Ari’s Pick: Chestnut Baguette

A beautiful and delicious bread to brighten your day

One of my all-time favorite Bakehouse breads will be available this coming weekend! You can buy a Chestnut Baguette (or two) on August 18 and 19 at the Bakeshop and Deli. Feel free to order ahead to be sure there’s a loaf waiting for you. 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 Chestnut Baguette from the Bakehouse backs up James Beard’s statement in a big way! 

A dash of chestnut flour history

Baking with chestnut flour is wholly uncommon in the U.S. in the 21st century, but it’s got a long history in Italy, France, and central Europe where chestnuts were used for almost all sorts of cooking. Chestnut flour was often what people who couldn’t afford the more costly wheat would work with. In Ukraine, chestnuts are considered a symbol of prosperity, fertility, and also longevity. (The story there, which dates to the 19th century, is yet another example of Russian imposition and acting with anything but grace, followed by creative Ukrainian resistance.)

In the Lunigiana region of Tuscany, wheat was grown on the valley floor, so the only flour readily found in the mountain areas was ground from locally grown chestnuts. The region has long been known as “The Land of the Moon and the Bread Tree”—the latter is a reference to the chestnut. The typical Casola Marocca bread of the area is now enshrined in the Slow Food Presidium. Chestnut flour-based breads were also popular in Liguria (the Italian Riviera), where Rocco and Katherine Disderide, the Italian immigrant couple who built the Deli’s building in 1902 had come from. In that sense, I feel like the Bakehouse’s Chestnut Baguettes have come full circle. 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. Michigan, I’m happy to say, has been the center of the American chestnut revival over the last decade or so. 

where we get our flour

Treeborn, who we source our chestnut flour from, is located in the Rogers Reserve, land that was donated to Michigan State University by Ernie and Mabel Rogers in 1990. Determined to right what had gone so wrong in the American ecosystem, the Rogers gifted the land for the express purpose of supporting the revival of the American chestnut. Treeborn today has the only commercial chestnut peeling line in the Western Hemisphere, technology that makes this work possible. As of the 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture, Michigan is the country’s leading producer of chestnuts. Maybe when the ZCoB hits its 100th anniversary in 2082, local license plates will say “The Chestnut State.” And this beautiful baguette will be 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!

how we make them and how we eat them

As mentioned, 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—which means that the baguettes are naturally leavened. The finished loaves are lovely, the color, in fact, of chestnuts. The flavor is nutty, full, subtly sweet, with a long, lovely finish that pairs well with an endless list. The baguettes are great with the Creamery’s fresh goat cheese or Manchester cheese. Toast a slice and top with olive oil and fresh Bellwether ricotta and some chestnut honey. If you toast slices on the grill to pick up a bit of woodsmoke, that’s wonderful too. Or just tear off a chunk and eat it as is!

Hungry for More?

  • Sign up for Ari’s Top 5 enewsletter to hear more from Ari every week!
  • Call us (734-761-2095) to order a Chestnut Baguette (or two) for pickup this weekend at the Bakehouse
  • Learn more about Chestnut Baguettes on our blog
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Ari Weinzweig
Co-Founding Partner at Zingerman's | + posts

In 1982, Ari Weinzweig, along with his partner Paul Saginaw, founded Zingerman’s Delicatessen with a $20,000 bank loan, a Russian History degree from the University of Michigan, 4 years of experience washing dishes, cooking and managing in restaurant kitchens and chutzpah from his hometown of Chicago. They opened the doors with 2 employees and a small selection of specialty foods and exceptional sandwiches.

Today, Zingerman’s Delicatessen is a nationally renowned food icon and the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses has grown to 10 businesses with over 750 employees and over $55 million in annual revenue. Aside from the Delicatessen, these businesses include Zingerman’s Bakehouse, Coffee Company, Creamery, Roadhouse, Mail Order, ZingTrain, Candy Manufactory, Cornman Farms and a Korean restaurant that is scheduled to open in 2016. No two businesses in the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses are alike but they all share the same Vision and Guiding Principles and deliver “The Zingerman’s Experience” with passion and commitment.

Besides being the Co-Founding Partner and being actively engaged in some aspect of the day-to-day operations and governance of nearly every business in the Zingerman’s Community, Ari Weinzweig is also a prolific writer. His most recent publications are the first 4 of his 6 book series Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading Series: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business (Part 1), Being a Better Leader (Part 2), Managing Ourselves (Part 3) and the newly-released Part 4, The Power of Beliefs in Business. Earlier books include the Zingerman’s Guides to Giving Great Service, Better Bacon, Good Eating, Good Olive Oil, Good Vinegar and Good Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Ari regularly travels across the country (and world) on behalf of ZingTrain, teaching organizations and businesses about Zingerman’s approach to business. He is a sought-after Keynote speaker, having delivered keynotes for Inc. 500, Microsoft Expo Spring Conference, Great Game of Business Gathering of Games, Positive Business Conference at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, American Society for Quality (ASQ), and the American Cheese Society. Most recently, Ari and Paul Saginaw were invited to address an audience of 50,000 for the University of Michigan 2015 Spring Commencement.

One of Zingerman’s Guiding Principles is being an active part of the community and in 1988, Zingerman’s was instrumental in the founding of Food Gatherers, a food rescue program that delivers over 5 million pounds of food each year to the hungry residents of Washtenaw county. Every year Zingerman’s donates 10% of its previous years profits to local community organizations and non-profits. Ari has served on the board of The Ark, the longest continuously operating folk music venue in America.

Over the decades, the Zingerman’s founding partners have consistently been the recipients of public recognition from a variety of diverse organizations. In April 1995, Ari and Paul were awarded the Jewish Federation of Washtenaw County’s first Humanitarian Award. In 2006, Ari was recognized as one of the “Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America” by the James Beard Foundation. In 2007, Ari and Paul were presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award from Bon Appetit magazine for their work in the food industry. Ari was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Cheese Society in 2014. And Ari’s book, Building a Great Business was on Inc. magazine’s list of Best Books for Business Leaders.

Notwithstanding the awards, being engaged on a daily basis in the work of 10 businesses and 21 partners, writing books on business and in-depth articles on food for the Zingerman’s newsletter, Ari finds time to be a voracious reader. He acquires and reads more books than he can find room for. Ari might soon find himself the owner of the largest collection of Anarchist books in Ann Arbor outside the Labadie collection at the University of Michigan library!

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