get involved in the kitchen. Have them add chopped vegetables to a salad. Let them dump ingredients into the mixing bowl. Let them taste ingredients.

2. Teach them about safety in the kitchen—why washing their hands is important, how to use oven mitts to remove a hot pan from the oven (when they are old enough), how to check the temperature of chicken with a thermometer, what to do if they get a cut or a burn, etc.

toddler smiling in front of food

 

3. Involve your child with menu planning for the family. Let them help choose the main dish, side dish, and dessert; and research recipes that they can easily help with.

4. After menu planning, have your child help write the shopping list. At the store, let them help pick out produce, have them read the aisle signs to look for ingredients, or let them pick out a fun, new tool from the kitchen equipment section that they can use to make the next meal. 

5. Choose foods to make that kids find appealing and interesting. Since they already like a food, they’ll likely be more interested in helping to make it.

kids decorating cookies6. Get picky eaters to help make foods that they aren’t a fan of and try new ways to cook them. Your kid doesn’t like steamed broccoli? Try roasting it. Your child doesn’t like beans? Try making a veggie burger patty with them. Many times, if they are involved in making a recipe they’ll be more likely to at least try it.  

7. Choose recipes that kids will be able to create without too much assistance after they learn the recipe. Start with easy recipes like cookies, brownies, or muffins. As they get more comfortable with the baking process, their confidence will increase and more challenging recipes can be tried.

8. Choose recipes that others in the house will want to enjoy. Kids will love the feeling of making their friends and family happy by making something delicious and homemade. Baking or cooking something really shows someone that you care!

9. Be patient with them! It can be easy to want to take over cracking the eggs or scooping the cookies but they need the hands-on experience to gain confidence.

10. Have fun with them! Get in the kitchen with your kid. (Or try a family class at BAKE!—no cleanup!) Your enthusiasm and excitement will create the same in your kid. The more fun they have, the more likely they will be to want to continue learning to cook and bake.

By Nikki Lohmann, BAKE! Instructor

Images credits: (2) Pixabay, (3) Alexander Dummer, (4) cottonbro, all from Pexels

Bringing a Joy of Cooking to New Generations

Posted on Mon, 11/04/2019 - 10:12am

Still sparking joy after all these years: Nearly 90 years and 20 million copies later, Irma S. Rombauer’s self-published Joy of Cooking is a kitchen staple for generations of home cooks and professional chefs.
 

Cover of Joy of CookingThis month, the 12th edition of the iconic cookbook Joy of Cooking will be released after undergoing a thorough revision and expansion by Irma’s great-grandson, John Becker, and his wife, Megan Scott. They developed more than six hundred new recipes for this edition, tested and tweaked thousands of classic recipes, and updated every section of every chapter to reflect the latest ingredients and techniques available to today’s home cooks. Their strategy for revising this edition was the same one Irma employed: vet, research, and improve Joy’s legacy recipes while introducing new dishes, modern cooking techniques, and comprehensive information on ingredients now available at farmers’ markets and grocery stores. This latest version will be a great addition to cookbook collections for Joy of Cooking fans and budding cooks, just in time for holiday gift-giving. 


Inspiring Joy


Here at Zingerman’s, where hundreds of people are living out their dreams of working with food every day as a career, it turns out that the Joy of Cooking has helped inspire some of those dreams.

“It was the first book I cooked from. I'd come home from school when I was in 5th grade, read the recipes and pick some to try, always something baked. I used my mother’s copy, which was printed in 1953. She got it as a sophomore in college when she got married and moved into her own apartment. She still has that book. When I visited her last week it was right above her refrigerator with a couple of her other favorites. This made me laugh. At 83 she doesn't cook much anymore but there it was, Joy of Cooking, right within her reach in case she needed it. I continue to use it as my tried and true resource book for basic information. I have a much newer copy that I bought in 1988 when I moved into my first apartment after college.”
-Amy Emberling, Zingerman’s Bakehouse baker, author, and co-managing partner


“Reading this book in junior high is part of what inspired me to be a chef. My favorite section of my 1960’s edition was ‘know your ingredients.’ I think it’s a foundational cookbook everyone should have.”
-Rodger Bowser, Zingerman’s Delicatessen chef and co-managing partner 


“It has changed my life. I go there first for nearly every recipe. I love the pancake recipe. I’ve also made the doughnuts, and it felt so good to have done this thing that seemed so hard, but was actually pretty easy! The descriptions and depth of ‘why’ put into the book is what is missing from most recipe books.”
-Gary Mazzeo, Zingerman’s Web Designer
 

black bean soup from joy of cooking

 

