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

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

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


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

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

Plymouth Orchards sunset

 

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

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

zilke rye field

 

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

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

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

Big O Cookies

 

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

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

By Hailey Schurr
Bakehouse Sourcer-ess

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

Summer's Perfect Pair: Graham Crackers & Marshmallows

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

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

S'more by Emily Hanka

 

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

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

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

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

 

marshmallows and graham crackers for smores by Emily Hanka

 

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

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

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

Conversions with a Kitchen Scale

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

Making Peace with the Baking Gods

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

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

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

hands whisking blue background before measuring on kitchen scale

 

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

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

How to succeed in weight measurements without really trying

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

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

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

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

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

 

DOWNLOAD YOUR PRINTABLE CONVERSION GUIDE HERE!

Zingerman's Bakehouse Baking Conversions Table for kitchen scale

 

Let Them Eat... Brioche?

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

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

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

brioche loaves

 

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

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

Bostock type of brioche on a baking sheet

 

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

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

Supporting Great Grains with Dr. Stephen Jones

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

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

Dr. Stephen Jones

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

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

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

grain trials

 

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

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

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

Grain varieties

 

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

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

Dr. Jones at the Roadhouse

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

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

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

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

 

By Hailey Schurr
Bakehouse Sourcer-ess

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

Everybody Loves Cupcakes

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

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

hummingbird cupcakes with a zingerman's napkin

 

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

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

buttermilk cupcakes with lemon buttercream frosting



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

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

cupcakes with fondant strawberry toppers

 

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

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

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

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

LEt’s CelEbrate banAna PEels And ParAdoxes on EarTh DAy

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

pureed unpeeled bananas for banana bread

 

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

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

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

just baked banana bread

 

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

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

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

By Amy Emberling
Bakehouse Co-Owner

cathy holding a slice of banana bread

 

Zingerman’s Bakehouse Banana Bread Recipe
 

Yield: One 8 x 4-inch loaf

Ingredients                              Volume                       Pounds                 Grams

Organic bananas                     3/4 cup              0.35 lb           160 g

(prep below, about 2)

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

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

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

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

All-purpose flour                     1 cup                   0.32 lb           140 g

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

  6. Bake in a preheated oven for 40 minutes.  

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

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

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

2018
Buckwheat Sablé
Passionfruit Einkorn Bars
Merry Masala Cookies
Sarah Bs (chocolate rum almond)

2017
Cocoa Caramel Bites
Pistachio Cherry Slices
Snowflake Puffs
Viennese Almond Punch Cookies

2016
Mint Chocolate Whoopie Pies
Coconut Brandy Snaps
Chocolate Walnut Acorns
Cranberry Orange Almond Bars

2015
Almond Linzer Cookies with Apricot Jam
Red Chili Chocolate Cookies
Baci Di Dama (chocolate hazelnut sandwiches)
Jolly Eggnog Thumbprints

2014
Chocolate Thumbprints with Raspberry Jam
Orange Spritz
Chocolate-Dipped Espresso Shortbread
Pfeffernüsse Spice Cookies

2013
Dark Chocolate Mint Ganache Sandwiches
White Chocolate Lemon Sugar Cookies
Transylvanian Walnut Rolls

close up of fancy schmancy cookies on a tray

 

2012
Cardamom Crescents
French Almond Macarons
Cherry Pistachio Nougat

2011
Chocolate Mint Thumbprints
Gingerbread People
Pinwheels
Nutty Meringue Kisses

2010
Chocolate Dipped Orange Spritz
German Spiced Ginger
Pecan Turtles
Chocolate Cherry Sandwiches

2009
Raspberry Linzer
German Spice
Chocolate Coconut Macaroons
Lime Shortbread

2008
Chocolate Coconut Macaroons
Pfeffernüsse
Russian Tea Cookies
Cut Outs

2007
Pfeffernüsse
Weihnachtsekekse
Spritz
Florentines

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!