Ari's Picks

Chestnut Baguettes – Special Bakehouse Bake on May 3 and 4

A beautiful and delicious bread to brighten your day.

A beautiful and delicious bread to brighten your day

One of my all-time favorite Bakehouse breads will be available this coming weekend, May 3 and 4, at the Bakeshop and Deli! Feel free to order ahead to be sure to get yours. I’ll be picking up a couple for our house!

James Beard once said: “Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.” This baguette from the Bakehouse supports his statement in a big way! Tear off a chunk and eat it, either as is, or spread with a bunch of that Vermont Creamery Cultured butter we’re carrying at the Bakehouse, Deli, and Roadhouse. Even the thought of it is making my morning, and giving me a good reason to be eager to get to the weekend!

Baking with chestnut flour is wholly uncommon in the 21st century, but it’s got a long history in Italy, France, and central Europe where chestnuts were used for all sorts of cooking. Chestnut flour was what people who couldn’t afford the more costly wheat would work with. It was popular in Liguria, the region of the Riviera, where Rocco and Katherine Disderide, the Italian immigrant couple who built the Deli’s building in 1902 came from. In that sense, I feel like the Bakehouse’s Chestnut Baguettes have come full circle.

To make the baguettes, we work with local chestnut flour from the folks at Treeborn, about half an hour or so west of here in Jackson. We blend that with freshly milled Michigan hard red spring wheat. No commercial yeast is used—just the flour, filtered water, and sea salt—to give us this naturally leavened baguette. The loaves are truly the color of chestnuts. The flavor is nutty, full, subtly sweet, with a long, lovely finish. I love it with the Creamery’s goat cheeses (the City Goats have been particularly great lately)! It’s wonderful, too, with the Creamery’s Manchester cheese. Toast and top with olive oil and fresh Bellwether ricotta. The toasting brings out the natural sugars in the grain in a wonderful way.

Unfortunately, chestnuts in the U.S. fell prey to a massive blight in the early years of the 20th century and were almost totally eradicated. Lucky for us, Michigan has been the center of the American chestnut revival over the last decade or so. The good news is that our state is currently the country’s leading producer of chestnuts. Maybe when the ZCoB hits its 100th anniversary in 2082, local license plates around these parts will say “The Chestnut State.” And, maybe, this beautiful baguette will become one of the state’s signature dishes—something travelers regularly take back with them to demonstrate what is possible when good people do good work in the world!

Pre-order for pick up at the Deli
P.S. If you want to make the baguettes at home, the recipe is in the Zingerman’s Bakehouse book on page 228.

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