Wiggin’ Out At Our Company Picnic

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For our fourth annual Feast of Macrina celebration honoring our staff, their families, and our community at Macrina we encouraged everyone to wear wigs. Why not have a little fun? So on July 14th we closed our cafes at 2, just like a bakery in Italy does to honor a patron saint, often the whole town for that matter. We gathered at a beach in Lincoln Park to celebrate St. Macrina’s Feast Day (For you sticklers, her actual feast day is July 19th). St. Macrina was known for working to improve the quality of life for people in her community, my kind of gal, and why I found her so inspiring when naming my bakery. But it takes more than a patron saint to run a bakery and Macrina wouldn’t be what it is today without the talented, hard-working team we have. With silly wigs on our heads, we feasted on amazing food and laughed a lot. There were scavenger hunts, a balloon toss (a great way to cool off in the hot sun, as many discovered), and a prize for the best wig. When I opened Macrina in 1993, we had a staff of six and could celebrate in a backyard. Now we need many tables and acreage at a park. It’s been so much fun watching the bakery grow, and I am honored to be able to celebrate and feast in honor of St. Macrina with so many great people.

San Francisco: A Culinary Adventure

Acme breads (2)

Last month I took a little work trip with my partners Matt Galvin and Scott France to the Bay Area – if you call eating at some of the country’s finest restaurants and bakeries work. Our first stop was the San Francisco Baking Institute. Michel Suas, a mentor of mine for over 20 years, founded this internationally recognized baking school in 1996. Michel has consulted for many of the nation’s top bakeries, including Acme Bread and Thomas Keller’s restaurants. The Institute hosts bread and pastry classes for both professional and amateur bakers, and many at Macrina have taken classes from him in classic breads of France and Viennoiserie pastry. I consider him the best in his field and continue to consult with him as Macrina grows.

1. Tartine

For a late lunch, we made our way to the Mission District to Tartine, a French-style bakery run by Elizabeth Pruitt and Chad Robertson. There is no sign above the door, just a street address, but finding it is easy. Just look for the long line of people snaking out the door, waiting for one of Tartine’s gorgeous pastries or a loaf of bread often still warm from the oven. When we finally made it to the front of the line, I had to peek through a baker’s rack behind the cash register to catch a glimpse of the breads. Fortunately, they are also listed on a chalkboard. I bought a half-loaf of sprouted rye bread, still piping hot. We tore into the fragrant, crusty loaf right at the counter. We also indulged in their rye cookies, a savory scone with Niman Ranch bacon, a classic croissant, and lemon pound cake, all of which I recommend. As we were finishing up a little red pull-wagon stacked with over a dozen fragrant loaves wheeled right by our table bound for their restaurant Bar Tartine, which is located right around the corner.

state bird provision (2)

2.  STATE BIRD PROVISIONS

We had a dinner reservation at State Bird Provisions on Fillmore Street.  In 2012, the recently opened State Bird Provisions was named the best new restaurant in America by Bon Appétit magazine. While waiting for our table we had appetizers and a drink at Progress, their sister restaurant next door. A couple standouts were their Malaysian Beef Jerky with Crushed Peanuts and Wood-Roasted Blonde Morels with Smoked Hollandaise. With our table ready we moved over to State Bird Provisions. The food there is served dim-sum style, with over half the food delivered on gleaming carts that are wheeled by filled with many creative concoctions. For two hours we indulged. My favorites were Garlic Bread with Burrata, Smoked Trout-Avocado ‘Chip and Dip’, Green Garlic Steak Tartare Caesar Toast, and Don Watson’s Lamb with Cumin, Squid, Shishitos, and Dates. The chef Stuart Brioza visited our table, filled us in on the history of the two restaurants, and I enjoyed learning of the many mutual friends we have in the industry.

 

3.  SIGHTGLASS COFFEE

small_coffeeThe next morning started with a visit to Sightglass Coffee; an independent sibling-owned coffee company with a few locations.  They specialize in small batch production and source only the best green coffee. We visited their flagship store on Seventh Street, which already had a line at 7:30 on a Saturday morning, this in a city not known for waking early. It was immediately evident why Matt, a very discerning coffee drinker, suggested the visit. On one side of the high-ceilinged industrial space bags of green coffee surround a large stainless steel roaster. Behind a handsome bar the baristi serve up freshly roasted coffee on the other side.  We enjoyed unrivaled espresso, cappuccini, and americani, along with fantastic pastries from b. patisserie and Neighbor Bakehouse.

