Food, Food Artisans

A Loaf of Bread…

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Each morning, when Zingerman’s Deli opens its doors bright and early at 7 a.m., the first thing that guests see is a friendly face in the Bread Box. The first bread delivery is trundled in the door, and people stop to take a deep breath of fresh-baked bread from Zingerman’s Bakehouse. Guests line up for still-warm bagels, French Baguettes, and Bakehouse White. From the smiles of anticipation on their faces, we can see it’s a great way to start the day.

After three decades in business, Zingerman’s has a large population of regulars, all of whom have a particular way they’d like their loaves sliced, halved, or even cubed. โ€œI had one customer ask for a loaf of Bakehouse White with the crust completely removed,โ€ says Deli staffer Phil. โ€œI think they were making cucumber sandwiches or hors d’oeuvres.โ€ Then there are the packaging details (โ€œshort trip or long trip?โ€), which are important for keeping the bread and fresh and delicious as possible on its journey.

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Around 11 a.m., the fresh Challahs come in, followed about 2 p.m. by rye breads, Sesame Semolina, and Rustic Italians, among others. The shelves of the Bread Box are full to bursting now with beautiful loaves of all sizes and shapes. At 7 p.m. the last delivery of the day brings the sourdoughs and a few others. But they won’t last long. Each day, the Deli sells through most of its inventory, and any loaves remaining at closing time are sold the following morning as day-old.

A quick poll of Deli staff favorites includes Pecan Raisin, Sesame Semolina, and Dinkelbrot, to name just a few. But it’s not an easy choice. โ€œThere are so many,โ€ laments one staff member, clearly agonized at having to choose. This is a sentiment shared by the Zingerman’s regulars and favorites tend to change on daily basis, depending on the weather, the season, or just what sounds good. Mary, who describes herself as a โ€œbig fanโ€ of Zingerman’s describes it this way: โ€œToday, the Jewish Rye, and bagels for the morning. And a Pecan Raisin for out-of-town guests. Next week, I’ll let the universe tell me. It’s all good!โ€ And she heads off in search of fresh cream cheese from Zingerman’s Creamery for the morning bagels.

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A few more guests arrive, already pointing to their loaves. โ€œI can taste it already,โ€ says one man, closing his eyes with a smile. The continuous flow of bread leaving the shelves will continue for the rest of the day. It all happens again tomorrow, and the day after that, as well. And the reason?

โ€œOur bread is the best I’ve tasted anywhere in the country,โ€ says Phil, while a customer standing behind him nods vigorously in agreement, a big grin on her face. The grin says it all.