Featured, Food

This Week at Zingerman’s 9/30/14

Dr Lee Meadows

ZingTrain Speaker Series: Dr. Lee Meadows

Leveraging Diversity: An Ace Against the “Lull”

Dr. Lee Meadows’ other name is “The Lull Doctor”. And for good reason! Dr. Meadows specializes in helping organizations large and small, for-profit and non-profit, public and private, escape the Lull. He defines the Lull as a Missed Opportunity and has literally written the book on how to recognize missed opportunities and turn any situation into an innovative and dynamic experience. His book, “Taking the Lull by the Horns” outlines a philosophy of situational leadership that any individual can emulate and any organization can encourage!

In his studies of what prevents the Lull, Dr. Meadows has come to firmly believe that the growing (and well documented) diversity of the workforce represents a strength that enhances the competitive edge of successful organizations. He will tell you that maximizing a team’s diverse talents is a leadership opportunity that is anchored in a specific set of actions common to successful 21st century organizations. Join us this Wednesday, October 1, 8-930am.

Here are five quick questions with Dr. Meadows.

Reserve your seat here


Vander Mill Cider Tasting at Zingerman’s Creamery

Michigan is fast becoming known for its great selection of delicious hard ciders, and Spring Lake’s Vander Mill is one of the best. Sourcing fresh apples from nearby Dietrich Orchards in Conklin, MI.,Vander Mill presses only the highest quality Michigan fruit into their award-winning hard and sweet cider. Each bushel of apples is hand-sorted, and washed. Vander Mill orginal Hard Apple, Blue Gold, and Totally Roasted ciders are never pasteurized and no preservatives are used. We’ll be sampling these terrific Michigan ciders on Friday, October 3, 6pm, along with pairings of great Creamery cheese. Get your cider on!

Reserve your seat here


Rosh Hashanah Specials Continue at Zingerman’s bakehouse

Challah Turbans
Our fresh egg and clover honey challah bread in the traditional round shape, with or without rum-soaked raisins. Available thru October 4th.

More Rockin’ Challah
Traditional Moroccan challah, egg bread with clover honey in a traditional 5 strand braid topped with poppy, sesame, and anise seeds. Available thru October 4th.

Honeycake
A dense spice cake made with buckwheat honey, brewed tea, almonds and golden raisins. 6″ cake. Available thru October 4th.

Applesauce Cake
A moist cake made with applesauce and butter, full of chunks of fresh Michigan apples, toasted walnuts and red flame raisins. 9” cake. Available September 24th thru September 28th.

Flodni
The name flodni (fluden in Yiddish) refers to a layered and filled pastry. This version with poppyseed, walnut and apple filling layers is a Hungarian specialty as well as a traditional Jewish holiday pastry. Available everyday.

Apple Rétes
Rétes (ray-tesh) is a Hungarian specialty, you might know it as strudel. We take our own fresh dough and carefully hand stretch it over an 8-foot table until it’s thin enough to see through. Then it’s folded and layered with melted butter and a sprinkle of cake crumbs, wrapped around fresh Michigan apples, baked until golden brown and dusted with powdered sugar. Available everyday.

Call to reserve your Rosh Hashanah specials. 734-761-2095.


Rosh Hashanah Menu at Zingerman’s Deli

Let the Deli do the cooking this year! Our Rosh Hashanah Menu includes a delicious selection of traditional favorites including Challahs, Honeycake and sweet pastries from the Bakehouse, Noodle Kugel, Chopped Liver, Potato Knishes, Matzo Balls, Jewish Chicken Broth, Free-Range Hanois Hens, Roast Beef Brisket and much more! Serve a holiday feast that your guests will never forget! Call to order 734-663-3400.


New Buyers Guide and Holiday Staff Positions at Zingerman’s Mail Order

The big news around Zingerman’s Mail Order is that our Fall Buyers Guide should be in homes any day now. The Guide has lots of new products and a bunch of in-depth articles about the fabulous foods! Check it out!

Zingerman’s Mail Order also ships fresh Challah for Rosh Hashanah! 

The other big news is that Zingerman’s Mail Order is hiring holiday staff! We’ve posted several positions on our Jobs site and we’re taking applications now! Apply today!