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4.  B. PATISSERIE

That afternoon we set out to visit a few other standout bakeries. First up was b. patisserie, a collaboration between Belinda Leong and Michel Suas. This dynamic duo is a formidable combination, with her talent as a pastry chef and his bread knowledge and general expertise. After years of planning, they opened their doors in 2012 at the lower edge of Pacific Heights. The open pastry kitchen has a large butcher block prep table surrounded by a team of bakers in white chef’s coats. Marble-topped Parisian style cafe tables, with bentwood chairs and a few bench seats, surround the beating heart of the patisserie, a long temperature controlled marble display counter filled an overwhelming display of sweet and savory treats. The elegant, buttery croissants are delightful, and the Kouign Amman pastries (pronounced Queen Ah-mahn) have developed a cult following in the city. Originating from the Brittany region, this round crusty cake has layers of butter and sugar folded in, much like a croissant, although with fewer layers. We sampled one filled with warm chocolate ganache, one with local berries, and a perfectly caramelized sugar version. While I’d recommend anything they make, seek out their addictive house-made granola, fresh berry scones, and sandwiches served on freshly baked bread.

5.  SEMIFREDDI’S BREAD COMPANY

When you are in the bread business you often reach out to other bakers when taking on new projects or approaching big decisions. This is how I got to know the owners of Semifreddi’s Bread Company, Tom Frainier and Mike Rose, and vice president of bakery operations John Tredgold (who goes by JT). In business since 1987 they have grown into one of the largest artisan wholesale bread and pastry bakeries in the Bay Area. They have always been very generous with their time and knowledge. Tom says their company culture has evolved from ‘take care of the customer’ to ‘take care of our employees.’ Through their expansion they’ve managed to maintain the same high quality. They’ve also become industry leaders in their dedication to community giving. Primarily a wholesale business, they have two cafes, one in Berkeley and the other in Kensington. Their baguettes are especially worth picking up.

6.  ACME BREAD COMPANY

Another major artisan bakery in the Bay Area is The Acme Bread Company. Owner Steve Sullivan was the first baker I knew about who was making French artisan-inspired bread. Before opening Acme Bread Company in 1983, Steve was baking bread for Chez Panisse. He left the famous restaurant to visit France to learn more about bread. Now more than thirty years later he continues to bake some of the best bread I have ever had. Steve met with us and gave our crew a tour of his small but mighty bakery in Oakland. They also have two other baking facilities strategically located as close to delivery locations in San Francisco in order to keep the bread as fresh as possible. Primarily a wholesale bakery they have two retail locations, one in the ferry plaza, and their original bakery on San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley. I love the racks and racks of fragrant freshly baked breads in the cafes.

As vibrant and booming as our own Seattle food scene is, it was great to visit San Francisco and taste what is happening down there.  I am already looking forward to my next trip there!

Leslie Mackie

Places Visited:

  1. Tartine, 600 Guerrero St, San Francisco, 415-487-2600; www.tartinebakery.com
  2. State Bird Provisions, 1529 Fillmore St, San Francisco, 415-795-1272; www.statebirdsf.com
  3. Sightglass Coffee, 270 7th St, San Francisco, 415-861-1313; www.sightglasscoffee.com
  4. b.patisserie, 2821 California St, San Francisco, 415-440-1700; www.bpatisserie.com
  5. Semifreddi’s, 3084 Claremont Ave, Berkeley, 510-596-9942; www.semifreddis.com
  6. The Acme Bread Company, 1601 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, 510-524-1327; www.acmebread.com

Flour and Heart: A Celebration of America’s Best Bakers

Bob's Red Mill Cake

I received an invitation from Bob’s Red Mill to join seven other celebrated bakers and pastry chefs from around the country for an event in New York City on May 12th. We were each given a type of flour and asked to create a new recipe for the event. A large bag of Bob’s Red Mill Organic Unbleached All-Purpose Flour arrived, and I set to work. With rhubarb in season and my raspberry bushes just beginning to fruit I started playing around with a few ideas. Some organic flours I have used have been inconsistent. I found Bob’s to be very predictable, both in pastry and bread. It bakes nicely, is not too heavy, and has good texture. The recipe I settled on for the event was a Rhubarb and Raspberry Upside Down Cake, a sweet and buttery favorite that pairs the tang of raspberries with the tartness of rhubarb.

I flew to New York with Jane Cho, Macrina’s head pastry chef, and together we prepared 250 tiny cakes, topping them with whipped cream. Astor Center, where the event was held, was beautifully decked out. Many food magazines, such as Food & Wine, Saveur, and Martha Stewart Living stopped by for a nibble, as well as a great number of food bloggers and tastemakers. And Bob Moore, the real Bob we know from the label, wearing his signature red vest and golf hat, made the rounds. He repeatedly thanked all of us “for making Bob’s Red Mill what it is.” Well into his eighties, Bob is a charming and very gracious man, and it is easy to see how he has built such a strong community around his product. The values of his now employee-owned company are first-rate, as you’d expect from a company dedicated to sourcing the finest grains and flours and milling them with old-world techniques.

