Sara’s Sweet on Sicilian Sesame Semolina

Posted on Wed, 04/10/2019 - 12:32pm

Early in my career at the Bakehouse, I worked in our retail shop. One of my fondest memories is the aroma of Sicilian Sesame Semolina bread when it emerged from the oven around noon and rolled into the shop, still warm. To me, and my younger, less articulate, burgeoning foodie self, it smelled like pancakes. And that was a very good thing. It was amazingly intoxicating. I would jump at the chance to slice one up to sample to guests. I’d pass it through the slicer and inhale that sweet smell. I was in love. I’d offer some up to every customer, probably with a dab of American Spoon Sour Cherry Spoon Fruit, knowing they’d love it as much as I did.

sesame semolina rounds

I adore the aromas of the bakery as much as I do the flavors. I always joked that I would someday have my own line of Zingerman’s scented candles. Buttermilk cake, pecan pie, and Sicilian Sesame Semolina bread topped my list of the scents that would be part of the debut collection. That Zingerman’s business is still just an idea in my memory, and probably better off that way.

Sesame Semolina is not just for smelling, though—it’s for eating, too! So let’s get to the story behind this bread. Its claim to flavor fame is truly something to see (and taste, of course). The entire loaf is rolled in unhulled sesame seeds before baking. The natural oil in all those seeds gets slowly roasted in the oven, contributing an intense flavor and aroma, not to mention a lovely little crunch. And that’s just the crust! Inside there’s a firm, rich and almost cake-like crumb made with golden semolina flour, yielding a beautiful yellow interior. Durum flour — the same flour often used to make pasta — is a creamy, silky, fine golden flour created from durum wheat, which is different from the hard wheat that’s used for almost all bread making. Just that difference alone is what sets this bread apart. It’s such an enjoyable bite.

sesame semolina slices


Meet the bread you didn’t even know you needed in your life. Our Sicilian Sesame Semolina bread begs to be toasted, griddled or broiled to turn the flavor up even higher. It has a great nutty flavor but plays well with others. Pair it with garlic butter, pesto, olive tapenade, or a sprinkle of good Parmesan. Trust me, fellow bread lover. You want to give Sicilian Sesame Semolina a whirl.

Sara’s picks for enjoying Zingerman’s Bakehouse Sicilian Sesame Semolina bread

  • Serve some warm slices for dipping in tomato basil soup

  • Toast and spread with butter and orange marmalade

  • Grab a slice of Sausage Strata, Thursdays only at the Bakehouse

  • Try the Bulgarian toast from Zingerman’s Coffee Company, served with Zingerman’s Creamery cream cheese and Lutenitsa, a Bulgarian tomato and eggplant spread

  • Pick up a Roasted Turkey sandwich with cucumber and house-made ranch at the Bakehouse (I’d add Zingerman’s grey salt chips)

  • Order the #77 (Jimmy Wants Rosemary’s Baby) at Zingerman’s Delicatessen. It’s a stellar sandwich stacked with rosemary ham, Zingerman's handmade fresh mozzarella, tomato, olive oil, and red wine vinegar (+ a new pickle for me!)

  • Dive into the bread basket with marinated olives and herb butter at Zola Bistro (then order the grilled asparagus and crispy prosciutto salad if you can)

  • Enjoy some warm slices served up in a cute little paper bag with spreads like sheep’s milk ricotta and hot honey at San Morello restaurant at the Shinola hotel in Detroit (I’m a sucker for both the presentation and my favorite bread)

  • Take your love for this loaf all-the-way and bake it at home: get the recipe from our cookbook or our Italian bread baking class at BAKE!

By Sara Hudson, Marketing Coordinator for Zingerman’s Community of Businesses
(former Marketing Manager for Zingerman's Bakehouse)

Fancy Schmancy Holiday Cookie Contest

Posted on Tue, 04/02/2019 - 12:29pm

Every holiday season we have dozens of BAKE! classes for Fancy Schmancy Holiday Cookies (FSHC)—they are a special place for students to come together to prepare for celebrations with their friends and families. And, each year, we have fun coming up with a line-up of new, distinctive cookies that are worthy of sharing at all of your holiday gatherings. This year, the cookie line-up will be extra special, because we’ll be including one of YOUR recipes.

four types of fancy cookies on a tray


What we’re looking for:

  • A fancy, schmancy cookie recipe (of course).

  • Originality, both in terms of your recipe and considering what we’ve made before (check out the list of past FSHC below). Recipes must be your own. A recipe that’s been in the family for generations is fair game, and it’s also okay if you were inspired by another cookie, just tell us about how you changed it. With that in mind…

  • A good story. Tell us about your cookie! Has your family been making this for as long as anyone can remember? Did you find a recipe that you liked, but didn’t love, so you tweaked it to become something so magical that your family now asks for it every year? Help us fall in love with this cookie before we even taste it.

What we’ll be considering:

  • The overall appeal of the cookie: How it looks and tastes (of course).

  • Organization: Is the recipe written in a way that is clear, understandable, and easy to follow?

  • Preparation: Will this cookie demonstrate a new or unique technique? Does it require special equipment? We will be keeping in mind if something will make a recipe more challenging to teach in a classroom setting and stovetop cooking is discouraged (things like melting chocolate are fine, as they can be done in other ways).

  • Storage: How long do the cookies keep? Will they freeze well? Again, this is not a requirement, but we have Fancy Schmancy Holiday Cookie classes starting at the end of November, and when possible, we like options that they can freeze for the holidays.

  • The yield: Our sweet spot is 2 dozen.

fancy schmancy 2015 cookies


How to enter:

Each person may submit one recipe. It must be submitted by April 16th, either via email to: [email protected] or in person at our Shop. A photo of the baked cookie is appreciated, but not required.

In submitting a recipe to this contest, you acknowledge that we have the right to use your recipe (and you, of course, still have the right to do with your recipe what you wish!). We may gently edit for clarity or to streamline technique, but promise to try our best to preserve your voice, and we will always credit you as the author of the recipe.