1st Sunday Creamery Tour at Zingerman’s Creamery

Join our cheese and gelato makers this Sunday, October 5, 2pm, for an hour-long adventure as we transform local milk into delicious cheese and gelato. You’ll watch our fresh mozzarella stretched into shape, taste our cow’s and goat’s milk cheeses while our staff explain the cheesemaking process, and sample our delicious fresh gelato. After the tour, make time for tasting our selection of American cheeses and provisions, as well as house-made gelatos and sorbets in our cheese shop.

Reserve your seat here

Next Week and Beyond:

Whiskey and Apples Cocktail Class at Cornman Farms

A slight chill in the air, brilliantly colored leaves, the smell of apples…autumn has arrived in Michigan! We’re taking a historic approach to fall beverages for this month’s cocktail class.

The pilgrims planted the first apple trees in the Massachusetts Bay Colony upon arrival in the New World. Within a few short years, the settlers were making apple cider. A Scottish immigrant and Revolutionary soldier, Robert Laird founded the first US commercial distillery in New Jersey in 1780 to produce his already popular Applejack, a brandy-type liquor. About a century later Jack Daniels founded the oldest IRS-registered distillery in the US to make his Tennessee whiskey. To this day, apples and whiskey remain the perfect fall cocktail combination.

Join us for a celebration of autumn at Cornman Farms on Monday, October 6, 7pm as we discuss and mix cocktails using Jack Daniels whiskey, Laird’s Applejack liqueur, and farm-fresh apple cider. We’ll follow a centuries-old tradition with a Hot Apple Toddy, re-create the roaring ‘20s with a Jack Rose cocktail, and embrace the modern with an Apple Whiskey Manhattan. There’s no better way to welcome fall than with a drink that warms your body and your spirit!

We’ll also have some fantastic fall tapas to accompany your fantastic apple cocktails.

Reserve your seat here


Intro to Zingerman’s Cornman Farms

Join us Thursday, October 9, 530pm and enjoy a fascinating introduction to Cornman Farms’ rich history, agricultural projects and humane raising of animals. We’ll even throw in a taste of one of our seasonal vegetables!

Reserve your seat here


Westside Farmers’ Market Fundraiser Dinner at Cornman Farms

The Westside Farmers’ Market proudly brings amazing farm fresh food to Ann Arbor’s Westside every Thursday afternoon. The Roadhouse and Cornman Farms support this community event annually with a celebratory fall harvest dinner. This support has and will continue to grow the offerings available every summer. Please show your support and join us on Tuesday, October 14, 7pm.

James Beard award-winning Chef Alex Young has created a menu featuring the beautifully grown produce from Westside’s vendors. We invite you to partake in the harvest with them at the peak of the season with a fresh fundraising dinner.

Reserve your seat here

See you soon!

Featured, Food

Anything and Everything

Central provisions, past and future

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Earlier this summer, Zingerman’s Deli was very happy to welcome local food purveyors, Steve Hall and Abby Olitzky of Central Provisions who threw a special summer-themed dinner for sixty lucky guests over two seatings. Steve and Abby run Central Provisions as a sort of working larder that’s “part restaurant, part market, part kitchen-in-motion,” and creates everything from summer picnic baskets, to private dinners, to light fare for weddings and holiday parties.

Steve introduces the dinner.

Steve introduces the dinner.

“We’re not really in the catering business, “says Steve, “because it’s just Abby and I, and we want to focus more on the quality and detail that goes into selecting good cheese and charcuterie, and creating small plates for a smaller gatherings.” Thus, they try to limit the menu to around 25-30 people. This is also necessary, because as Steve explains, “We’re actively looking for a permanent space to house our restaurant, and we’ve learned to be patient and wait for the right place to come along.”

The menu.

The menu.

And they have specific criteria in mind: “We want it to be accessible, a neighborhood spot. A space where people feel comfortable coming for a meal, or maybe just some of our pasta sauce, or a chutney. Or even a cup of sugar, if that’s all they need.” Steve envisions a location near downtown, but a bit “off the beaten track.” He cites the locations of the old Jefferson Market and Angelo’s as examples of the kind of space they’re looking for. “We just want to be involved in feeding our neighborhood.”

