Gumption & Grilled Cheese: The Saga of Sourdough

Posted on Wed, 02/01/2017 - 9:56am

Better Than San Francisco?

Now, I suppose I can start back at the beginning of the story. We have been baking Sourdough bread since we opened the Bakehouse, back in 1992. But, back then, we called it “San Francisco Sourdough,” in honor of the well known naturally leavened bread tradition out in California. Fitting, right?

As the Bakehouse started to grow in popularity and recognition (both locally and nationally), we had our first run in with the law. A lawyer for a San Francisco company contacted us to state their opposition to us using that name. Mind you, this was almost a decade after we started baking it. Rather than mucking through any legal complications, we decided to change the name. Zingerman’s Founder Paul Saginaw only half seriously suggested to the lawyer that we’d call it “Better than San Francisco Sourdough”. Remarkably the lawyer and the company he represented were fine with that.

Thus, “Better Than San Francisco Sourdough” was born.

What makes our Sourdough so special? The magic comes from the starter. We’ve been caring for ours and feeding it flour and water daily since before we opened in 1992. It gives the bread its trademark tang and blistered crust. And each loaf takes 18 hours to make, so the starter has enough time to do it’s thing.

 

The Grilled Cheese Bread

Wednesdays are a very important day here at the Bakehouse. Why, you ask? Wednesdays are for grilled cheese. Not just any grilled cheese, one of the most satisfying grilled cheese sandwiches in Ann Arbor (if you ask me).

Sure, grilled cheese has (at least) two components- the bread and the cheese. While we use excellent cheese, one year aged Vermont cheddar for ours, the bread plays just as instrumental of a role. And we use our Sourdough.

So, why did we give Sourdough the star role in our one and only grilled cheese sandwich?

Since we first started the infamous Grilled Cheese Wednesday, we have always used Sourdough. One of our long-time Bakehouse staffers, Sara Whipple, recounts why this Better than SanFran Sourdough was the best choice for our grilled cheese:

“We thought the tang of the Sourdough would balance the richness of the aged cheddar cheese. And that the crispy crust would compliment the melty center.”

Anyone who’s tried one will definitely agree, our Better Than San Francisco Sourdough definitely makes our grilled cheese even better!

Wednesday: the day of lunchtime excellence

These cheesy Wednesdays were founded nearly 10 years ago (yes! It has been happening for that long) and were popular from the very beginning. Grilled cheese. Tomato soup. All made with excellent ingredients.

So, now you’re interested. You’ve pulled out your calendar (or started counting on your fingers) to see how many more days until the next Wednesday. Here’s the lowdown on our cheesiest day of the week.

Starting right around 11:30am, we fire up the grill and the grilled cheese slingin’ begins. If you’ve been around the Bakehouse on Wednesdays between 11 and 2, you may have noticed people trekking to our door, rain or shine. Now you know why!

As for how to go about the entire grilled cheese process… Stop in the Bakeshop, grab a number and, when it’s your turn, place your grilled cheese order. Then, take yourself and your receipt across the courtyard to our BAKE! classrooms. Let the line of people (or the smell of cheesy goodness) guide you to the right room.

After that, you’ll have a perfect grilled cheese in hand and the motivation to finish out the rest of your day with pizazz!

Sourdough (every day of the week)

Sure, you can get a grilled cheese on our Sourdough each and every Wednesday at the Bakehouse. But, if you can’t help it and you find yourself in need of our Better Than San Francisco Sourdough every day of the week, you’re in luck!

At the Bakehouse, we have them fresh from the ovens after 2pm daily. You can also pick up a loaf without even getting out of your car at Zingerman’s Roadshow. Or a few slices with your breakfast (or in your bread basket) at Zingerman’s Roadhouse. Zingerman’s Delicatessen also sells fresh loaves and offers quite a few sandwiches of their own on our Sourdough, too. So a tangy crispy slice is never far away.

 

 

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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