For the following few weeks, we’ll be testing submissions and narrowing down to our one lucky winner. We’ll announce the winning recipe on May 15th, which will be taught in dozens of FSHC classes this year to hundreds of BAKE! students. The winner’s name will be included in the recipe’s title (think Cousin Eddie's Eggnog Cookies, George Bailey's Angel Wings, Buddy's Maple Syrup Mountains... you get the idea). The winner will get two free spots (for themself and a friend) in a Fancy Schmancy Holiday Cookie class of their choosing.

fancy schmancy holiday cookies with wooden crate


Fancy Schmancy Holiday Cookies from years past

Buckwheat Sablé
Passionfruit Einkorn Bars
Merry Masala Cookies
Sarah Bs (chocolate rum almond)

Cocoa Caramel Bites
Pistachio Cherry Slices
Snowflake Puffs
Viennese Almond Punch Cookies

Mint Chocolate Whoopie Pies
Coconut Brandy Snaps
Chocolate Walnut Acorns
Cranberry Orange Almond Bars

Almond Linzer Cookies with Apricot Jam
Red Chili Chocolate Cookies
Baci Di Dama (chocolate hazelnut sandwiches)
Jolly Eggnog Thumbprints

Chocolate Thumbprints with Raspberry Jam
Orange Spritz
Chocolate-Dipped Espresso Shortbread
Pfeffernüsse Spice Cookies

Dark Chocolate Mint Ganache Sandwiches
White Chocolate Lemon Sugar Cookies
Transylvanian Walnut Rolls

close up of fancy schmancy cookies on a tray


Cardamom Crescents
French Almond Macarons
Cherry Pistachio Nougat

Chocolate Mint Thumbprints
Gingerbread People
Nutty Meringue Kisses

Chocolate Dipped Orange Spritz
German Spiced Ginger
Pecan Turtles
Chocolate Cherry Sandwiches

Raspberry Linzer
German Spice
Chocolate Coconut Macaroons
Lime Shortbread

Chocolate Coconut Macaroons
Russian Tea Cookies
Cut Outs


Pass The Patience

Posted on Mon, 03/18/2019 - 2:18pm

An interview with Bread Bakery Manager, Randy Bower

“When you’ve just baked a full oven of great sourdough, it’s awesome. It makes you feel really good. All those golden, shiny loaves in all their shapes and sizes—it’s a beautiful thing to see.”

That’s Randy, describing his favorite thing to bake here at Zingerman’s Bakehouse, while on the job as the leader of our bread bakery. He was wearing his deep passion for baking on his face, with a big warm smile that made his eyes close slightly while he envisioned that perfect batch. After more than 12 years of working at the Bakehouse, it seems his love for the art and science of bread has done nothing but blossom like rising loaves of sourdough. Those of us who know Randy, know he’s earnest and sincere about everything he does.


rack of sourdough loaves


“I’ve learned patience. Prior to baking, I wasn’t patient, bread teaches you to wait. You wait for the bread to ferment, proof, and perform. When you realize that great quality will come from waiting, you start to transfer that to your life. And you get good results.”

Randy grew up here in Ann Arbor. His family visited Zingerman’s Delicatessen on Sundays after church to pick up some Bakehouse scones. Those stops were primarily for his mom, who never strayed from her love of classic currant scones, but somewhere along the way, Randy became addicted to them, too. These days he brings the scones home after a day of work at the bakery, and makes an occasional special delivery to his mom.

loaves of bread


After working as a cleaner at the Deli and the Bakehouse, Randy jumped at the chance to try his hand at baking. There was no scone-making position available as it were, but there was an opportunity to shape bread. Randy credits growing up working on cars with his dad for the ability to quickly pick up the hand motions for properly shaping bread doughs. He also identifies himself as a visual learner and says he was able to mimic the motions of those around him as a baker in training. He had an interest in the baking craft and was on his way: “I continued to learn on the job and felt successful at it, which inspired me to keep getting better. I’ve learned so much and had so much fun doing it, that now even after many hours of bread baking here, I make bread at home for my family.”

Randy admits he makes baguettes most often, because that’s what his wife likes best (wise choice I think). He also shares his love of baking with his oldest son. They recently made a loaf of bread modeled after the X-wing fighter plane from Star Wars. What a lucky kid! But it doesn’t stop there. They mill their own flour together and bake all sorts of naturally leavened breads using kamut, durum, spelt, einkorn, sonora, and his personal favorite, red fife.


freshly milled flour in Randy's hand

In addition to his children, Randy is also passing on what he’s learned to a new generation of bakers here at the Bakehouse. He really lights up talking about being a part of other people’s development, getting them excited about the science of bread, encouraging them to study more about it, and finding out how they learn best so they can be successful. He wants them to have that moment like he did where they really click with what they’re doing. I admire his desire to pass on what he’s learned and to have the patience to help others find what they love to do.

One of the many benefits of working here, besides those abundant learning opportunities, is a free loaf of bread for every shift you work. Amazing, right? So what does a long time baker, who also bakes at home, choose for his free loaf? We’ve got to know because that’s a ringing endorsement. Randy decisively chooses True North bread: “That’s my favorite. It’s local grain, whole wheat, and has a unique, almost smoky flavor.”

Randy's child pulling a big bowl of dough


When he’s not baking or spending time with his wife and children, Randy also writes poetry, sharpens his woodworking skills, and fixes up cars. All things he learned from his family and passes on to his.

It’s pretty incredible that the kid who was raised on Zingerman’s scones grew up to be one of the bakers pictured on the inside cover of the Zingerman’s Bakehouse cookbook. Naturally, his family thinks that is very cool and they all have their own copies, of course. When I inquired if they asked him for his autograph, he replied. “No. I just give it to them.” Did I mention Randy does sarcasm well, too?

randy with a fancy loaf of bread


So what’s up next for Randy and our bread bakery? Randy’s thinking about someday teaching classes at BAKE!, our school for home bakers. He likes to pop in over there sometimes and see what students are up to and would love to work with people on successfully baking naturally leavened and freshly milled breads in a home kitchen.

