The Bakehouse’s Grain Commission continues to take quality levels ever higher
by Ari Weinzweig
In Part 1 of the Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading, A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Better Business, I wrote “The Twelve Natural Laws of Business.” It’s my very strong belief that all thriving, successful organizations—and, really, thriving individuals—are living in harmony with those natural laws. Number eight on the list is “To get to greatness, you’ve got to keep getting better! All the time!” You’ll see that reality with musicians, athletes, professors, teachers, and upper level executives. Everyone that’s achieving at high levels of well-being is working, steadily and successfully, on self-improvement!
One of the things I most admire about the work of all the amazing people who are part of the ZCoB is this same constant, steady drive to make everything we do better! Literally, not a week—barely a day, I’ll bet—goes by that something isn’t improved. This week we’ve got a big one: one of my favorite breads from the Bakehouse just got better!
Although almost every day I come across some customer who’s just discovered it, the Roadhouse bread has been one of my solid Bakehouse favorites for nearly 15 years now. It was actually a favorite of 18th and 19th century New Englanders, too, but for whatever odd reasons of historical trends, completely fell of fashion (as far as I know, we’re the only ones in the country that bake it commercially). Back those hundreds of years ago, it was known as “Rye ‘n’ Indian” or also “Thirded Bread.” Here, we just call it “Roadhouse Bread” since it’s been our “house bread” since we opened in 2003. A mix of organic wheat, rye, and corn, subtly sweetened up with a bit of molasses, it’s really quite excellent. (As you might also already know, I’m a big fan of very dark crusts—the darker the crust, the more the natural sugars in the grain caramelize and the better the bread tastes. I always ask for the darkest loaf on the shelf.)
In the last few weeks, though, this already excellent bread just got better! As part of the Bakehouse’s inspiring and insightful Grain Commission project, we’ve begun milling the rye—from a farm in western Illinois—for the Roadhouse bread right here on Plaza Drive. Does it make a difference? The answer is an absolute yes! Fresh milling, we’ve been learning, leaves the natural nutrients of the grain intact. Studies are showing that this simple act makes an enormous difference in bread’s impact on our bodies. It also improves the flavor and texture. There’s just something a bit more vital, a little bit livelier, a touch lovelier. And the texture seems to hold its moisture a bit longer—I’ve had one at my house for four days, and it still feels alive and well. This new project is a big deal, and we’re just beginning. Amy Emberling, Bakehouse co-managing partner, says, “Milling some of our own grain is one of the most exciting and transformative steps we’ve taken in years. It is going to transform not just our baking but also our relationship to our community.” Watch for way more Bakehouse offerings to transition to being made freshly milled on site in the months and years to come.
What do you do with the Roadhouse bread? Makes super marvelous toast—I love it with either the Creamery’s cream cheese or fresh goat cheese. Try it with the American Fried Bread on page 162 in Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon. Great for a sandwich, of course. If you want some history to serve at Thanksgiving dinner, the Roadhouse bread couldn’t really be more perfect—a blend of European influence and Native American origins, with a touch of the West Indies woven in. Oh yeah, one little known fact is that Roadhouse breadmakes super-great croutons! Just cut it into roughly one-inch cubes and fry gently in extra virgin olive oil, turning the cubes regularly, until they’re golden brown. Toss while hot with fine sea salt and a healthy handful of freshly ground, good black pepper. They’re great on salads, but honestly, I often find myself eating them just out of hand at home!
In any case, come by the Bakehouse, Deli, or Roadhouse to try this newly improved loaf! As you can tell, I’ve been loving it. I hope you do, too.