Chestnut Baguette – Special Bakehouse Bake!

Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews

A beautiful and delicious bread to brighten your day

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 would back up James Beard’s statement in a big way. Tear off a chunk and eat it, either as is, or spread with a bunch of Vermont Creamery Cultured butter.

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!

Here’s what Frank Carollo wrote in the beautiful Zingerman’s Bakehouse book:

We fell in love with the flavor of the bread (especially the dark crust) and the beautiful color of the crumb. The … chestnut flour gives the crumb a slight purple color and rich depth of flavor. It’s become my favorite bread to choose when I’m asked to bring an appetizer to a dinner. I grab a Chestnut Baguette and run next door to Zingerman’s Creamery, and I have them put out a really ripe Manchester cheese for me.

P.S. If you want to make the baguettes at home, the recipe is in the Zingerman’s Bakehouse book on page 228.