Randy is part of the team that operates our stone mill several times a week. Already being a home miller, just like his partners in milling, Kyle and Hazim, helped him hone in on the right settings faster since he had a feel for the characteristics of freshly milled flour. They’re working together to change some of our existing recipes over to freshly stone-milled whole grain flour, when we think it makes sense, and to create new breads that highlight a variety of grains. The whole wheat flour in our signature Farm loaf is the latest upgrade. A freekeh (smoky wheat) fougasse and whole wheat focaccia with roasted vegetables are coming next. We all look forward to those!

Eating With Adventure In Mind

Posted on Tue, 03/12/2019 - 10:32am

Our Talk with Paul Lebeau of Wolfgang Mock’s Mockmills

“Make what you eat today different than what you ate yesterday. Because, why not?!” Of all the benefits of home milling that our guest speaker Paul Lebeau, Managing Director of Wolfgang Mock’s Mockmills, posed to us, this one really resonated. So much so, that I knocked on the table, a German custom when someone makes a good point that Paul encouraged us to take part in during his talk. Eating, baking, and cooking with a sense of adventure sounded inspiring to me. Aside from all the information coming at us about health and environmental considerations, food should be fun and it should taste really good. Bakehouse co-owner Amy Emberling agrees, “That’s mainly what brought all of us at the bakery into the professional food world, after all, we want to make delicious food and enjoy the process of learning while we create it. If a new approach doesn’t serve these desires, it won’t last with practitioners.” The food that simply keeps us all alive can also nourish our spirit.

mockmill collage


On an icy February night, a room full of milling-curious home bakers, BAKE! class fans, and Zingerman’s Bakehouse staff—including bread and pastry bakers, millers, writers, and retail shop staffers—all gathered over a love of learning and baking. Paul presented the history of grain milling, its crucial role in civilization, the compelling reasons to bring fresh milling back to bakeries and homes, and all the positive benefits we can reap from that.

Paul Lebeau speaking


At Zingerman’s, we are always seeking out the history of where our food came from, and mills have a long and complex story to tell. Here’s a mini version: A method for grinding grain was an early tool humankind invented, manually passing a handheld stone over grain kernels on a stone slab. Throughout history, people have put a lot of energy into developing new milling technology. Stone mills powered by people, animals, wind, and water allowed milling to become the first industrialized household activity. Fast forward to the creation of industrial roller mills in the late 1800s, and we saw 24,000 stone mills eliminated in the U.S. in just 10 years because of this faster, more efficient technology.

The change over to centralized milling caused us to lose touch with whole grain kernels and the entire milling process. Grains came into the home as flour, and very white flour at that, with the introduction of roller mills. The new heavily processed flour won people over with its easy accessibility, shelf stability, and attractive appearance. Little did Americans know that consuming nothing but white bread, with most of the nutrition sifted away, was causing malnutrition, which led to diseases like pellagra. This nutritional deficiency prompted the switch to enriched flour, which had the backing of the U.S. government.

Today, we can turn back the industrial clock and return to eating more whole grains (in tandem with those scrumptious pastries and breads we love that still benefit from some level of white flour), mill flour in our local bakeries (like we are beginning to do here), and also in our home kitchens. In Paul’s words, “You can take back the privilege of milling your own grain.”

mockmill with flour


Mockmill manufactures tabletop mills designed for consumers to mill grains at home. Paul went on to present five compelling reasons why we should be milling our own flour:

1. Good for you—know what you’re eating and gain more nutrients
2. You’re in charge—you decide what grain, where it was grown, and how fine or coarse to mill it
3. Flavor—fresher always means it tastes better
4. Our living culture—grains have been a part of us since prehistoric hunters and gatherers and it takes a community to plan, produce and process the harvest
5. Adventure—discovering the variety of foods that can be milled and enjoyed is full of tasty possibilities

After his presentation, Paul passed around samples of bread he had baked that day with Hazim, one of our bakers and millers. They guided us through the tasting, proudly sharing what they had created together, from milling the flours, to mixing and fermenting the doughs, and shaping the loaves. “Break it open. Smell it. Give it a taste. Let it work on you,” Paul offered with a warm grin.

Paul and Hazim with the mockmill


He’s dubbed the recipe “Paul’s 75+ Sourdough Whole Food Sandwich Loaf.” Yes, that’s more than a mouthful in more ways than one. He uses the same recipe with 75% freshly milled whole wheat flour, water, salt, and sourdough starter, but the 25% can be just about any other milled grain, legume, or even dried fruits and vegetables. Using the same formula and subbing out one ingredient is a very scientific approach, a constant and variable model, no doubt due to Paul’s first career in medical testing and biotech startups. We enjoyed his tasty experiments when we tasted two loaves, and the only difference between them was 25% freshly milled malted barley flour in one loaf and 25% freshly milled red lentil flour in the other. There was a marked difference in texture between the two loaves. The malted barley-wheat sourdough had a more tender texture with a rich nutty flavor. The red lentil-wheat sourdough was chewier and had an earthy, almost vegetal and spicy flavor. Both were delicious in their own way. And that red lentil bread certainly checks off that box of eating with adventure in mind!

By Sara Hudson
Zingerman's Bakehouse Marketing Manager

Find Out More
-7 Reasons To Fall For Freshly Milled Flour from Zingerman’s Bakehouse

-Future Special Events at BAKE!