Salad with edible flowers.

Salad with edible flowers.

Steve has the advantage of knowing the town. He’s an Ann Arbor native who attended school in Rhode Island. After college, he followed the advice of Horace Greeley, and went west to San Francisco where he worked for Mission Cheese. Steve describes the place as very “cheese forward” serving good charcuterie, wine and craft beer. It was working here that he met partner Abby Olitzky.

Maddie LaKind and Abby preparing a course.

Maddie LaKind and Abby preparing a course.

Abby is a san Francisco native, who went to NYU and minored in food studies. Afterward, she attended culinary school in New York, then returned to San Francisco to work as a pastry chef at Italian eatery, Delfina, blocks away from Mission Cheese.

“We met over Zingerman’s bread, of all things,” says Steve with a smile. “I courted her with Zingerman’s Onion Rye.”

Fresh summer beans.

Fresh summer beans.

Thus, a partnership was born. The couple knew they wanted to open their own place, but the SF Bay Area proved far too costly. So, they moved back to Michigan intending originally to open something in the city of Detroit. “There’s a lot of excitement there around urban agriculture and food.” But, they were again hesitant in the face of the volume of businesses opening in Detroit.

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Beautiful pork ribs.

“We were a bit worried about being lost in the shuffle,” says Steve. “And Ann Arbor had become comfortable, so we decided to stick around here and see what we could do.” Toward this end, they both took jobs at Zingerman’s, Steve in the Deli, and Abby as an instructor at BAKE!, the cooking school at Zingerman’s Bakehouse. “Working at Zingerman’s has given me a chance to try new foods and products, and incorporate them into what we do.”

Abby’s brief tenure at BAKE! was fortuitously interrupted when a friend at Sweet Heather Anne called with an opportunity to play a more integral role in managing a business, in addition to overseeing the company’s baking operations. This experience has proven useful as their business has grown.

Lovely dessert.

Lovely dessert.

Together, they’ve built Central Provisions into a business that’s gaining recognition in the area for the thoughtful approach they take to their menus. The food is outstanding and creative, and made from carefully chosen ingredients. They serve homemade pickles and preserves, as well as a fine selection of domestic cheeses and charcuterie. Their Facebook page sums it up nicely: “We believe in locally-sourced ingredients, traditional techniques, and simple seasonal cuisine.”

Looking ahead, Steve says the priority is finding a space to house the business. But, he tells me they’re also talking with a canning company about packaging their homemade foods for retail. And they’re working with David Klingenberger, founder of noted fermented veggie purveyors, The Brinery, about created a signature kraut blend. When I suggest that this seems like quite a lot on their plate, Steve just smiles and says, “Anything and everything…” More philosophy than slogan, it embodies Central Provisions approach to their food, their business, maybe even their outlook on life. It’s a big world out there, why not try it all?

Anything and everything, indeed.

See you soon!


CP Autumn Dinner at Green Things

Central Provisions will be serving An Autumn Dinner on Saturday, October 11 at Green Things Farm.
Celebrate the harvest season with Steve and Abby, and enjoy a bountiful, family-style meal. Afterward, take a farm tour with Nate and Jill, then enjoy a tasty beverage and a toasty bonfire. Contact Central Provisions   (centralprovisionsatgmaildotcom)  to reserve your spot. Seats are limited, so don’t delay!

Food, Food Artisans

This Week at Zingerman’s 9/23/14

Rosh Hashanah Specials at zingerman’s bakehouse

Erev Rosh Hashanah is tomorrow, September 24.
Happy Challah Days

Challah Turbans
Our fresh egg and clover honey challah bread in the traditional round shape, with or without rum-soaked raisins. Available thru October 4th.

More Rockin’ Challah
Traditional Moroccan challah, egg bread with clover honey in a traditional 5 strand braid topped with poppy, sesame, and anise seeds. Available thru October 4th.

Honeycake
A dense spice cake made with buckwheat honey, brewed tea, almonds and golden raisins. 6″ cake. Available thru October 4th.

