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December 2023

Dominika Zielinska

A passion for ancient wheats

“With such a vast botanical diversity, it's incredible that modern French baking is limited to soft wheat, the least interesting of all!”

By Anne Emellina - Photo Jean-Michel Sordello
© Jean-Michel Sordello

A historian by training, Dominika never imagined that she would be recognised by Gault & Millau and the Collège Culinaire de France one day. This self-taught Polish baker has made a name for herself and her exceptional breads since 2019. What's so special about all her baked goods is that she makes them with ancient wheat flour that is incredibly biodiverse. After watching a report on the subject featuring Rolland Feuillas (a baker and expert in old seeds in Cucugnan), she decided to train with him before immersing herself in wheat genealogy for two years, investigating conservatories and authentic seed banks. Armed with a solid botanical background and experimental baking in her garage, she opened her first Zielinska bakery in Old Nice.

“No baguettes, no croissants”, read the sign on the front of her first premises. In this laboratory, her atypical loaves soon started to draw attention: Engrain or Small Spelt, one of the world's most ancient kinds of wheat, with a pronounced hazelnut flavour, Kamut for a brioche-like, slightly sweet crumb, and Pétanielle Noire de Nice with hints of chestnut. Dominika proudly explains that she found this historic Comté de Nice wheat in a book by Vilmorin dating from 1880, bringing it out of oblivion and back into cultivation. All the flour is custom-milled and sourced from farmers in France and Piedmont in Italy, while some of the grains used are grown exclusively for the bakery. Buoyed by her success, she moved to a new address, opening a proper bakery with a small adjoining room and brunch-style menu revolving around bread: gazpacho in summer, seasonal vegetable tartines, organic eggs with flavoured-butter bread fingers... All snacks feature her creative loaves – the Nissart with chickpea flour, the Polka with cranberries and sunflower seeds… Not forgetting sweet and savoury brioches – typical Eastern European Babkas and Zatars with a Lebanese blend of herbs, sesame, and sumac – Nordic cinnamon rolls and Pompe à Huile Provençale. Never short of ideas, this unconventional baker who bakes bread “her way” now supplies Les Agitateurs, La Merenda and Le Méridien in Nice.


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