-Purchase a Mockmill here in our shop


The History of American Women and Bread Baking

Posted on Wed, 02/27/2019 - 10:23am

We had the pleasure of being introduced to Dr. Maria Trumpler at the 2018 Grain Gathering at Washington State University's Bread Lab, where she was one of the keynote speakers and a workshop presenter. For Amy, Hazim, and me, it was an impactful few days of learning, tasting, and connecting with like-minded people. Each morning in the beautiful Skagit Valley we kicked off our day with a welcome and a haiku from Dr. Stephen Jones and then a keynote address. This past year all of the speakers were women doing trailblazing work in different facets of grain education and baking.

Dr. Trumpler, a Senior Lecturer at Yale in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, presented a talk titled “Why women stopped baking bread at home and why it matters.” It was a historical look at the evolution of women nourishing their families through baking and presented theories of why changes in agriculture, technology, and personal taste could have contributed over time to what you see today. It was a thought-provoking presentation, that appealed to us as bakers who are always looking to learn more about the origins of what we do. And, after all, our mission at BAKE!, our school for home bakers, includes “seeking to preserve baking traditions and inspire new ones.”

Dr. Maria Trumpler with students

So, Amy invited Maria to share her work with our community of bakers here at Zingerman’s Bakehouse. Lucky us, she said yes! We look forward to hosting Dr. Trumpler in May and giving her the Zingerman’s experience and a warm Ann Arbor welcome. (She’s never been to either.) You can join us in welcoming her if you attend her brown bag talk “Why Women Stopped Baking At Home” or “American Breads Pre-1850” baking demonstration. If you’re interested in food studies or women’s history, you helped your grandmother bake bread as a child, or you’re an avid home baker today, these special events are for you.

I asked Maria a few questions to get the inside scoop on what drives the work she does:

What inspired you to do the research for why women stopped baking bread at home?

I had been teaching a course on women in science, about how science was conceived of as a kind of knowledge women couldn’t do in the 1700s. I began to wonder what was a “science-like” knowledge that women were doing, but perhaps not leaving us written records. Making cheese and other dairy products and making bread were two possibilities that require an extensive practical knowledge as well as some overarching theoretical knowledge. Then I came across this astonishing statistic that after millennia of making bread at home, between 1890 and 1940, 90% of families in the United States stopped making bread at home. What could possibly have changed?

Is this where you became connected with the breads of pre-1850?

Yes, I realized that in the past we have used a great variety of grains and leavens, to start with. And the switch to commercial flours and commercial leavens and the start of the sandwich craze really narrowed what kinds of breads seemed appealing.

How would you describe breads of that era?

It can be a bit of a challenge for our palates to be open to these breads. They are often very grain-forward, unsweetened, and dense. But they were far more central to the diet than bread is now for most of us. And people got to make them the way they and their families preferred them.

What has been the reaction from your students and talk attendees to your studies on the evolution of bread and baking in the American home?

Most have never thought about what was lost in that transition, but then go on to share stories about their mothers or grandmothers. I love bringing attention to the changing lives of ordinary women, and I’m excited for a new audience!


By Sara Hudson 
Marketing Manager

Photo via the Yale Sustainable Food Program

7 reasons to fall for freshly milled flour

Posted on Wed, 02/20/2019 - 2:27pm

Our standard all-purpose wheat flour here at Zingerman’s Bakehouse is amazing stuff. It’s organic, traceable (not only can our supplier tell us what American farms the wheat comes from, we’ve even visited one of them) and fresh (fresher than what you find most stores or commercial bakeries because we get a weekly delivery straight from the mill and bake with it soon after). It’s still a great choice for much of what we’re baking.

At the same time, we also want to feature freshly milled whole grain flours, much of which is ground right here on our very own stone mill. You’ll find freshly milled whole grains in many of the new items we’re developing. We’ve also been experimenting with adding freshly milled grains into the classic breads and pastries we’ve been making for most of our history. In those cases, after substantial testing, we will then sometimes make the switch when the end result has better flavor and texture than it had before.

This has been a great flavorful adventure so far and we’re looking forward to even more learning, creativity, innovation, and fun.

tabletop mill with grains and flour

7 Reasons We Like Freshly Milled Whole Grains

1. FUN & Flavor Is ALWAYS First

There are a number of reasons that we’re so focused on freshly milled flour, but having fun and boosting flavor are at the top of the list—we want to make food that tastes great and enjoy doing it! Freshly milled flour results in more flavorful, nuanced breads and pastries, with more intense aromas (which is important, as smell plays a dominant role in our perception of flavors!) and even more intense colors. Also, since the oils of the grain’s germ (more on this later) are included in the fresh flour, the resulting breads and pastries are often relatively more tender (think about how the addition of a fat, like oil or butter can make for more tender baked goods). Milling our own flours also gives us an opportunity to play with our food, so to speak. We can create new culinary experiences with the wide spectrum of grains that are out there. We embrace baking with a sense of adventure, while seeking bigger flavors!

2. Freshness Is Vital

This one is pretty self-explanatory…but we’re going to talk about it anyway! An easy comparison is coffee: Would you rather have a cup of coffee made from freshly ground beans or one from beans ground months ago? Fresh, right? We believe the same goes for flour—fresh is better. And freshness doesn’t just apply to the flour, when properly made, breads and pastries made with freshly milled flours will stay fresh longer thanks to the natural oils present in the flour.

hazim with the Bakehouse mill


3. Chock-full of Nutrients

First, a brief grain anatomy overview. When we receive grains ready for milling, there are 3 basic parts to know about: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. The bran is high in fiber, has a good amount of proteins, and enzymes that help with digestion. The germ is the smallest part of the kernel, but it contains the highest density of nutrients—mostly fatty acids and a lot of vitamin E. The endosperm is the largest part of the kernel, it’s primarily starch and serves as the food for the plant—this is the only part you get with commercial white flour.