The next day we toured some of New York’s finest bakeries: Sullivan Street Bakery, Tom Cat Bakery, Balthazar Bakery, and Amy’s Bread. We returned to Seattle exhausted, exhilarated, and honored to have been a part of Bob’s Red Mill’s celebration. To have shared the stage with so many other talented pastry chefs and bakers was special. Look for my Raspberry Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake at one of our cafes this summer.

 – Leslie Mackie

One-Day Artisan Loaf


You can make very flavorful artisan bread at home by using a technique that’s somewhat new in the bread-baking world: the no-knead method. I use this technique at home all the time and feel sure it will become a favorite of yours as well. The recipes I make this way don’t call for a homemade starter to build flavor. All you need is time, a heavy dutch oven, flour, yeast, olive oil, and salt.

One of the keys to baking a beautiful artisan loaf is having a humid atmosphere when the bread first hits the oven. The covered dutch oven keeps the inside air moist for the first few minutes of baking, allowing the bread’s soft outer surface to rise before it forms a hard crust. The result is a really beautiful loaf—domed, crusty, caramelized to a deep brown color, and full of complex flavors. I’ve found that baking in a cast-iron pot creates the all-time best results for home bread baking.

Click to enjoy recipes for my One-Day Artisan Loaf, One-Day Artisan Whole Grain Loaf and Pesto Ham & Cheese Sandwich.

Going Greek: Baking with Greek Yogurt

Baking with Greek Yogurt

Savoring the benefits of Greek yogurt doesn’t have to end with breakfast. Photo by Meng He.

Greek yogurt has invaded my supermarket, bumping many of the old regular brands off the shelf. It even became a cold war subject in 2014 when Russian President Vladimir Putin refused to allow a shipment of Greek yogurt to reach the United States Olympic team at the winter games in Sochi. Why all the fuss about something as commonplace as yogurt? Was Putin seeking a competitive advantage? Who knows, but Greek yogurt does have health advantages over regular yogurt, with more beneficial probiotic bacteria and a higher protein content. It’s also lower in both natural sugars and sodium. That’s just a bonus. What I like best is its rich flavor and satisfying, creamy mouthfeel. The superior thickness is achieved by straining out the excess whey, giving it that memorable texture and a delicious tang that brings back indelible memories of travels to Santorini and Crete.

Recently the Washington State Dairy Council asked us to develop a recipe featuring Greek yogurt. So we tweaked our Fruit & Yogurt Tart recipe to include the ingredient and now we’re wondering how we ever lived without it. Inspired, we experimented and adjusted other recipes too. We’re now serving our housemade Granola Parfait over a silky dollop of honeyed Greek yogurt and fresh berry compote. We’re also scooping it into batters for some of our cakes and tarts, substituting it for other fats. It enhances textures, creating a finer, more consistent crumb, and adding moisture. Carrying flavor much like butter does, with the perk of extra protein. Judge the results for yourself by trying a slice of our Budapest Coffee Cake or Lemon Sour Cherry Coffee Cake, a sturdy but tender treat that doesn’t just go with breakfast, at least at my house.

When you’re picking up Greek yogurt, to eat or for baking, be sure the label lists only milk and active cultures as ingredients. Some companies add powdered milk protein, starches, and gums to thicken it. This shortcuts the lengthy straining process and the extra milk it requires, saving money in production. Quality is the sacrifice. So grab some plain Greek yogurt and try the recipe below for my Fruit & Greek Yogurt Tart. Or experiment like we did, replacing some or all of the butter or sour cream in your favorite recipes. However it turns out, you’ll discover that once you go Greek, at least with yogurt, you’ll never go back.

 – Leslie Mackie

Fruit & Greek Yogurt Tart

Click here to print this recipe!

Ingredients

Pre-rolled 9” pie shell or one recipe for Flaky Pie Dough (see note below)
3 eggs
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups plain (unflavored) Greek low-fat yogurt
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups fresh seasonal fruit
1/3 cup sliced raw almonds
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Makes a 9-inch tart

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Locate a 9” glass pie pan, aluminum pie tin or 2” fluted tart pan.

2. Place chilled pie shell into the pan, line it with parchment paper, and weight with rice or baking beans. Bake for 30 minutes or until shell is golden brown. Remove rice or beans and set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer place the eggs, sugar and vanilla. With a whisk attachment on medium speed, whip for 3 to 5 minutes or until the mixture becomes light in color and texture.

4. With the mixer on low speed add in the yogurt. Lower the bowl and scrape down the sides to make sure it is well combined. With the mixer on low speed add the flour gradually to avoid forming lumps. Scrape bowl again to ensure everything is well combined.

5. Pour prepared custard into the pre-baked shell leaving a 1/4-inch border at the edge of the crust. This is to prevent the custard from spilling over the edge when the fruit is added. Scatter berries or sliced fresh fruit over the top of the tart and sprinkle sliced almonds around the edge of the tart.

