- Marlene Lacasse/Daily
By Carlina Duan, Community Culture Editor
Published March 14, 2013
Sugar cookies. Walnut brownies. Slices of chocolate cake smattered in rich, bossy frosting. When it comes to sugar, my belly is no stranger. Every night at dessert, I evolve into all-capital-lettered euphoria, fiercely elbowing my way to the table and piling plates to skyscraper height. Friends can attest: I tweet about sugar; I dream about sugar. The most recently tagged photo of me on Facebook? A slice of velvety tiramisu. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that my ultimate dream is to open up a bakery named Mount Olympus. Each baked good will be coined after a Greek God/Goddess. Zeus will be a triple-decker brownie cake, drizzled in marshmallows.
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Only problem with this grand plan: I have no idea how to bake.
In fact, I’m famous for kitchen failures. Once, I made macaroni and cheese with Greek yogurt (first mistake: using Greek yogurt) and rested the heaping bowl onto the dinner table with proud hands. My family took small bites with plastic spoons, swallowing politely until my Dad finally spliced the silence: “What is this shit?”
Baking classes, then, were just what I needed. And not just any baking class, but a Zingerman’s BAKE! “Who You Callin’ A Cream Puff?” class. As a college kid struggling to fling together brownie mix from the box every weekend, I needed to dip my hands into some flour — start familiarizing myself with real, out-of-the-box, home-cooked food.
And Zingerman’s, as I’m sure any foodie will attest to, can be dubbed as real food. The Bakehouse, born in 1992, was the second Zingerman’s business to open. Bakehouse Managing Partner Amy Emberling, who was one of the original staffers at the time, described the original mission of the Bakehouse: to supply bread.
“We intended to be only a wholesale bakery and only to make fantastic bread for (the Deli’s) sandwiches,” she said.
At the Bakehouse, public classes were established even before BAKE! classes came along. “We would have people in one Sunday a month, for two hours in the afternoon, and we’d teach them a bit about bread making,” Emberling explained, “There was always a waiting list.”
As the monthly waiting lists continued to grow, the demand for classes became apparent. Six years ago, the Bakehouse transformed the space next door to a “school” — now complete with two classrooms specifically designated for BAKE! classes, year round, five days a week.
“In our country, learning how to bake was a lost art. We thought one thing we could do for the community is actually show people how (to bake),” Emberling said, “So when you leave (class) you will have confidence and inspiration to try it again at home.”
On the morning of my class, I lacked confidence. Dry-mouthed, I drove through a layer of snow to reach the Bakehouse, wringing my hands with pre-bake anxiety. I was probably going to make the world’s floppiest cream puff. In fact, it’d probably look so monstrous that folks would dub it the “Ugly Puff.” Already envisioning failure, I parked the car with dumb spirits.
Set in a complex of brick, factory-style buildings on Plaza Drive, the Bakehouse stands out. Next door, signs in funky fonts and fresh colors beckon you to taste coffee. If you’re taking a class, drinks within the Bakehouse building are complimentary. After walking next door to the classroom building, I found myself in a room with spacious tables, stoves, folded white aprons, baking racks, an iPod trumpeting jazz and … elderly couples. Around the table sat a retired pair, Matt and Linda, who revealed their tradition of “pie-crust throwing,” a ritual sparked in their youthful, just-married days. Meanwhile, Cheryl, a woman clad in swirly, candy-shaped earrings, introduced herself as a BAKE! connoisseur who’d taken dozens of classes. Cheryl was accompanied by her personal trainer, Cathy. Both giggled as Cathy mock-whispered, “So, we can work off the calories after today!”
Total class size?