Compare that to stone-ground flour, which crushes the whole grain kernel—the bran, the germ, and the endosperm—releasing all of the nutritious vitamins, minerals, and oils into the flour. This is more complete and as nature designed it—a whole food. We can use that flour as is (whole grain flour), or we can sift out some of the bran (high-extraction or ‘bolted’ flour) to varying degrees, which is somewhere between a whole grain flour and a white flour. The beauty of freshly stone-milled flour is that even if some of the bran is sifted out for a high-extraction flour, the oils of the germ have still been rubbed into the white, starchy portion of the flour, resulting in a relatively more flavorful and nutritious “whitish” flour, that still performs well and tastes delicious.

Psst: It’s no coincidence that the first point of our 2023 vision for the bakery is: “We are bringing more flavor, freshness, and nutrition to flours—milling our own grains.”

stones inside of tabletop mill


4. Dedicated to Great Ingredients

We always want to use great ingredients—they provide the best flavor. We also want to know as much about our ingredients as possible: where they’re coming from, how they were grown or produced, and who is doing the growing or producing. And whenever possible, we opt for locally-sourced, sustainably-grown, and organic ingredients.

5. Less Is Often More

We’re focusing on food waste reduction in our bakery in novel and unexpected ways, and not removing and wasting (the most flavorful and nutritious) part of the grains we use is a nice added bonus for doing something we already believe has a lot of value. You might say it’s like not peeling the grains.

6. Tied To Traditional Methods

We believe in preserving traditional baking methods and recipes, and stone milling our own flour right before we’re going to use it is bringing back an old tradition to our baking. Before the middle ages in western countries and still today in some parts of the world, people mill(ed) all of their grain at home, by hand with simple grinding stones. Then milling became industrialized and stone mills were an important part of communities—families and farmers would bring in their grain to the local mill to have it milled. We look forward to supporting this tradition by creating products made with freshly-milled flour, as well as by offering home mills, grain berries, and freshly-milled flours in our Bakeshop.

bags of flour and grains in the Bakeshop


7.   Connecting To Community

Food is often known for bringing people together. Sourcing local whole grains to mill and bake with brought us even closer to our community. We have been introduced to many other seekers of great food and keepers of tradition like Megan Goldenberg from Macon Creek Malthouse, The Luckhardt family of farmers, the Wilken family at Janie’s Mill, Bill Koucky of Grand Traverse Culinary Flours, Michigan State University Extension, Nature Nurture, The Andersons, Molly Breslin of Breslin Farms, and many more. In our own small way, we can improve the local food system around us and spread that joy to others.

Milling is giving us something new to share with home bakers who are already enjoying our baking classes and cookbook recipes. We’re learning right alongside them about the benefits of whole grains as we invite home milling experts and other speakers from our around the country. We’re also offering our freshly milled flour for sale for them to use at home. After all, in ancient times the first home activity to be centralized was milling, followed by baking. We love bringing back old traditions and feel honored to mill a little and bake a lot for our community.

—The Zingerman's Bakehouse Grain Commission

A Regional Grain Shed Being Transformed

Posted on Fri, 02/01/2019 - 12:34pm

Across the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, the rich regionalism of foodways is central to our vision and inspires us to travel, learn, and educate. Knowing the history behind whole cuisines, particular dishes, and individual ingredients, as well as the people who are creating them today, is the foundation of our approach to the foods we make and sell—as is working with others to transform systems when necessary.

Food has close ties to geography, speaking magnitudes about the history and ecology of the land, as well as the personal and shared pasts and daily experiences of its people. These ties are an enriching part of travel and a grounding element of our lives at home. Unfortunately, this regionalism and seasonality have been greatly disrupted by the homogeneity of the industrial food system and the global economy. Luckily, the local food movement is regenerating these connections in ways that both honor tradition and history and reflect modern concepts of conservation and cultural globalism.

Grain varieties in vases


From craft beer to local wine to fruits and vegetables at the farmers market, much of Michigan’s local food economy is going strong. However, grains remain an underdeveloped aspect of the movement here. Grains that more closely and richly reflect the land and the society on it are a key, but often overlooked, part of robust local foodsheds. (Watersheds are used to describe where a region's water will eventually terminate, and it is from this concept that the newer idea of foodsheds draws their name. A definition of foodsheds is “the geographical area between where food is produced and where the food is consumed.”) The area between you and where your grains grow is probably vast and in many cases untraceable due to the grains being mixed and combined during the cleaning, storage, and milling processes. Participating in the rebuilding of this rich topography is a foundational piece of our grain work at the Bakehouse.

Currently, most grain grown in Michigan is soft winter wheat used in pastry flour. Of the soft red and white wheats here, most are hybrids bred by Syngenta for very broadly regional yield performance, rather than locally adapted varieties. Most wheat is grown as part of a conventionally-managed corn-wheat-soy rotation where the harvest is taken to a grain elevator and mixed. This has worked well for many generations giving the public what we wanted—consistency and low cost due to high yields. Flavor lost rank as a key criterion many, many decades ago. It is just recently that people are looking for traceability and regional varieties with unique flavors.

field of grain trials from above


It wasn’t always like this. Historically, Michigan was a fertile grain growing region where many varieties of wheat, rye, and barley could all be found in abundance. Based on this history, we know it is possible to grow more varied grains here, but locally acclimated seeds are hard to come by and best practices for growing and baking with them need some serious updating.

Now that consumers are interested in named grains with unique qualities and traceability, the grain system and the players in it are adjusting. It’s a massive change on many levels which will take years to be fully realized because it reflects a complete paradigm shift from a commodity market to a more specialized market. New economic systems and infrastructure need to be developed and new skills need to be learned along the entire supply chain. This process of change will move more quickly if we, end consumers and food makers, can demonstrate a demand. If we do, markets full of diverse local grains could be just a few growing seasons away.

field of emmer


We are particularly inspired by the work being done to foster regional grain sheds in Washington and New York and the way these states are regaining and reimagining local food systems. Washington state is home to the Bread Lab, run out of Washington State University and directed by Dr. Stephen Jones, who will be visiting us and giving a “brown bag talk” at BAKE! on March 7th, 2019. This lab conducts genetic research and wheat breeding aimed to provide farmers, craft processors, and consumers with flavorful and nutritious wheat varieties that yield well for farmers and are suited to sustainable, organic growing methods. This type of work is foundational to building a new grain economy that works for everyone involved along the supply chain.

