Food, Food Artisans

Cookie Crunch Time

Holiday Baking with Maddie LaKind

The month of December brings with it a mixed bag of emotions. Thanksgiving is over—sad. Snow is coming—happy. Temperatures are dropping—nervous! Christmas and Chanukah are nearing—thrilled. And, perhaps most significantly, cookie baking season is officially here—elated!! On that sweet note, Zingerman’s is bursting with ingredients to help turn all of your cookie dreams into a reality. So for all of you eager bakers out there who are gearing up for endless batches of snickerdoodles, thumbprints, linzers, shortbreads and more, here are my top 10 cookie baking essentials this holiday.

1. Heilala Vanilla Products
Is there any ingredient more synonymous with cookie baking than vanilla? It seems to appear in almost every cookie recipe out there, which makes sense given its flavor boosting capabilities and beautiful bittersweet notes. If you’re looking for a way to really amp up your cookie baking skills, its time to talk beans. Vanilla beans that is. Heilala is a family run business started in 2002 by a father daughter team. After being gifted a plot of land in Tonga (a sovereign state of Polynesia), this team spent three years developing, planting, and harvesting vanilla beans. Their product is now sold to chefs and discerning palettes worldwide and is considered by many to be some of the best vanilla in the world. Heilala produces a wide range of vanilla products from extract, powder, paste, and even whole vanilla beans. Try any of them out in your next baked good or specifically these Heilala Vanilla Sugar Drops.

heilala vanilla

2. Cluizel Cacoa Nibs
Everyone seems to have a chocolate chip cookie recipe in their arsenal. But what about a cacao nib cookie recipe? Cacao nibs are simply a less refined form of chocolate produced by crushing dried/roasted cacao beans. Unlike chocolate chips which have been mixed with sugar, cacao nibs lend a toasty, slightly bitter, coffee-like flavor to pastries. And if you’re going to get your hands on any sort of chocolate this season, Michel Cluizel is the crème de la crème. Based in Normandy, France, Cluizel has been producing beautiful artisanal chocolate since 1948. In addition to maintaining high standards for his actual chocolate products, Cluizel remains firmly committed to preserving direct relationships with all his cacao farmers. Enjoy cacao nibs as a pastry topper or an add-in these Oatmeal Walnut Cocoa Nib Cookies courtesy of the “Joy the Baker” blog.

michel cluizel nibs

3. Bourbon Smoked Sugar
Anyone who has delved into the world of holiday baking knows just how much sugar is involved. Specifically, finishing sugars like powdered sugar or sugar in the raw. Just like adding a fancy salt or drizzle of good olive oil to a savory dish, finishing sugars can add that extra something to a cookie, creating fun flavor and textural combinations. For anyone looking for a sophisticated twist on your run of the mill granulated sugar, this bourbon smoked sugar is a must. Produced by Matt Jamie of Bourbon Barrel Foods in Lousiville, KY— the bourbon capital of the US—this sugar comes to life when grainy raw sugar is smoked from staves of old bourbon barrels. This process imparts an intense smoky flavor balanced with caramely, toasty bourbon notes. Try some sprinkled on top of your favorite shortbread or this decadent grown-up Bourbon Salted Toffee from Bourbon Barrel Foods.

bourbon smoked sugar

4. Mindo Cocoa Powder
If you’re a chocolate fanatic and live in the state of Michigan, then the Mindo chocolate company has probably popped up on your radar a time or two. Founded by two former auto-repair shop workers—Jose Beza and Barbara Wilson—the company maintains a harvesting operation in Ecuador (Jose’s country of origin) and a production facility in Dexter, MI. It is here in Michigan where all of their beans are ground and tempered by hand and then turned into a variety of unique products. While Mindo has a whole collection of delicious treats available for sale, their cocoa powder is the real showstopper. The flavor itself is rich, dark, and slightly acidic. Not only was it ranked one of the best cocoa powders in the country by “Food and Wine” magazine, but it also makes incredible cookies like these chocolate World Peace Cookies from famed baker Dorie Greenspan.

