Bakehouse Meets Backhaus

Last October brought my first Zingerman’s staff scholarship, which is a really great benefit available to us, and my first trip to Germany to study bread making. I spent a week working and learning at the Dresdner Backhaus in Dresden. Let me back it up and give you all a little context of how the Zingerman’s Bakehouse got connected to the Backhaus.

The fifth-generation owner of the Dresdner Backhaus, Eli Kreutzkamm-Amueller, found out about Zingerman’s after reading Bo Burlingham’s book, Small Giants, which is about companies that aim to be great rather than big. She visited us on an American tour of small giant companies, came back for a ZingTrain seminar, and spent time with Amy Emberling, Bakehouse partner, discussing business practices and baking. Amy and Eli made plans to learn from each other. Eli came back with her production manager in January 2012 and they made their world famous stollen with us. Next I went to Dresden to learn about their bread baking tradition.

At the Dresdener Backhaus I got lots of hands-on experience with their stollen and a large variety of different rye breads. Nearly every kind of bread they make has some quantity of rye flour in it, even the French baguettes. The breads are marketed by what percentage of rye flour is in the recipe. One of the most interesting differences was their rye starter. It’s so strong that the scent of it knocked me back and made my eyes water. Rye starter is a sacred ingredient to German bakers. They even send samples from each batch to a lab to make sure that the bacteria are correctly balanced. Why are they so dedicated to rye?

The combination of the rye flour and the rye sour lends a stong rye taste to the loaf and as the percentage of rye flour increases, the longer the bread retains moisture and stays fresh. Also culturally and historically this is the most common grain. Rye is to the Germans as wheat is to us and corn is to Native Americans.

It was an exciting learning experience to see how a similarly sized bakery with a like-minded business sense operated. One very key similarity is that bakers around the world find drawing shapes and patterns on a floury bench is a great way to communicate!


Vinschgauer roll with a spelt flour Dinkelbrot loaf.

During our visit, Amy and I picked out some really great breads and pastries to teach in two BAKE! classes taught by Eli and Tino the production manager last January. The classes were a complete success and lots of fun, too. From this experience, we have decided to put a few of the recipes that I learned to the test by offering you a couple of different varieties of German-style breads this March. We are planning to make a 100% spelt loaf called Dinkelbrot. It is dense, moist, delicious, and different from most of the breads that we are all used to. We will also make a roll called Vinschgauer which is rye based and has a very German blend of spices in it to give it a unique flavor. This one quickly became one of my favorites and it makes a mean salami sandwich. Stop in so that you don’t miss your chance to try some really special German breads baked at our very own Bakehouse!

– Shawna Sloan, Zingerman’s Bakehouse Bread Department