Crossing to the other side of the country, GrowNYC’s Greenmarket Regional Grains Project has been working for over a decade to bring regional grains to their farmers markets. The initiative began by requiring bakers participating at Greenmarket farmers markets to use at least 15% local grain in their products and has evolved into more broad grain supply and distribution work and partnerships with Cornell’s Small Grains Breeding and Genetics program.  

close up of a grain


The work at the Bread Lab and GrowNYC offer frameworks for us to use in our own unique community. The exact trajectory this will take for us and others in our area remains an exciting mystery. By their very definition, food systems are context dependent and it leaves us daydreaming about their manifestation here. We are currently working towards partnerships with institutions like Michigan State University and the University of Michigan to test grain varieties’ growing capacity and baking performance in our unique area. We are also working with the many other farmers and millers in our community who are engaged with this project. A transformation of this size takes many individuals and institutions approaching the challenge from different perspectives and with different skills and resources.

What would a grain shed that tells the stories of the midwest and of Michigan look like? Right now at the Bakehouse, it looks like our True North bread with wheat grown on the Leelanau Peninsula and milled by Bill Koucky in Traverse City. It looks like cookies and scones made with freshly milled, whole grains grown in Eaton Rapids by the Ferris family and in Caro, Michigan by the Vollmars. It looks like rye breads made with grain from Molly Breslin of Breslin Farm in Illinois, Celebration Wreaths made with warthog wheat grown by Harold at Janie’s Farm, and baked oatmeal from Michigan oats from Megan Phillips Goldenberg of Macon Creek Malthouse. The list is ever evolving and growing.

close up of rye sprouts in a field


It also looks like our latest farmer collaborators, the Luckhardt family’s January wheat fields in Saline, which to be honest, mostly look like dirt. But if you look closer, crouch down a bit, the field is full of row after row of tiny green shoots that have been up since this fall. They look like brave little blades of grass and we have plans to make you bread with their grain come next summer. If you squat down closer still, maybe you can even hear some of that storytelling food has been known to do. Maybe you can hear the story of us.


By Hailey Schurr, Bakehouse Sourcer-ess  

Photos by the Bread Lab (1st & 2nd), GrowNYC (3rd), Macon Creek Malthouse (4th), and Molly Breslin (5th)

Molly's Rye—Big Flavor In a Small World

Posted on Tue, 01/15/2019 - 1:52pm

Since late October, a substantial portion of Zingerman’s Bakehouse rye has been coming to us from our newest farmer collaborator, Molly Breslin. To be exact, at present, 100% of the rye in our Roadhouse bread, 100% of the rye in our Country Miche, 98% of the rye in the new and improved Vollkornbrot, and 25% of the rye in our family of Jewish rye breads is from Breslin Farms. It comes to us as whole berries, is milled by us in-house, and the resulting flour is kept whole, not refined by sifting out any of the bran. In case you missed it, we got a mill! You can catch up and read all about it here. This beautiful mill needs beautiful grains to fulfill its destiny and in Molly Breslin’s rye we have found just that. Originally, we had plans to use Michigan rye for our inaugural milling exploits, but when nature had other ideas we expanded our local rye search and happily connected with our midwestern neighbor, Molly, in Ottawa, Illinois.

rye stalk from Breslin Farms


Across the local food discourse, from the ecological and sociological literature to foodie memoirs, 100 miles is often used as the boundary that divides local food from everything else. Here at the Bakehouse, we are some 300 miles from where Molly grew our rye berries. This rye might not meet the somewhat polarizing textbook definition of “local,” but we believe other metrics measure local, too. For us, the most compelling aspect of “local food” is the ability to know more about the way something is grown and the farmers that grow it and to be in a real relationship with those important and too often undervalued people. This component of localness knows no exact geographical boundaries and can be engendered in surprising ways. The midwest growing region spans much more than 100 miles but is its own small world. After talking to Molly, we almost immediately discovered that the apple orchard, Earth First Farms, where she worked for 5 years, was also one of the study sites in my master’s thesis. Talking on the phone with Molly, I immediately felt a closeness to her and, even without a shared professional past, I think you would, too. After all, three hundred miles are nothing when we find someone with a commitment to sustainability, mastery of craft, and love of baking that are so closely aligned with our own.

In fact, when I asked Molly if she liked to bake, she informed me that it was actually her lifelong love of baking that inspired her to become a grain farmer in the first place. Much of her family folklore is centered around baking, and she vividly recounted for me the legend of her father’s grandma baking German sourdough in a big roasting pan, carving the huge loaf right at the table, and then using the knife to stab and fling the slices to the awaiting family, piece by piece. Foreshadowing her eventual career, Molly’s dad, John Breslin, returned to these baking roots by crafting his own sourdough starter shortly after she was born. Molly grew up to love baking and had long been committed to buying local and organic fruits and vegetables but was unable to find similarly sourced grains. So, like the start of so many entrepreneurial adventures and heroines’ quests, she decided to do it for herself.     

Molly Breslin and her father inspecting a field of rye


This self-reliant spirit serves her well in a male-dominated field, no pun intended. As destiny would have it, the land she now farms belonged first to her mother’s family and is a matrilineal legacy over which Molly presides. Though the 100 acres of land came from her mother, Peg, she has worked closely to farm it with her father, John, since 2010. Molly admits this aspect of their father-daughter relationship has not been without its challenges. She attributes some of the initial friction to very different leadership styles—she gained many of her interpersonal skills from housing co-operatives in college, while he learned how to navigate teamwork while serving in the U.S. Army. Nine years later, these differences have been resolved and John is known for deferring to Molly with a good-natured “it’s your farm, I just work on it.”