mindo cocoa powder

5. Halen Mon Sea Salt
Although you might not know its there, almost every cookie recipe in existence utilizes salt. It is not typically a discernable amount, but just enough to help balance and enhance the prominent flavors. One of my favorite recent trends in baking though takes salting to the next level by sprinkling a light amount of tasty sea salt or fleur de sel on top of the cookie itself. The contrast between sweet and salty is sublime and a fun way to enhance an existing recipe or experiment with a new one. My personal recommendation for finishing salt is Halen Mon Pure White Sea Salt. This now world-renowned company harvests their salt from the seas around the Isle of Anglesey near Wales and, may I say, it is hands down some of the best salt I’ve ever tried. The flavor is clean, bright, and just a tad briny, while the texture is super flaky. Contrasted with a gooey chocolate chip cookie, like these Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies from the “Joy the Baker” blog, it is pure cookie heaven.

halen mon salt

6. Epices de Cru Cardamom
One of the newest product lines to come to Zingerman’s this year is the Epices de Cru collection of spices. Based in Montreal, this family run company sources hundreds of spices from around the world and is committed to the highest level of quality they can find. While their entire product line is exceptional, their cardamom pods are an exciting addition to any holiday baking lineup. I know cardamom might not seem like the most obvious spice for holiday baking, but its warm, mild spiciness makes it seem perfectly at home among old standards like nutmeg, clove, allspice, and cinnamon. Epices de Cru procures their cardamom from South India’s Cardamom Hills and sells them whole to be ground at home—ensuring freshness and the best flavor possible in your baked goods. Try this Cardamom out in Dorie Greenspan’s Cardamom Brown Sugar Snickerdoodles for a new twist on an old classic.

epices de cru cardomom

7. Echire Butter
Butter. Who doesn’t love luscious, creamy butter? Just like vanilla, salt, and sugar, the quality of the butter you use when baking can make a huge difference in the resulting flavor of you cookies. Two of my personal favorites for cookie baking in particular are Echire Butter and German Butter. Echire butter hails from France and is produced from milk collected from a cooperative of 66 different farms. All of the cows are carefully monitored during grazing in order to ensure a rich flavor and striking golden color in their milk. Once churned, the butter clocks in at 84% butterfat compared to about 80% in your average grocery store butter. The pure, sweet flavor also reigns supreme and is perfect for simple cookies like these Butter Cookies from “Gourmet” magazine.

échiré butter

8. Membrillo
This next ingredient is definitely the odd ball of the list, but here me out. Membrillo is a paste made out of quince (a fruit that falls in the apple/pear family), traditionally paired with Manchego cheese in Spanish cuisine. While it may not seem like your traditional baking ingredient, membrillo’s tartness and mild sweetness makes it perfect for sandwiching between shortbread or filling thumbprint cookies like these Membrillo Thumbprint Cookies from ‘The Kitchn” blog.

membrillo quince paste

9. Crème Fraiche
Crème fraiche found its way into my life fairly recently, but since it has, I’ve become completely hooked. Crème fraiche is simply soured cow’s milk cream that is similar in texture/flavor to sour cream, but with double the butterfat. This means more richness and an even milkier flavor. My favorite variety is produced by Vermont Creamery, a company famous for the exemplary dairy products ranging from cheeses to yogurts and even butters. With its slight acidity, it lends a welcome contrast to heavily sweet ingredients like fruit, or, my personal favorite, chocolate. Give them a whirl in Vermont Creamery’s own True Decadence Brownies for the ultimate holiday sweet fix.

créme fraîche

10. Lemon Curd
Besides peanut butter, there are very few products I will willingly eat right out the jar. Lemon curd is an exception to that rule. With its bright, tart flavor and super smooth texture, curd ranks high as one of my perfect desserts, particularly if it is made by Thursday Cottage, which has been producing traditional small batch curds for over sixty years. Based in England, Thursday Cottage uses all natural, locally sourced ingredients for their curd and stirs each batch in a specially designed curd kettle. While delightful on their own, curds are incredibly versatile in baked goods. Try dolloping some into a thumbprint cookie or sandwiching a spoonful between two shortbread cookies like “Gourmet” magazine’s Petite Lemon Curd Cookies.

lemon curd

To all of you bakers and eaters out there, I hope you find inspiration for your own cookie traditions in this tremendous list of products. Cheers and happy holidays!

