Zingerman's Cooking Classes Teach What You Knead to Know (Really!)

For nearly two decades, Zingerman’s Bake! classes have been teaching home cooks how to make pro-quality pies, cookies, breads and more. 

Measuring ingredients into a bowl for a cooking class
Photo: Courtesy of Zingerman's Bake!

Way back in 2006, I took one of the inaugural classes at Zingerman's Bakehouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan. These days, many businesses offer workshops in mixing cocktails, decorating cookies and so forth. But back then, a nationally renowned bakery divulging its trade secrets felt novel. I spent four days with Bakehouse pros—cutting biscuits, braiding challah and watching my infant sourdough starter bubble and brew.

Practical advice I learned that week still echoes in my head every time I knead: Flour is not always your friend. People tend to panic over stickiness, but when you overzealously dust the surface, the dough absorbs that flour—sometimes as much as a cup—throwing the recipe out of balance. (Possible result: Tough bread.) Instead, hold a bench scraper in your dominant hand, and use that to fold the dough, then press it with the heel of your opposite hand. As the gluten develops, the mixture will become workable.

So it delights me, years later, when the instructor for my Ooh La La Croissants class dispenses the exact same wisdom. Only this time, I'm not in Ann Arbor. I'm at home in Iowa, taking the class virtually. Zingerman's began offering online classes during the pandemic and discovered markets they had never tapped before. In the past three years, students have logged on from 50 states and 28 countries.(My peers included a retiree and her adult daughter in North Carolina, an empty nester in Chicago, and a college student and his mom in Michigan—and their cat.)

I was skeptical that the virtual experience would compare to that first class, but in ways, it was better. Cooking in my own space, using familiar utensils and ingredients I'd purchased at my supermarket, felt comfortable. The class was brilliantly paced: interactive watching, followed by quiet doing. There was ample time, and no one fell behind. Somehow, making beautifully laminated croissants on my turf made the accomplishment feel more real, like I could definitely do it again. And I plan to, because the way my house smelled that day? Swoon.

I will admit, though, there's one perk of the in-person classes you don't get at home: I couldn't drive across town to Zingerman's Deli and buy a Reuben for lunch.

Zingerman’s Bakehouse Celebrate Every Day cookbook
Kelsey Hansen

Buy the Book

Zingerman's Bakehouse Celebrate Every Day features sweet and savory recipes for real holidays (Christmas and Passover) and self-declared ones (Snow Days and the Super Bowl), with flavors spanning cultures and traditions (Chronicle, $30).

Try A Cookie Recipe

Zingerman's Fancy Schmancy Holiday Cookies class is always a sellout. Get the recipe for Chocolate-Dipped Espresso Stars, a staff favorite featured in the new cookbook.

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