“The Joy of Cooking version my mom had included recipes for ostrich and alligator. As a child, this brought me a tremendous amount of joy (ha!). I never tried making them though.”
-Sara Molinaro, Zingerman’s BAKE! principal


“I grew up with this cookbook as a child. My amazing mother sent me a copy for my 20th birthday (37 years ago). I made my first Hollandaise sauce when I was probably 10 years old assisting my mom with a dinner party. To this day I still use the recipe for quick tapioca custard.”
-Amy Berger, Zingerman’s Bakehouse bread mixer


Joy Comes to Zingerman’s


When asked about his desire to visit Zingerman’s, John Becker said, “We met Zingerman’s co-founder Ari Weinzweig eight years ago at one of the first food-industry events we ever attended. Knowing next to nothing about said industry, we asked him what Zingerman’s was all about, and his answers really piqued our interest. One of the things Megan and I first bonded over was cheese, and we vowed to make it to Zingerman’s if circumstances ever took us through Ann Arbor. Since then, we have befriended Ann Arbor ex-pats where we live who have nothing but glowing things to say about the Deli—and the community of businesses that have grown from it.”


One of John and Megan’s few midwest stops on their national book release tour brings them to Ann Arbor and the Zingerman’s community of businesses. In fact, it will be their only Michigan appearance! The authors’ visit in February 2020 includes two demonstrations at BAKE!. Copies of the new edition of Joy of Cooking will be available for purchase and to be signed by the authors. 

photo of authors John and Megan

 

Head to the BAKE! classroom at Zingerman’s Bakehouse to watch the authors create four recipes chosen from the book: olive oil flatbread crackers, spicy chickpea soup, frico eggs (with crispy cheese), and chocolate swirl halvah (a sesame butter fudge). After the demonstration, there will be generous samples to share, and you’ll go home with the recipes.

Get yourself inspired in the kitchen again. Pick up a copy of the new Joy of Cooking for you and for the cooking curious youngsters (or adults) in your life. 

Reserve Your Seats:

Demonstration & Tasting

The new Joy of Cooking will be available for purchase and signing at all Zingerman’s events, or order your book now.

 

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

Photo credits: Sarah and John by Anika Toro and black bean soup photo by Heidi’s Bridge.

State St. Wheat—Our New Soft, Sliced, Sandwich Bread

Posted on Mon, 10/28/2019 - 2:00pm

We’ve developed a new bread here at the Bakehouse, State St. Wheat—soft, sliced, and packaged in plastic. It’s very different from the breads we usually make, so we wanted to explain why we’re doing it, and why we’re excited about it!

Here in the United States, a bread revolution unfolded in small pockets of the country, beginning as early as the late 70s and then more extensively in the 80s and early 90s. People began to relearn the art of baking naturally leavened (sourdough), hearth-baked breads—often round and crusty, very different from grocery store bread.

slices of state st. wheatToday, a loose collaborative of bakers is trying to start another revolution. We are calling ourselves The Bread Lab Collective. We’re a national group of craft bakers, millers, teachers, students, and wheat breeders inspired by the work of The Bread Lab of Washington State University to work together to make nourishing sandwich bread available nationwide. Together, we’ve set out to create pure and simple whole grain sandwich breads that have broad appeal—familiar flavor, familiar texture, familiar shape—but are healthier than mass-produced, grocery-store bread because of our ingredient choices and artisan baking techniques. 

Our goal is to bring nourishing bread to more people in our communities and to inspire other artisan bakers to join us so that Bread Lab Collective sandwich bread is available in every state. We’re excited to be teaming up with more than a dozen other bakeries from across the country, including King Arthur Flour Bakery (Vermont), Barrio Bread (Arizona), Seven Stars Bakery (Rhode Island), Breadfarm (Washington State), Prager Brothers (California), and Elmore Mountain Bread (Vermont), as founding members. 

Each bakery in the Collective has made something a little different, in keeping with local tastes and ingredients and with their bakery’s flavor and process preferences. The Collective wants some degree of consistency, so we’ve agreed upon a set of specific criteria to bake by; here they are:  

  • The loaves need to be reminiscent of what many of us are used to on the grocery store shelves: bread that is sandwich shaped, soft, sliced and packaged in plastic, with at least a one-week usability, and is good for all the typical things Americans make with sandwich bread (grilled cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, basic toast).

whole loaf of state st. wheatAs artisan bakers, we customarily make crusty breads in many different shapes, sold unsliced in paper bags, so this was a significant departure from our typical approach.