Beyond navigating this father-daughter dynamic, being a woman in a typically male role, at least in recent history, comes with some additional challenges. For example, there are no bathrooms out in the field and no maternity leave when you’re self-employed, which can put a lady into some literally and figuratively uncomfortable positions. Oh the glamor of womanhood! To any new farmer moms out there, Molly recommends a hand pump because, and I quote, “I started using a hand-pump to pump breast milk because it was more versatile—I could pump with one hand while checking the oil, scouting for bugs, or operating the combine.” In other words, Molly is an intrepid pioneer. Though requiring some multitasking, Molly believes the very distinctiveness of being a woman who farms actually allows her to more easily deviate from farming norms and do as she pleases. With no preconceived notions or expectations about how a woman farmer does business, she feels her traditional community is less shocked or bothered by her organic methodology and commitment to somewhat unconventional agricultural priorities than if she were a man. While the freedom to do her own thing is appreciated, she does question whether it hampers her ability to lead by example and convert her neighbors to organic farming.

rye shoots on Breslin Farms


As an organic farmer who has never considered farming conventionally, something we especially appreciate about Molly is that soil regeneration is central to her agricultural philosophy and game plan. Everything she does starts from the proverbial ground up and when asked about her management strategy, she responds immediately with a firm and elegant motto: “soil health is plant health is people health.” To this end, her first crop year was black beans to prep the soil for wheat, build organic matter, and fix nutrients. Ever since then, the entirety of her management strategy is truly predicated on this assertion, with her hands-off pest management made possible by plants that are healthy enough to fight pests for themselves. Rather than spending time, energy, and money defending plants from insects and fungus, Molly focuses her resources on achieving healthy soil. She does this primarily by maintaining a 3-year crop rotation, cover cropping, and frequent soil testing paired with very small and targeted nutrient additions. Of the crops in this 3-year rotation, rye is usually the most reliable and low maintenance. The type of rye we received from Molly is VNS, an acronym that stands for “variety not stated.” Using VNS rye allows seed to be saved each year without any legal issues. This is important for many reasons, not least of which is that it means they’ve grown their seed stock up over several years so it’s biologically acclimated to Ottawa, Illinois, and represents a flavor unique to their location and management. Seed saving and grain terroir go hand in hand.

Because of this terroir, this particular rye’s flavor tells a story. It represents the taste of years of seed going straight into the northern Illinois ground without tilling, coming up in the fall through richly built organic matter that it will hold onto through the winter, flowering in the spring with heads that Molly says look like shiny purple fish scales, and will be pollinated via the wind, and spending the summer drying down in the field. This rye is the taste of Illinois, of organic methods, of diversity in farming, of a baker who got her hands dirty, of local food. We think it is a tale as delicious as it is intrepid and savoring of kismet, we are proud to use it for our freshly milled, whole grain rye flour. If you haven’t tried it yet snag some Roadhouse bread; Jewish, Onion, or Caraway Rye; Pumpernickel; Country Miche; or Vollkornbrot. Check our baking schedule for availability.


By Hailey Schurr
Bakehouse Sourcer-ess

Photos by Molly Breslin

A Beloved Bread, Updated to Be Even Better

Posted on Wed, 01/09/2019 - 12:08pm

We have already been making a great (if we do say so ourselves) Vollkornbrot (Vollk 1.0) that our guests have come to love and appreciate over the years. Developed by a former Bakehouse employee, who was a certified Master German Baker, Vollk 1.0 was essentially a field of rye condensed into a nutritious brick of a loaf studded and covered with toasted sunflower seeds. It is a hefty dose of rye chops, essentially held together with a bit of medium rye flour and our powerful and fruity rye sour. A sprinkle of instant yeast, together with the action of the rye sour, helped the dough rise before it hit our rotating convection ovens for a relatively low and slow bake. It was good. Really good. But part of the Zingerman’s ethos is “constant improvement,” and we believed this bread could be revised to have improved flavor and texture.

Our new and improved naturally leavened (no commercial yeast) Vollkornbrot (Vollk 2.0) still embraces the ideals of our original version—a dense, nutritious, lasting rye loaf, one that German expats may be especially delighted to find and become loyal to at our bakery. A handful of toasted sunflower seeds adds just the right amount of nuttiness to the complex flavors of rye. In every moist bite, you will find fruity, spicy, earthy, almost wine-like notes with a complimenting sour and a lingering smooth mouthfeel. One analogy that comes to my mind, if I may say so, is this—if Vollk 1.0 is the well-flavored grape, Vollk 2.0 is the wine (of course, the latter being more true when Vollk 2.0 is well-executed). How so?

vollk 2.0 with butter


With flavor, texture, and digestibility in mind, this new version uses freshly milled, organic, whole grain rye flour as well as freshly cracked organic rye chops from Breslin Farms in Illinois. Using the whole grain and freshly milling it in-house means that we are keeping the nutrition and the aromas and flavors of the grain as intact as possible in the flour by incorporating all of the components of the rye berry in the flour, including the bran and the germ. (The medium rye flour we were using in Vollk 1.0 had some of its components removed.)

For Vollk 1.0, we pre-soaked only some of the rye chops (and none of the sunflower seeds) that went into dough, and those that were soaked were not necessarily soaked in enough water to fully soften the chops. That resulted in some uncooked rye chops in the final bread (also visible to the eye as white starchy bits when sliced). Vollk 2.0 pre-soaks all of the rye chops as well as the sunflower seeds with plenty of boiling water for several hours. This results in rye chops that are fully softened and somewhat pre-digested by the action of enzymes during the soaking process, and yet still intact enough to add some texture to the final bread. The pre-soaked sunflower seeds also don’t steal moisture from the dough, as opposed to raw ones that soak up moisture as they sit and bake with the dough.

