Page 52 - Pastry & Baking Magazine

Artisan Baker
Pastry & Baking North America
Publisher’s Note:
Chef Nathan Stamm joined
the faculty at Johnson & Wales University in 2003
and in 2006 and 2007 he received the university’s
faculty award for publishing and research. He is
a Certified Executive Pastry Chef and an active
member of the Bread Bakers Guild of America.
Stamm is a five-time recipient of the Vatel Gold
Medal of the French Government from the Société
Culinaire Philanthropique.
Some guys have all the luck,” I grumbled as I drove north on
I-87 NY to Saratoga Springs. It was fall 2000, and my employer,
Zingerman’s Bakehouse in Ann Arbor, MI had arranged a week for
me as a stagaire at Mrs. London’s Bakery, the home of Michael and
Wendy London. My shift would be from 5 PM to 5 AM with the
Viennoiserie team. However, Michael suggested that I arrive at 1 or
PM for a debriefing. Great. Drive, meet, work all night. Just great.
Oral historian/raconteur Michael and I began talking --mostly
listening on my part – and the connection was quick, sure, and
strong. Even though we are approximately the same age, I felt like an
inexperienced child receiving a lesson at the foot of the village elder.
The breads and pastries in Mrs. London’s Bakery are a tribute the
time Michael spent working with the masters in France – pastries
that world travelers and pastry aficionados would recognize. The
execution, the presentation, the flavors, and the respect for tradition
are as Parisian as the Echire butter on the tables.
But there is another aspect to the bakery: the Jewish bakery
repertoire. I was dispatched by the Bakehouse to study babka. And
study babka we did, but with baka triggered other memories and
those memories triggered other memories. Michael’s familiarity
with the products was encyclopedic; more impressive, was his
familiarity with the lore, culture, and background of the products.
The stories of the Jewish union bakers, the working conditions,
the economy, the expectations... it was a time capsule of living and
baking in NYC that encompassed decades.
I started showing up earlier everyday to sit with Michael and
learn an unwritten history that I felt so close to yet had never heard
a word about or given it a thought.
Michael and his team shared a lot with me that week and I
have carried the lessons through my career. However, one thing,
one pastry, was gnawing at me. One day, Michael made a quick
sketch and about five comments on a page in my notebook. It was
headlined: “Danish Dunker”. This recipe and process are inspired
by that conversation.
My seventh shift ended at 5 AM on a Monday morning. It
had been a stimulating and reinvigorating experience. I spent
every waking moment in the bakery after that first day. The
earlier portion of the day was filled listening to Michael’s stories,
pondering, and rumination; the second portion of the day was
immersion in Viennoiserie heaven. As I drove away, two thing were
reaffirmed to me: 1. As bakers and pastry chefs, our noblesse oblige
is to understand, appreciate, and honor our role as historians,
teachers, and community members and 2. Some guys DO have all
the luck.
The Danish