  • The Bread Lab Collective loaves boast short and understandable ingredient lists—seven ingredients or fewer is the agreement! This was normal for most of us, so less of a challenge. Check out the label on some highly manufactured breads and you’ll see a much longer list of ingredients, many of which will be unrecognizable as food. 

  • Loaves made for the Collective are mostly naturally leavened, meaning that they’re made with a sourdough process, and are good to eat for a full week. Making a naturally leavened bread in a pan and achieving the texture and loft many of us are used to from grocery store bread takes some skill and experimentation. We were all up for it. The naturally leavened process actually lends itself to a longer shelf life so that was to our advantage. Freshly milled whole grain also has longer keeping qualities.

How is our loaf different from typical grocery store bread? Most grocery-store bread is made with a considerable amount of commercial yeast, which allows it to be made quickly and cheaply. Furthermore, typically added fats, sugars, preservatives, and other dough conditioners give grocery-store bread its workability to achieve a lofty look as well as its desired texture and flavor. By keeping our bread naturally leavened (sourdough) and using the right artisan baking techniques, we don’t need to rely on heavy quantities of commercial yeast or multiple additives to create an appealing and nutritious loaf. 

  • Finally, at least 50% of the flour used in the loaves must be whole grain. The Bread Lab Collective wants the bread to provide nourishment. Having it taste and look familiar with at least this much whole wheat was also a challenge to our baking skills.

The Bread Lab Collective is passionate about supporting the work of the Bread Lab at Washington State. To this end, we’ve also all agreed that ten cents from each purchase of State St. Wheat will go to the Bread Lab to fund further research designed to make projects like this possible.

state st. wheat

 

We’re done with our experimenting at the Bakehouse and are ready to introduce State St. Wheat. We’re using just five ingredients in all, including local wheat and rye, along with Michigan honey, olive oil, and sea salt—that’s it! And, of course, we’re also adding in some extra attention to detail. 

Hazim Tugun, who works on recipe development and grain milling at the Bakehouse, describes our process, clearly showing the care we take: “Our team freshly mills Michigan-grown, organic soft white wheat and combines it with stone-ground, high-extraction, Michigan-grown hard red spring wheat flour we get from our miller in Traverse City.  We take the extra step to lightly cook (scald) a portion of that freshly milled soft white flour for added sweetness and moisture. All of that goes into a naturally leavened dough with a touch of Michigan honey and olive oil for a same-day fermentation to keep the flavors mild. The loaves get a gentle bake in our convection ovens to achieve a thin, relatively light-colored crust. The result is a flavorful sandwich loaf where you can taste the grain, with the added bonus of a tender and moist crumb, and a relatively long shelf-life.”

Ready to taste? Stop by the Bakeshop and ask for a sample of State St. Wheat (or any of our breads!), and watch our bread bakers in action while you’re here. Maybe you’ll even get a little sneak peek of State St. Wheat headed into the ovens! State St. Wheat will also be available at some of the other locations where our breads are sold. It will be the only Zingerman’s Bakehouse bread sliced, in a plastic bag with a bright label, so you won’t be able to miss it. 

Our goal is to sell State St. Wheat so that shoppers in many stores will have access to this familiar yet different, more flavorful and nourishing loaf.

By Amy Emberling, Bakehouse managing partner

Living Bread with Daniel Leader

Posted on Tue, 10/22/2019 - 2:13pm

BAKE! welcomes baking visionary and first-time Zingerman’s guest

cover of living breadIn his just-released groundbreaking book, Living Bread: Tradition and Innovation in Artisan Bread Making, Daniel Leader, owner of the iconic Catskills bakery Bread Alone, offers a comprehensive picture of his sought-after baking philosophy for the enthusiastic home baker. His book, inspired by a community of millers, farmers, bakers, and scientists in New York, provides a fascinating look into the way artisan bread baking has evolved and continues to change—from wheat farming practices and advances in milling, to sourdough starters and the mechanics of mixing dough.

On November 21st, BAKE! at Zingerman’s Bakehouse invites you to meet Dan for over two hours of baking fun. He will demonstrate several recipes from his newest book: 4-hour baguette, Baguette au Charbon vegetal, Domberger rye, and Pane Altamura. He'll also tell us stories about his life and sign books. We'll cap it off with a tasting, so you'll go home with a full belly and a full mind.

We sat down with Daniel ahead of his upcoming visit to talk about his new book, the role of curiosity in preserving traditions, balancing tradition and innovation, today’s baking landscape, and his advice to novice home bakers. 