Vollk 1.0 used instant yeast and a small amount of rye sour for fermentation, which happens typically in about 2 hours. This resulted in a very mildly flavored, not as open-textured bread, with an aroma that is reminiscent of a field of grains on a hot summer day. Vollk 2.0 has a lot more flour in the mix and is all whole-grain, which means the chemistry of rye becomes more critical for proper fermentation. That is why Vollk 2.0 uses almost a 1 to 1 ratio of flour to a stiff rye sour for effective fermentation, coaxing as much flavor as possible from the grain while providing leavening and acidification to prevent the delicate starches of the rye from breaking down from too much enzyme activity. Using more rye flour in the mix results in a lighter texture, and using only natural leavening results in a deeper, more complex flavor profile with a pleasant amount of sourness that matches the flavor of the rye.

Vollk 2.0 gets baked in a “falling” oven, which means that it starts baking at 500°F, and we slowly turn the temperature to 375°F over the course of 1 hour and 15 minutes, as opposed to a 375°F bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes for Vollk 1.0. The higher temperature and slightly longer bake of Vollk 2.0 means a relatively more fully cooked loaf of bread without burning it, as well as fully releasing the flavor potential of the bread.

Vollk 2.0 whole loaf


The result? With the freshly milled whole grains, fully softened rye chops and sunflower seeds, long and slow natural fermentation, and a fuller bake, Vollk 2.0 is intended to offer better digestibility together with an improved flavor profile and texture.

What does this mean for your enjoyment of the bread? The high moisture retention capacity of the rye grain and the high amount of natural rye sour that goes into the making of this bread gives it a long shelf-life. It easily lasts a week compared to a few days or so with Vollk 1.0—and it is easier to cut. We wait 24 hours after it is baked before slicing and eating it;  this 'curing' period lets the crumb set and flavors develop. We suggest storing it differently than anything else we make! Wrap it well in plastic (this helps soften up the crust!) and keep on your countertop in a cool and dry environment, or refrigerate it for a shelf-life easily beyond one week.

This bread is flavorful and satisfying on its own. It would also be fantastic with Zingerman’s Creamery smoked salmon cream cheese and a little fresh dill, with some butter of your choice like Danish Lurpak, with a red fruit jam or a hardy mustard and a slice of smoked ham. Enjoy!


By Hazim Tugun, Bread Baker
Bakehouse Grain Commission

Stone Milling Idioms (We Say Them All the Time!)

Posted on Wed, 01/02/2019 - 10:32am

While traditional stone milling is far removed from American daily life, as we know it, we still get to enjoy sayings around the water- or wind-powered craft, that were coined during a period when such milling was central to our lives and communities. Today we may know what these idioms are communicating but few of us understand the actual reference from which they came.

cartoon with grains and sun


Listed below are some of the more common mill sayings and proverbs, together with an explanation of their point of origin:

First come, first served ~ This was the law for millers in many countries. Because it could take days for a farmer to have his grist ground, the law was designed to prevent impatient customers (or those receiving special treatment from the miller) from queue jumping.

Grist for one’s mill ~ Since wheat and corn are ground by ‘teeth,’ the grinding stones ‘chew’ the grist into flour; thus to ‘chew’ over something became a thought or idea to ponder.

The daily grind ~ The repetitive nature of milling led to the concept of ‘the daily (same old) grind.’

Run of the mill ~ The ordinary, daily grind.

Keep your nose to the grindstone ~ If set incorrectly, millstones could grind too hot and the flour would become cooked, emitting a burning smell. Occasionally, flour would burst into flames. The miller kept his ‘nose to the grindstone’ to detect the temperature and condition of the meal—and because most stone mills were made of wood, they could (and frequently did) burn to the ground in a matter of minutes.

Rule of thumb ~ To test the quality and grind of the flour, the miller would take a pinch of it between his thumb and finger. If too coarse, the flour would be ground again.

Put your shoulder to the wheel ~ When a miller had to turn a windmill into the wind, he ‘put his shoulder to the wheel’ by pushing the wheel at the bottom of the mill’s tail pole. Some tail poles had a yoke for the miller’s shoulder. Some millers used a horse. This saying is now taken to mean ‘make an effort.’

Three sheets to the wind ~ A (four-sailed) windmill with only three of its sails covered in ‘sheets’ of canvas will turn clumsily because it is off balance. Thus, the term is applied to drunks.

Fair to middling ~ The quality of ground meal would be fair, middling, or fine. To be ‘fair to middling’ is to be below one’s best.

cartoon rye bread


Millstone round your neck ~ Millstones are very heavy and a millstone around your neck is a problem that prevents you from doing what you want to do.

Put through the mill ~ means to be exposed to hardship or rough treatment, just like being ground in a mill between stones.

Show your metal ~ Millstones often needed to be dressed (re-carved). When a miller hired an itinerant dresser, he could tell whether the man was experienced by noting the slivers of metal (thrown off from his carving tools) embedded in his hands. A variant of ‘show your mettle.’

Take your turn ~ To ‘take your turn’ is to be the next person to have corn or wheat ground by the turning of the millstones.

All is grist for the mill ~ meaning everything can be made useful, or be a source of profit.

cartoon pile of bread


And for a few lesser-known mill-related proverbs:

  • the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceedingly small (Retribution may be a long time in coming, but it cannot be avoided)

  • much water goes by the mill that the miller knows not of (Many things are stolen or go astray without the knowledge of the person affected)

  • the mill cannot grind with the water that is past (time lost cannot be recalled, seize the day, there’s no time like the present)


By Lee Vedder


What’s next at the Bakehouse with freshly milled whole-grain flour?
We’re looking forward to introducing many new Bakehouse breads and sweet stuff made with freshly milled whole grains this year. At the end of next week, look for updated versions of our Funky Chunky cookies, blueberry muffin, and Volkornbrot, as well as new Orange & Date Scones and Michigan Double Cookies. And stay tuned for more to come—our list of ideas for new and improved breads is a page long!