Freshly-Milled Spelt Flour from the Bakehouse

A delicious new upgrade to the daily breakfast menu!

BY Ari Weinzweig

As you likely know, I love to look here at the ways we are actively working to make our food better at Zingerman’s. From the first week we opened our doors in 1982, we have worked with the mindset that is now documented in the list of Natural Laws of Business (See Part 1). Number 8 on the list of the original 12 is: “To get to greatness you’ve got to keep getting better, all the time!” It’s a rare week that we aren’t doing something to raise the bar on a recipe or source a more flavorful, more traditionally crafted ingredient (watch for some chocolate upgrades with a few Bakehouse items and new pecans at the Roadhouse coming at you soon in the print edition of Zingerman’s News for May–June.) This week’s work is around the upgrade that the folks at the Roadhouse are rolling out—starting to make pancakes using the spelt we’re milling fresh at the Bakehouse.

What is spelt?

If you don’t know it, spelt is an ancient grain that’s in the same family as wheat. Greek mythology has it that it was a gift from the goddess Demeter. Spelt has been grown in central Asia for over 9000 years and came to North America only at the end of the 19th century. It’s related to farro and has been called farro grande (as opposed to the farro piccolo we serve at the Roadhouse that comes from Anson Mills). Compared to standard wheat varieties, spelt has a harder husk, a lower yield, and a more positive nutritional profile—it’s good for heart health, blood pressure, digestion, high in vitamins (like zinc and magnesium), and brings a reduction in risk of diabetes. St. Hildegard of Bingen, an 11th century mystic, poet, and composer who was putting her visions in writing a thousand years ago, said that “Spelt is the best of grains. It is rich and nourishing and milder than other grains. It produces a strong body and healthy blood to those who eat it and it makes the spirit of man light and cheerful.” A thousand years later, the folks at the Bakehouse share:

Our organic spelt berries come from Michigan and the surrounding Midwest region. When we mill them on our stone mill, it produces a beautiful cream-colored silky flour with large flakes of nutritious bran. Compared to whole wheat flour, it’s softer, not as absorbent, and produces a very extensible dough. Given its delicious flavor and strong baking qualities, we use freshly-milled whole spelt flour in a number of our breads, including Country Miche and Dinkelbrot.

The latter are two of my favorite breads—the Miche is a magical blend of spelt, wheat, buckwheat, and rye that we bake in beautiful big 2-kilo loaves with lovely dark crusts. The Dinkelbrot is a dense, delicious, German-style spelt bread made with a bit of mashed potato, honey, and a lot of sunflower seeds. The fresh milling itself has been a huge improvement for us as well. It offers us better flavor and much better nutrition. In the last five years, we’ve rolled it (literally and figuratively) into most of our breads and an increasing number of pastries. Everything we use it in is enhanced by its addition!

How we are using spelt in our pancakes!

Connecting culinary dots, head chef Bob Bennett had the thought to make use of the Bakehouse’s fresh-milled grains in the Roadhouse’s pancakes. The pancakes have long been a staple on the morning menu, and for years we have used all-purpose flour. After a series of experiments, we enthusiastically chose the spelt. Swapping in the spelt for the standard wheat flour has boosted the flavor exponentially! Creamy on the tongue, still mellow but marvelously flavorful, gently nutty, and very delicious. The pancakes are fantastically flavorful on their own, but if you like them a little sweeter, we have maple syrup from H&H Sugarbush in Chelsea. Swing by this week and order a plateful! Along with our Texas Tacos, they’re giving you and me even more reasons to go out for breakfast. Add in a glass of orange juice, freshly-squeezed on site (the juice equivalent of fresh milling for grain), some Roadhouse Joe coffee from the Coffee Company, wireless, and Roadhouse Park out front … there are more and more reasons to make your way to the Westside!