 

Congratulations on your new book! It looks stunning. Why were you interested in writing such a multi-faceted book?

I’m interested in baking from the wheat field to the table. I love history and people as well. I did, after all, study philosophy in college!  

What role do you think curiosity plays in preserving traditions? 

The scope of my professional training is two weeks. There wasn’t a baking program at the culinary institute—the baking curriculum only took two weeks. Everything I've learned is because I'm curious. In my book, I talk about my backdoor baking education, which involves being polite, nice, and asking for a baker’s time. My whole career is based on curiosity.

Why was it important to you to capture stories from your “backdoor baking” education? 

daniel leader on a bridgeIt’s the people and my experiences that helped me become who I am. It’s the reality of my life.

How do you balance tradition with innovation? 

It’s interesting—I’m sure at Zingerman’s you have the same challenge. We’re making a traditional product, honoring traditional techniques, and trying to stay true to tradition, but we don’t live in a traditional society. We have to make bread hip and cool, in a modern way, and in some ways, without the tradition. More people are into the words ‘artisan’ and ‘sourdough.’ People like that it’s a fermented food, people like that it's a whole grain. People aren’t really tied into the fact that it's a traditionally healthy food.

How are people responding to your book? 

There are whole sections on tradition in the book, and I’m getting emails from people saying they can’t wait to try certain recipes. It’s interesting how people are focused on recipes, the here and now, and things they can do. That’s the opposite of what I expected. I thought people would read the book first and do the recipes second. Even some of the baking blogs that have interviewed me go right to the recipes, and I wasn't prepared for that. 

Because there have been so many bread books the last few years, I asked, “what do I want to say that hasn’t been said?” In addition to baking history and interviews, I included 60 recipes that are new and different; many have never been published before. It’s an eclectic assortment of recipes, including breads like Curry Tomato Ciabatta, Vegan Brioche, and Chocolate Sourdough Babka, as well as traditional recipes.

Why do you think people are attracted to the recipes first? 

I’m just guessing that, because we live in a very complicated time, a very controversial time, with economic stress, political stress, environmental stress, educational stress, people want to do simple, fulfilling activities. There’s something so satisfying in putting the world aside for one moment to focus on making delicious bread. The world needs more of that. We’ll have much more productive discussions in life if people do things that are satisfying.

What are you excited about in today’s baking landscape? 

That people are excited about bread again! I think we’ve come through the peak of people saying wheat is bad; I think it’s waning now. We’re getting a real push back from people who enjoy good bread, who want to make good bread, who are supporting bakeries, who want to support artisanal bread. It’s an exciting time to be baking bread because people are interested. 

To support that, there are a lot of nutritionists and agronomists who are making solid scientific arguments about why wheat is good for us and why we should be eating it. There’s a Cornell scientist in my book who talks about the anti-wheat hype. The truth is, 20 percent of the world has been eating wheat for their primary source of protein for the past 9,000 years. 

Whenever we have discussions of wheat and gluten sensitivities, it’s really important we talk about scientific truth and not hip headlines. In the book, there’s a chapter on heirloom grains and wheat sensitivities, where I interview experts in the field on what connects to scientific truth. If we’re going to talk about it, we should be knowledgeable. 

activated charcoal baguettesWhat advice would you give a novice home baker or someone interested in baking? 

First of all, people have been baking bread for thousands of years, but yeast was only invented in 1890. Bread over history has mostly been sourdough. Don't be intimidated by the process. There are great flours readily available. It’s easy, it doesn’t require special equipment, and you’ll make lots of friends in the process. 

What about a more serious baker who’s interested in a “backdoor” training in baking?

Luckily, it's a lot easier now; it doesn’t have to be backdoor. There are a lot of great baking schools... People don’t have to search as far and wide as I did — there are a lot of really nice facilities and great instructors. 

Also, there are so many good books! My book is only one of many good books. It's a great time to learn how to bake. 

Who should attend your class at BAKE!? 

Food lovers. People who like to have good food in their life. Simple, good food. 

I don't mean this in a disrespectful way, but I'm not a “foo foo” baker. I can do the fancy stuff, but mostly, I want bread to taste good. 



Save your spot to learn from Dan at his BAKE! Class, “Parisian Bread Baking Demo with Daniel Leader,” on Nov 21, or get a copy of his book, to enhance your home baking adventures and build your knowledge of the tradition, science and art of baking.

By Nicole Pelto, Communications Specialist for Zingerman's Community of Businesses

Baguette photo by Joerg Lehmann