Applesauce Cake
A moist cake made with applesauce and butter, full of chunks of fresh Michigan apples, toasted walnuts and red flame raisins. 9” cake. Available September 24th thru September 28th.

Flodni
The name flodni (fluden in Yiddish) refers to a layered and filled pastry. This version with poppyseed, walnut and apple filling layers is a Hungarian specialty as well as a traditional Jewish holiday pastry. Available everyday.

Apple Rétes
Rétes (ray-tesh) is a Hungarian specialty, you might know it as strudel. We take our own fresh dough and carefully hand stretch it over an 8-foot table until it’s thin enough to see through. Then it’s folded and layered with melted butter and a sprinkle of cake crumbs, wrapped around fresh Michigan apples, baked until golden brown and dusted with powdered sugar. Available everyday.

Call to reserve your Rosh Hashanah specials. 734-761-2095.


Rosh Hashanah Menu at Zingerman’s Deli

Erev Rosh Hashanah is tomorrow, September 24.

Let the Deli do the cooking this year! Our Rosh Hashanah Menu includes a delicious selection of traditional favorites including Challahs, Honeycake and sweet pastries from the Bakehouse, Noodle Kugel, Chopped Liver, Potato Knishes, Matzo Balls, Jewish Chicken Broth, Free-Range Hanois Hens, Roast Beef Brisket and much more! Serve a holiday feast that your guests will never forget! Call to order 734-663-3400.
Rosh Hashanah Menu items available for pick-up or delivery starting Wed., Sept. 24th at noon.


New Buyers Guide and Holiday Staff Positions at Zingerman’s Mail Order

The big news around Zingerman’s Mail Order is that our Fall Buyers Guide should be in homes any day now. The Guide has lots of new products and a bunch of in-depth articles about the fabulous foods! Check it out!

The other big news is that Zingerman’s Mail Order is hiring holiday staff! We’ve posted several positions on our Jobs site and we’re taking applications now! Apply today!


ZingTrain Speaker Series: Jeff Janssen

7 Leadership Lessons from Legendary Sports Coaches

John Beilein, Michigan Men’s Basketball Coach said “Jeff Janssen’s work with the Michigan Leadership Academy has been tremendous.” We agree! And we’re tremendously pleased to offer a session with Jeff Janssen this coming Thursday, September 25, 8am. If you are looking to build a Championship Culture in your business and help your team consistently perform to its full potential – this is the session for you!

In this session, Leadership Academy Director Jeff Janssen reveals the seven Leadership Lessons he has learned from consulting with 25 NCAA National Championship teams at top athletic departments including Michigan, Stanford, North Carolina, Arizona, Notre Dame, and many others. Jeff’s program is designed for for leaders who want to build a winning team – no matter from which walk of life, or what level of an organization!

Here are five quick questions with Jeff. 

Reserve your seat here


Intro to Cornman Farms Tour

Enjoy a fascinating introduction to Cornman Farms’ rich history, agricultural projects and humane raising of animals. We’ll even throw in a taste of one of our seasonal vegetables! Thursday, September 25, 6 pm.

Reserve your seat here


Cheese Mastery Class at Zingerman’s Creamery

Join Creamery managing partner Aubrey Thomason for the second class in a series exploring the foundations of cheese. In this session, Aubrey will discuss the wide and varied spectrum of cheese styles. The French say there are just five, while others claim as many as seven distinct cheese styles. Join us this Saturday, September 27, 1pm as we talk technical terms, taste examples of the various cheese styles, and generally learn as much as we can about the wonderful world of cheese.

Reserve your seat here

Next Week and beyond:

Intro to Cornman Farms Tour

Enjoy a fascinating introduction to Cornman Farms’ rich history, agricultural projects and humane raising of animals. We’ll even throw in a taste of one of our seasonal vegetables! Monday, September 29, 6 pm.

Reserve your seat here


 ZingTrain Speaker Series: Lee Meadows

Leveraging Diversity: An Ace Against the “Lull” 

Dr. Lee Meadows’ other name is “The Lull Doctor.” And for good reason! Dr. Meadows specializes in helping organizations large and small, for-profit and non-profit, public and private, escape the Lull. He defines the Lull as a Missed Opportunity and has literally written the book on how to recognize missed opportunities and turn any situation into an innovative and dynamic experience. His book, “Taking the Lull by the Horns” outlines a philosophy of situational leadership that any individual can emulate and any organization can encourage!

