The Gateway Bread: Rustic Italian

Posted on Tue, 01/10/2017 - 12:08pm

Growing up in Ann Arbor, I have always had really great bread right at my fingertips. Well, at least by the time I started eating bread (and having bread preferences), it has always been a short drive away at the Bakehouse.

In fact, some of my earliest memories are of my mom, with me in tow, stopping in at Zingerman’s Delicatessen to pick up a loaf of bread. Of course then I was not nearly as adventurous, so I rarely tried the loaves of Rye and Pumpernickel and, yes, even Sourdough my mom bought.

Now, working in the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses (ZCoB) and having actually grown up with these breads in my kitchen, I have moved past the days of scrunching my face up in disgust as my mom tried to get me to try anything other than my go-to generic, sliced white bread.

But, I haven’t always been adventurous with my food selections. I regularly remind myself that trying new things is actually a wonderful way to grow and develop new tastes.

Maybe you fall into that category? Happy with the bread you pick up on your weekly grocery trip. Too overwhelmed to step into the world of artisan bread. Wondering why bread from Zingerman’s Bakehouse is so special anyway.

 

I’ll let you in on a (well-known) secret: Rustic Italian.

Whether you are new to the artisan bread world or just beginning to think about perhaps driving over to the Bakehouse, our Rustic Italian loaf is the perfect beginner’s bread.

The loaf itself is fairly simple looking. Golden brown in color, fairly thick-looking crust, flour gently coating the top. But don’t let its outward appearance deter you! Once you cut inside, you’re greeted with a soft, fluffy crumb that is a light, cream color.

What’s in it? Rustic Italian has a very simple ingredient list. Unbleached unbromated flour, water, salt and yeast. Time is the magic that makes this bread so special. From mixing the starter to pulling a freshly baked loaf from the ovens, it takes 14 ½ hours. During that time, that simple ingredient list comes together to make one of our most versatile loaves.

And we’ve been baking it since we opened the bakery September of 1992. It is a recipe that we tried, we loved and we had to keep. It has (clearly) become a staple around here.

Rustic Italian with Pimento Cheese

So, what makes this bread so remarkable? I suppose it would be good to mention here that it is the Bakehouse’s top-selling bread. It can be used for just about anything. Sandwiches? Perfect. Morning toast? Also perfect. Pair it with pasta or soup or olive oil. 100% perfect. It really does it all, and makes all those everyday meals a couple notches better.

 

Where you can find it

Over at Zingerman’s Roadshow (the silver to-go trailer out in front of the Roadhouse), they use our Rustic Italian for their Avocado Toast. Two slices, toasted, buttered. A whole avocado. Shake of salt, sprinkling of pepper. Plus a few dashes of Zingerman’s Roadhouse’s House Hot sauce. When I’m not at the Bakehouse writing about breads, you can find me at the Roadshow, making Avocado Toast (among other things). Another secret- it is one of my favorite picks for lunch while I’m there.

Another great option is to slice it up and serve with a nice spread of Zingerman’s Creamery Pimento Cheese. Perfect afternoon snack or even dinner party appetizer!

One of my favorite sandwiches at Zingerman’s Delicatessen also uses Rustic Italian as its base- Benno’s Birdie. Amish chicken breast, Ligurian pesto, oven-dried tomatoes, fresh mozzarella. And then grilled (You can find me in line for this sandwich when I’m done writing this).

If you’re just looking for a loaf to try, you can pick one up from the Roadshow or the Delicatessen, as well. Plus, you can come right over to the Bakehouse and get a loaf, fresh from the oven around noon, everyday. While you’re here, you can peer through the window and see our awesome bread bakers hard at work- a glimpse behind the scenes of those loaves of bread we have on the shelves.
Whether you’re new to this world-of-bread or a long-time acquaintance, our Rustic Italian is tried and true. Give it a go, you won’t be disappointed!

 

 

- Natasha Mason, Zingerman's Bakehouse

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Sourcing our ingredients locally has many benefits, not least of which is literal field trips to visit our future ingredients as they grow. To this end, one June morning a contingent of the bakehouse grain commission headed west to Living Earth Farm in Sawyer, Michigan where rye is being grown for us this season. I think rye is delicious and I know our customers agree, many using our rye breads as staples in their diet each week and famously enjoying it on sandwiches at Zingerman’s Delicatessen. However, this ancient grain took a major back seat to wheat in the 1900’s when very fluffy and sweet breads became more popular. Now, though relatively easy to grow, particularly good for the soil, and hearty under a variety of weather conditions, rye is used primarily as a cover crop to improve the soil in between main crop seasons and is typically not harvested for food in the United States. Because it is no longer widespread in our state, it is necessary to work directly with farmers to access these grains whole, fresh, and from Michigan. The rye growing at Living Earth Farm is a special departure from today’s typical baking and farming and I’ve been looking forward to seeing its progress for months.

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