- Maddie

Maddie selfie

Food, Food Artisans

Val Talks Zingerman’s Gelato

I scream, you scream, we all scream for gelato!gelato drawing

Gelato is Italy’s version of ice cream. It is to American ice cream what Gucci is to Levi’s. Most Italian towns have at least a few gelaterie, tiny shops that sell nothing but gelato. Big cities will have dozens of them. They’ll usually have at least a dozen flavors prominently displayed, everything from sexed up standards like super dark chocolate to more exotic flavors like Marron Glacé (candied chestnut) or Torrone (nougat). When you pick a flavor, they’ll pile it into a cup or cone using a paddle that looks more like a spatula than a scoop. You eat it with a brightly colored, shovel-shaped spoon that’s as long as a toothpick and as wide as a cheap emery board. But before you pick a flavor and dig in, you have to pick which gelateria to visit.

There are a few factors to pay attention to when choosing a gelateria. Avoid gelato with DayGlo colors. Stay away from gelato mounded six inches above the tub, it probably has tons of stabilizers to help it keep that shape. Don’t go for the spot that has little jars of Nutella or tiny plastic fruits stuck in the gelato to show you which flavor is which. If the menu tells you where ingredients come from, like having IGP hazelnuts from Piedmont or DOP pistachios from Bronte, you might have found a good one. But the best indication of all is a long line—or, since this is Italy, a big, disorganized crowd.

The crowd knows. Those people waiting understand that a particular gelateria makes ice cream with luscious texture and big, bold flavors. And that’s the thing about gelato: when it’s really good the flavors are more direct and pure than American ice cream. The hazelnut tastes like freshly toasted hazelnuts. The strawberry sorbet tastes like fresh, ripe strawberries. I’m sure if Zingerman’s Creamery were tucked away on some narrow, cobbled, Italian alley, it would have a crowd stretching around the corner.

Gelato is made with only four major ingredients so you can’t skimp on any of them and get great flavor.

Zingerman’s gelato maker Josh starts with milk from Calder Dairy, located about an hour down the road from Zingerman’s Creamery in Carleton, Michigan. Calder has a herd of 113 cows that are known by names, not numbers. They’re never given any hormones or subtherapeutic antibiotics. The milk is gently pasteurized and not homogenized, a process that agitates the milk to distribute the cream more evenly rather than allowing it to rise and separate. The result is that Calder produces a richer, creamier, sweeter milk.

To the milk, Josh adds cream from Guernsey Dairy in Northville, Michigan—the same source our Bakehouse uses for the sour cream they stir into every Sourcream Coffeecake. Then he mixes in demerara brown cane sugar. He adds pinch of stabilizer to help the gelato maintain its texture when frozen for a few weeks, and then all that’s left is to add the flavor. And oh, those flavors! His peanut butter gelato is made with Koeze’s atonishing Cream Nut Peanut Butter from Grand Rapids, Michigan. His dulce de leche gelato is made with a super thick and creamy dulce de leche caramel we get direct from Argentina, its home base.

vanilla-3 copy

In spite of great variety, Josh’s vanilla gelato is probably my favorite. “Before I started making gelato, I thought vanilla was just white and sweet,” Josh confessed to me the other day. I’d say that’s a pretty apt description of a lot of vanilla ice creams, but not so with Josh’s. He uses Madagascar Bourbon vanilla—and lots of it!—and the result is a rich, earthy, woodsy flavor that lasts and lasts.

What’s the gelato maker’s favorite flavor?

Burnt Sugar. That’s not because it’s the easiest to make—in fact, Josh calls it “a thorough pain in the ass.” He loves it because it takes sugar, one of the three base ingredients of gelato, and transforms it into an entirely different flavor. He starts with white cane sugar and cooks it with water in a big pot. Over the course of an hour, the water boils off, the sugar melts, and then just as it starts to burn he pulls it off the stove and adds additional water to make a syrup and keep it from hardening into a sticky hard caramel mess. “I put on gloves, and I should probably wear goggles too. Then I yell to get people out of the way. It’s so hot that when I add the water it boils upon impact. It’s like this insanely hot exercise of sweating and trying not to get it on your skin while it cools in the sink.” The burnt sugar syrup tastes like the top of a crème brûlée. The gelato flirts with the line between sweet and bitter. It’s sugar utterly transformed, and the end result is super smooth and creamy with an autumn orange-yellow color and a complex, intriguing flavor.

