We’ve been baking Pecan Raisin Bread for well over 25 years. It has stayed at the top of the Bakehouse’s list of favorites for so long now that I almost forget about it sometimes. Fortunately for me, the bread bakers at the Bakehouse don’t. If we failed to make Pecan Raisin Bread we would have some very unhappy customers on our hands!
If you’re one of the few folks who still don’t know this bread, let me take this opportunity to introduce you. Over half a pound of really juicy Red Flame raisins and Georgia pecans are packed into every loaf. It’s baked on a stone hearth to ensure a thin crispy caramelized crust. Toast it with butter or Creamery Cream Cheese. Use it as a base for chicken salad sandwiches (I made a great salad using the oak-smoked chicken from the Roadhouse the other day). It would be a perfect pairing with the Pitchfork cheddar. I love it myself, toasted with olive oil—fruit and olive oil are an underappreciated combination in our part of the world (see the salad below for more on that). If you pick up a loaf fresh from the Bakehouse, Deli or Roadhouse you might eat half of it on the way home. My friend Frank who just retired after 29 years at the Bakehouse, calls the Pecan Raisin a “magical combination.” Amy Emberling, managing partner since 2000—and one of the original bakers back in 1992—says:
I really love this bread. It just seems like the perfect balance of sweet and sour. It’s so satisfying that you can just snack on it, pulling off chunks. It’s become an Ann Arbor classic eaten frequently by our regulars, not just for special occasions!
The ingredient list is impressive in part, for its brevity, and also in the quality of what’s on it. There’s no added sugar, no added shortening or oil. Just organic, unbleached and unbromated flour, filtered water, sea salt, pecans, and raisins. The quality of the bread itself is what actually “makes” the loaf so special. We use organic flour and it’s a naturally leavened dough with 18 hours of rise time. The result is chewy, dense, not super sweet, but terrifically tasty. Most commercial alternatives which are industrial bread sweetened with nuts, and dried fruit. The Bakehouse, by contrast, is crafting an amazing artisan bread loaded with pecans and raisins. Which is why, I realize now, that the New York Times once said it “redefines the category.”
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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!