ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Zingerman's Bake House has filled up a roster of classes that show people how to bake holiday treats.
That's happening even as plenty of busy consumers look to their supermarket's in-store bakery to do the work for them.
“There are people who still bake or want to bake,” said Amy Emberling, Bake House business partner.
Baking “old school pie” is the subject of a series of classes the week before Thanksgiving, and a class, Making Fancy Schmancy Cookies, was so popular last holiday season that the Bake House scheduled two additional classes this year, bringing the total to six. In addition, they are teaching a children's brownie-baking class and a teens' pie-baking class.
“Here in our area, the schools are closed on Wednesday before Thanksgiving. So we've scheduled a class for 10- to 12-year-olds and one for 13- to 15-year-olds for that day,” Amberling told SN.
“It gives moms a break on that very busy day, teaches the kids something, and gives them baked goods to take home in time for the holiday.”
The “old school” pies featured in the adult classes focus on making an outstanding crust, Emberling said.
“We combine lard with butter for our apple pie crust, and then for the pumpkin pies, we use an all-butter crust and a lot of heavy cream and great spices for the filling.”
In the Fancy Schmancy Cookie class, attendees learn to bake Florentines, mint spritz dipped in chocolate, and two varieties with a German flair: pfeffernuesse and weihnachtskekse. Class attendees get to take a dozen of each home.
When SN talked to Emberling the first week of November, there was just one opening left in the whole repertoire of scheduled holiday baking classes.
Zingerman's Bake House also supplies its retail shop with such unusual pies as chocolate chess pie and a pie with a pecan pie-type filling that, instead of pecans, uses walnuts and dried cranberries. Several local supermarkets are on The Bake House's customer list for Zingerman's holiday items, especially the traditional ones.
“People don't get bored with old-time things. They love traditions, and traditional baked items at the holidays. They look forward to them,” Emberling said.
The holidays are here again. It's a time for family, friends and food, so don't forget to dust off the fruitcake.
Fruitcake jokes may abound on the East Coast, but not necessarily everywhere.
They are, however, not the big favorites they were years — and years — ago.
Actually, it's difficult to discern how many people actually like the dense, filled-with-nuts-and-dried-fruit cakes, and how many just want to cling to tradition, sources told SN.
Fruitcake certainly doesn't make the best-seller list at supermarket in-store bakeries, but some customers expect — really expect — their ISBs to have them during the holidays, retailers told SN.
“I certainly wouldn't say they're popular, but there are customers who'd get mad at us if we didn't have them,” said Sunnie Guraedy, bakery manager at Arrowhead Miracle Mart, Minot, N.D.
“I like fruitcake, but I think that's pretty unusual for a person my age. It's the older crowd who usually want it, but they also don't buy a lot of it. They don't want to spend the money for it. It's expensive to make.”
At Kowalski's Markets, St. Paul, Minn., bakery director Steve Beaird said the eight-unit independent used to carry several different sizes of fruitcake. Now, they offer only one size — a one-pound loaf.
“We sell enough of them. Last year, we sold about a thousand,” Beaird said.
Down South, people aren't as apt to curb their enthusiasm for fruitcake. It has long been a custom in parts of the South to bake fruitcakes, usually from an old family recipe early in the fall, and then soak them in brandy or rum till the holidays arrive.
“People around here like fruitcake, but they want to make it themselves. We know because every year, we sell lots and lots of the ingredients,” said Rita Postell, spokeswoman for Charleston, S.C.-based Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co., which has 115 units in the Carolinas and parts of Georgia.