In his studies of what prevents the Lull, Dr. Meadows has come to firmly believe that the growing (and well documented) diversity of the workforce represents a strength that enhances the competitive edge of successful organizations. He will tell you that maximizing a team’s diverse talents is a leadership opportunity that is anchored in a specific set of actions common to successful 21st century organizations. Join us Wednesday, October 1, 8am at ZingTrain for this session!

Reserve your seat here


Vander Mill Cider Tasting at Zingerman’s Creamery

Michigan is fast becoming known for its great selection of delicious hard ciders, and Spring Lake’s Vander Mill is one of the best. Sourcing fresh apples from nearby Dietrich Orchards in Conklin, MI.,Vander Mill presses only the highest quality Michigan fruit into their award-winning hard and sweet cider. Each bushel of apples is hand-sorted, and washed. Vander Mill orginal Hard Apple, Blue Gold, and Totally Roasted ciders are never pasteurized and no preservatives are used. We’ll be sampling these terrific Michigan ciders on Friday, October 3, 6pm, along with pairings of great Creamery cheese. Get your cider on!

Reserve your seat here

See you soon!

Food, Food Artisans

Askinosie Chocolate Founder Visits Zingerman’s

Shawn Askinosie Chocolate shares his story and his chocolate

Last week, we were very pleased to welcome our friend, chocolate maker Shawn Askinosie, to Zingerman’s. Shawn spoke first to an early morning audience at ZingTrain on the subject of vocation, then led an evening Chocolate 101 tasting for the public at Zingerman’s Events on 4th. The following day, he even stuck around to give a talk and lead a chocolate tasting for Zingerman’s staff.

IMG_3071

Shawn Askinosie readies the projector.

In the hours before the public tasting event at Zingerman’s Events on 4th, I sat in Zingerman’s Delicatessen with Shawn Askinosie. In a soft-spoken voice, he told me about his realization that he no longer wanted to practice law. “I just couldn’t do it anymore,” he said. “If I kept it up, I knew if was going to kill me.”

Hearing these words, I realized I wasn’t merely hearing a story about looking for a new job, but of a life shift of tectonic proportions. Shawn Askinosie had worked as a criminal defense lawyer for over 20 years in Springfield, Missouri, and by all accounts he was very good at his job. But two decades in a profession often filled with sadness and tragedy were wearing him down. As he put it, “It was time for me to do something else.” But what, he didn’t know. So he said a short prayer each day asking for guidance. “It was really simple, and went something like, ‘Dear God, please give me something else to do.’”

Meanwhile, he’d begun taking the steps needed to transition out of the business. He brought in a law partner to take the new cases coming to the firm, and started to wrap up his own declining caseload. He turned to grilling as his first new venture/hobby, and even shelled out for a Big Green Egg grill. Soon after, he moved into baking. “I made a lot of cupcakes,” he said. “I really like cupcakes.” With baking, naturally, comes chocolate, and Shawn was soon making a lot of chocolate desserts. As he got better, he noticed that some types chocolate delivered better results than others. He also realized that he really didn’t know where chocolate actually came from. So, he resolved to find out, and took his first of many trips to the Amazon basin. After that trip, he “went in full-force,” and traveled extensively to learn all he could about cocoa cultivation.

Sampling board for the tasting.

Sampling board for the tasting.

Askinosie spent the next few years building a network of cocoa farmers. From the very beginning, he dealt directly with the farmers and involved them in every aspect of the business. He calls this Direct Trade Sourcing. The farmers have to agree meet certain criteria, such as cocoa bean quality standards, cultivation and fermentation methods, etc. In turn, Shawn pays the farmers directly. No middleman. He visits each farmer once per year with financial statements, which he and the farmers scrutinize.

“The cocoa farming business is a cash business,” he says, “so they were always happy when I brought them cash. But when I showed up with the books, and started going through them line by line, it blew their minds.” Shawn is a believer in Open Book Management (something he practiced as a lawyer), a concept popularized by author and consultant Jack Stack, who also happens to be a friend and mentor to Shawn.