- Val

You can find our amazing gelato at Zingerman’s Creamery, and the Zingerman’s Deli Next Door coffeehouse. We can also ship gelato through Zingerman’s Mail Order.

Add some sweetness to the winter chill!  

Food, ZingLife, Food Artisans

A Small Library of Our Favorite Books…

Books that feed your appetite…

You already knew Zingerman’s Delicatessen sells all manner of wonderful foods from both here and abroad, but did you know that we also sell books?

Deli Books 1

We’ve collected some of our favorite cookbooks, books about cheese, or pasta, or beef, as well as a few other interesting tomes, to help you build your own home library of books on the subject of eating well.

Deli Books 7

We’ve got Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vols. I & II by the inimitable Julia Child. Journalist Michael Paterniti’s memoir to his time at Zingerman’s and the quest it inspired for the world’s best cheese, The Telling Room. Or if you really want to dig deeper into the world of fermented curd, try The Cheese Primer, by cheese authority Steven Jenkins.

Deli Books 8

Looking for David Chang’s Momofuku? That’s on our shelves, as well as titles by Alice Waters, Edward Behr, and many more. How about the Fresh Honey Cookbook by our dear friend, Laurie Masterton, or Bi-Rite Market’s Eat Good Food? You’ll find those here, too.

Deli Books 5

We’ve even got all of Ari’s books on management, as well as several other titles from Zingerman’s Press.

So, the next time you’re visiting the Deli, don’t forget to grab something good to read to go with the stuff that’s good to eat!

Deli Books 6

See you soon!

Food, Food Artisans

Looking Back at Pencils and Parsnips

Annual Taste of Tanté Event

Last week, we gathered for our annual Taste of Tantré feast to eat great food and raise awareness, goodwill, and money to further the mission of The Agrarian Adventure, a leader in our community farm-to-school movement.

The Agrarian Adventure is celebrating its 10 year anniversary championing efforts to connect students with food, health, community, and agriculture. They’ve created and help to sustain a bountiful and diverse school garden at Tappan Middle School in Ann Arbor, lead a Farmer in the Classroom program that reaches all Ann Arbor Public Schools, and work to foster ongoing relationships among farmers, teachers, parents, administrators and students.

A near-capacity crowd visited Zingerman’s Deli to take part in the benefit, and by all accounts the event was an enjoyable success! Here are some photos from the event:


A fortuitous moon over the Deli and Next Door coffeehouse.


Lise Anderson, Agrarian Adventure.

Lise Anderson, Agrarian Adventure.


Sponsors and partners.

Sponsors and partners.


Caitlin Joseph, Agrarian Adventure.

Caitlin Joseph, Agrarian Adventure


Jeremy Moghtader, Organic Farming Outreach Specialist, MSU

Jeremy Moghtader, Organic Farming Outreach Specialist, Michigan State University.


Elissa Trumbull, Fair Food Network

Elissa Trumbull, Fair Food Network.


Emily Canosa, Sustainable Food Program Manager at University of Michigan

Emily Canosa, Sustainable Food Program Manager at University of Michigan.


Neha Shah, King Elemtary School, Agrarian Adventure

Neha Shah, King Elemtary School, Agrarian Adventure.


Carolyn Hermann, Dicken Elementary School

Carolyn Hermann, Dicken Elementary School.


"Declaration of Veg-Dependence"

“Declaration of Veg-Dependence”


The menu.

The menu.


Information and silent auction.

Information and silent auction.



Classy t-shirt.


David Klingenberger, The Brinery

David Klingenberger, The Brinery.


Each guest received a jar of delicious Brinery kraut, compliments of David!

Each guest received a jar of delicious Brinery kraut, compliments of David!


Tantré Farm's Richard Andres, Deli partner Rodger Bowser, and Tantré's Deb Lentz

Tantré Farm’s Richard Andres, Deli partner Rodger Bowser, and Tantré’s Deb Lentz.


You can help!