“I had this idea to take OBM one step further upstream and really give these guys a true share in the business.” Shawn went to Jack Stack with the idea and, “He loved it. We named the program ‘A Stake in the Outcome,’ which is named after one of the Jack’s books.”

Shawn talks chocolate with attentive guests.

Shawn talks chocolate with attentive guests.

Shawn is emphatic about not taking a “paternalistic” approach with the business. “The farmers receive their money to distribute, spend, or save as they see fit.” A great byproduct of this direct relationship with the cocoa farmers that Shawn deals with worldwide is that all of his chocolate is 100% traceable back to its origin farm. “I believe this way of doing business results in higher-quality chocolate,” he says.

Shawn makes a point about chocolate.

Shawn makes a point about chocolate.

But chocolate is not Shawn’s only vocation. There is also Chocolate University.
“Our factory is locate in a part of the community that’s being revitalized,” he says. “Theres a homeless shelter a block away, called the Missouri Hotel. There are 80 kids a night there. From the day we started, we wanted to engage the kids in the community, including the kids in this shelter.” And so they developed Chocolate University to do just that.

“The kids in the elementary school come and tour our factory and we visit their schools, and we teach them about our business. It’s a sort of back and forth relationship.” he says. The middle school program is similar, but some of the kids get involved in our community work and learn a bit more about chocolate making and the business. But it’s the high school program that takes quite a bit of time because Shawn takes those students to Tanzania.

Shawn at the Zingerman's staff tasting.

Shawn at the Zingerman’s staff tasting.

“It’s an every other year thing.” says Shawn of the program. “Juniors and Seniors in any Springfield high school – public, private, homeschool – are eligible to apply. They write essays and go through an interview process. And I partner with a local university near the factory to help me evaluate the applicants. We narrow it down to 13 kids out of about 70 applicants.” The students who make the cut then take part in summer intensive program, ‘Bean to Bar Chocolate,’ at the local college. “They spend a week on campus, and get to know each other. They learn about our business model, about profit sharing, about Open Book, the history of Tanzania, its language, culture, and sociology. And they learn about chocolate making, and evaluating cocoa beans. At the end of this week, they go for a day and pack. And then we take them to Tanzania.”

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“Flavor begins with knowing the farmers.”

Shawn, the students, a teacher, and a college professor all travel to Tanzania where they get a first-hand look at how cocoa beans are cultivated and fermented, then prepared for shipment back to the U.S. They live with the farmers in a local village, and everyone pitches in.

“Over half the kids are funded by us, and the rest is made up by donors. It really ends up being a life-changing experience for these kids. When you help drill a water well for people who don’t have clean water, and you then drink from that well…you don’t forget that.” He then tells a story of overhearing a student texting his mother back in the U.S. that “this is the best day of my life!”

Shawn speaks with a ZIngerman's staffer.

Shawn speaks with a Zingerman’s staffer.

...and another.

…and another.

Shawn is smiling as he’s telling this story, and there’s a bit of a hitch in his voice. This is the real work. The vocation, as Shawn calls it.

“As I was telling the folks at ZingTrain this morning, meaningful work is not necessarily derived from the status of the work, or the kind of work. It’s derived the thought and attitude we give it. So we derive the dignity of the work from what we put into it, not what it gives us.” He pauses.

“If you have meaningful work, its a calling. Truly a vocation.”

Later, as I think about Shawn’s words, I take a small bite of his Tanzania Dark Chocolate and let it slowly melt on my tongue. I swear it tastes even better than I remember…

 

Food, Food Artisans

Z-Pic of the Week

September 19, 2014

Sampling board from the Askinosie Chocolate tasting this week.

Sampling board from the Askinosie Chocolate tasting this week.