Support Farmer Visits to Classrooms

The Agrarian Adventure mentors area farmers to give fun hands-on lessons to over 800 elementary students a year, connecting them with our regional food system and locally grown produce. Help us bring this great program to more schools! Each $250 donation pays for one month of Farmer in the Classroom programming. This includes planning, materials, and a stipend for the visiting farmer for a month of weekly visits.
Your total sponsor-a-month donation is a tax-deductible contribution to The Agrarian Adventure, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, federal tax id is 20-1275718.

See you soon!

Food, Food Artisans

The Ten Top Secrets of Buying and Cooking Great Pastas

Rustichella Egg Laganelle

Featuring special guests Rolando Beramendi, Gianluigi Peduzzi, and Ari Weinzweig!

Please join us on Thursday, November 13, 630pm for a very special event!

We’re very fortunate to welcome  not one, but two of the powerhouses of the traditional pasta world joining Zingerman’s co-founder Ari for journey through the history of Italy’s greatest pastas.

Gianluigi Peduzzi is a third-generation pasta maker from the Abruzzo, whose Rustichella pasta line has long been one of THE best in Italy and the US. At his side we’ll have chef, importer and pastalogist extraordinaire Rolando Beramendi whose excellent palate and passion for traditional Italian food have significantly altered the food scene here in the US.

Gianluigi, Rolando and Ari will guide you through a tasting of 6 pastas starting with the very first Rustichella pasta ever brought into the US.

Here’s the evening’s pasta plan direct from Rolando:

1- Whole Wheat Penne, our first pasta ever imported into the US, so I think we will serve it very simply as aglio, olio e peperoncino. This was the recipe that was then written on the original Penne bags!

2- Linguine tossed with the simplest tomato sauce. And we’ll add some grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano. Simple and direct, so we can really taste the flavor of the pasta.

3- Orecchiette which we we’ll serve alla Pugliese, with broccoli rabe and sausage. This pasta calls for something hearty.

4- Egg Pappardelle will help everyone taste the difference and supple texture of an egg pasta. We’ll serve it with some melted butter, and chopped mushrooms or dry porcini.

5- PrimoGrano Sagne a Pezzi so Gianluigi can talk about his 0 Km project, which is intended to aid the recovery of local agricultural system. PrimoGrano is a 100% Abruzzo product, traveling zero distance from sowing to collection. We’ll also talk about the grains we use and what a difference they make in the flavor.

6- ZeroTre is one of our latest projects. It’s a kid’s pasta, and we’ll talk about growing up eating pastina and serving alphabet pasta in chicken stock. It’s my favorite comfort food.

This is a once in a lifetime event in Ann Arbor and guaranteed to take the quality of your pasta cooking up to the level of Italy’s best chefs!

reserve your seat here

See you soon!


Food, Food Artisans

Pencils and Parsnips: Farm to School Benefit

Taste of Tantré is a benefit for the agrarian adventure!

Tantré picking

Join Zingerman’s Delicatessen and Tantré Farm this coming Wednesday, November 5, 630pm, as we gather for our annual Taste of Tantré feast where we will eat great food and raise awareness, goodwill, and money to further the mission of The Agrarian Adventure, a leader in our community farm-to-school movement.

The Agrarian Adventure celebrates its 10 year anniversary championing efforts to connect students with food, health, community, and agriculture. They created and help to sustain a bountiful and diverse school garden at Tappan Middle School in Ann Arbor, lead a Farmer in the Classroom program that reaches all Ann Arbor Public Schools, and work to foster ongoing relationships among farmers, teachers, parents, administrators and students.

$80 of the ticket price is tax-deductible!

Tantré greens

Support Farmer Visits to Classrooms

The Agrarian Adventure mentors area farmers to give fun hands-on lessons to over 800 elementary students a year, connecting them with our regional food system and locally grown produce. Help us bring this great program to more schools! Each $250 donation pays for one month of Farmer in the Classroom programming. This includes planning, materials, and a stipend for the visiting farmer for a month of weekly visits.
Your total sponsor-a-month donation is a tax-deductible contribution to The Agrarian Adventure, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, federal tax id is 20-1275718.

reserve your seat here

See you soon!

Tantré cows