Food, Food Artisans

My Rocky Road to Challah Perfection

Maddie LaKind shares her Challah tale

September is finally here, which means Rosh Hashanah—the Jewish New Year—is just around the corner. For as long as I can remember, Rosh has been my favorite Jewish holiday. The fall always feels like the best time to not only reflect on the year that has passed but also look forward and set goals for the future. But if I’m being honest, what excites me more than anything about this holiday is the wonderful food, which runs the gamut from brisket, to roast chicken, kugel, matzo ball soup, apples and honey, chopped liver, beautiful desserts, and my all time favorite, round raisin challah bread. Since Rosh is the holiday for equal parts reflection and eating, I thought I’d take a moment to ask some questions about challah bread, specifically about my various attempts at baking it at home. And who better to ask than the source itself?

Dear Challah,

Why must you torment me so when all I’ve ever shown you is love and adoration? Remember the early days of preschool at Beth Emet synagogue. Every Friday morning we would prepare loaves of your beautiful self to take home for our respective Shabbat dinners. Or how about middle school, when my family discovered a new bakery in town that made the best loaves of Challah we’d ever tasted. You became the star of our household for years to come. Or college when I began work at Zingerman’s Deli and would stare longingly at all of the beautiful varieties of you in the bread box—chocolate chunk, braided, square, seeded, plain. Clearly we have a connection.

So why, Challah, given all of this respect, did you present so many issues when I tried to bake you at home? I’m a patient person with a good sense of intuition in the kitchen, but you were the one project I couldn’t seem to master.

The trouble really began about two years ago, when I prepared a Shabbat dinner for my house of eight college roommates. After four laborious hours dissolving yeast, kneading dough, proofing once, twice, thrice times, braiding, it finally came time for you to bake. The only catch was our busted oven, which meant you had to be taken over to the neighbor’s kitchen. Alas, I lost track of time, arriving too late to retrieve you. Your entire top half a was a matted-black color rather than the intended shiny golden brown. So much time and so much hope shattered in the span of five minutes.

Despite the challenges of my first effort, I didn’t give up. I became determined to attempt you once again, this time during Rosh Hashanah the following September. Using the exact same recipe as before, I methodically went through each step, making sure each of your ingredients was precisely measured and each phase of your growth intensely monitored. But, you weren’t on my side this go-around either. Instead of puffing up into a large woven braid, you rose only a mere ¼ in. or so while baking, and took on the texture of a chewy pretzel rather than a light, fluffy egg bread. Two strikes and my motivation was waning.

But even that couldn’t hold me back from taking you on once again for yet another Shabbat dinner with family. Discouraged by the failed attempts of the first recipe, I tried another this time, one that places your dough form in the refrigerator over night before baking. Intrigued by the new technique, I thought this time would bring only success. Wrong. First mistake in the process: I forgot to add sugar into your dough after kneading in all of the flour. Oops. I figured it couldn’t hurt too much to just add it back into the mixture after the fact. Wrong again. Then the real fun began. For some reason when I placed you in the refrigerator, you decided to flatten out into a pancake and, during baking, didn’t rise an inch. Texturally you were off as well, taking on a bland almost plastic-like consistency hardly reminiscent of true challah at all.

Challah, the phrase fed up doesn’t even begin to cover how you made feel all these times. I was angry, hurt, disappointed, and hungry for a taste of the real deal. That irresistible, buttery, sweet, deep flavor that held so much nostalgia. I decided some time away from you could help turn things around and give me a new perspective on the situation. A year later, I gave the process another go with a brand-spanking-new recipe, and much to my surprise, you turned out absolutely perfect.

After recreating this specific recipe nearly three times over, I finally feel at peace with you. I just wanted to share how you made me feel, and to ask why you had to cause me such distress for so long? Maybe you were trying to teach me something. Maybe you were trying to show me that good things take time. Or maybe you were just trying to tell me that mistakes are important, especially in the kitchen. I guess I’ll never know. Whatever your reasons, I forgive you and thank you for the memories, both good and bad. I look forward to baking you and sharing you with loved ones for years to come.

Much love and bread wishes,

Maddie

Challah Column Pic

Erev Rosh Hashanah is September 24. 
Let Zingerman’s do the cooking this year! Check out the Deli’s Rosh Hashanah Menu for a wonderful selection of tasty treats from Zingerman’s Bakehouse, as well as a savory assortment from Zingerman’s DeliL’Shanah tovah!