6. Place the tart on the center rack of the oven and bake for approximately 1 hour, or until the tart is set in the center.  Check the tart at 30 minutes and rotate for even baking.

7. Remove the tart from the oven and set aside to cool for 1 hour or chill in the refrigerator before serving. Dust with powdered sugar for presentation.

Note: For an absolutely delicious, foolproof pie crust, use our Flaky Pie Dough recipe, then proceed as follows: Place two-thirds of the prepared dough on a floured work surface and begin rolling out the pie dough to 1/8-inch thickness, creating a 15-inch circle (save remaining dough for other uses). Fold pie dough in half and lift into the baking pan, allowing for a 2-inch border beyond the rim. To create the pie rim, fold the pie dough border up and into itself, overlapping with the cut edge visible to the inside of the tart, making a 1/2-inch standing crust. Crimp the edge all around the pie pan and then chill in freezer for 20 minutes. Continue following instructions in Step 2.

Umeboshi Pizzettas: East Meets West

Umeboshi It’s cherry blossom season! Our city is graced with those treasured pops of pink every spring, but do you know the history behind Seattle’s blossom-filled trees? As a token of the friendship between Japan and Washington, Japan’s former Prime Minister Takeo Miki gave Seattle 1,000 cherry blossom trees on May 8, 1976.

Every year since, we have celebrated this bond during the Seattle Cherry Blossom & Japanese Cultural Festival. From April 24 through April 26, our diverse community will gather at Seattle Center to learn about Japanese culture through music, fellowship, and (our favorite) food.

We’re excited to contribute our own special homage to this year’s festivities, an Umeboshi Pizzetta. Inspired by Tazue Sasaki, Cherry Blossom Festival committee chair and a regular guest of our café, this pizza is the perfect blend of Japanese and Italian culture. Tazue and her husband Yutaka loved ordering our pizzettas when they were on our menu and thought the flavors of the cheese and dough would nicely contrast the tartness of umeboshi, Japan’s ubiquitous pickled plum.

Leslie Mackie and Jane Cho put their heads together and came up with a delightful combination of umeboshi, Parmesan and Swiss cheese, sesame seeds, and olive oil on a freshly baked crust. You can taste our Umeboshi Pizzetta at the Cherry Blossom festival this weekend.

If you would like to try your hand at making umeboshi pizzas at home, click here for a wonderful pizza dough recipe straight from our More from Macrina Cookbook. But, use the umeboshi sparingly. While delicious, a little bit goes a long way.

PCC Natural Markets: Bringing Bread Full Circle

PCC Natural Markets

The PCC Natural Markets staff on a tour of our Sodo production facility.

Nestled between the folds of the rolling Palouse Hills and Blue Mountains sits the Walla Walla Valley. Ripe with meandering creeks that feed the Walla Walla River, this fertile land is home for much of Washington’s agriculture, including Williams Hudson Bay Farm. Owned and operated by brothers Tom and Ray Williams, this farm is part of the PCC Farmland Trust. Founded by PCC Natural Markets in 1999, the Farmland Trust is a way to help keep Northwest organic farms in the hands of farmers.

As Leslie Mackie searched for new ways to feature nutritious, locally sourced ingredients in our products, she learned about the Williams brothers’ whole-grain wheat processed by Fairhaven Mills. We began testing the organic whole wheat flour in some of our breads and found it added a wholesome nutty, sweet flavor perfect for our Whole Wheat Cider bread. Now, whenever you bite into a sandwich or burger made with our Whole Wheat Cider loaf, buns, or dinner rolls, you’re enjoying the Williams brothers’ harvest.

“I have always been a fan of PCC Natural Markets,” says Leslie Mackie. “But, with such a nice tie to the PCC Farmland Trust, it seemed like a natural progression to sell these delicious buns in PCC locations.”

More and more, consumers are interested in knowing where their food comes from, but Seattle has long been ahead of that curve. Leading the charge for sourcing better food from sustainable, trustworthy producers was PCC Natural Markets. What started as a food-buying club with just 15 families back in 1953 is now the largest consumer-owned natural food retail co-operative in the country with 10 locations spanning from Issaquah to Edmonds and plans to open its 11th location in Columbia City this summer.

As of 2014, you can find PCC shelves stocked with everything from our seasonal items like Colomba Pasquale to breadbasket staples like Rustic Potato Rolls and, of course, our Whole Wheat Cider Buns.

“Customers are loving this partnership,” says PCC’s Grocery Merchandiser Scott Owen. “We began selling Macrina breads in King County locations and they sold so wonderfully well we expanded the products to all of our stores.”

Upon a recent field trip to our production facility in Sodo, we were able to show PCC staff exactly how that flour, processed at Fairhaven Mills, and produced on a PCC Farmland Trust farm, is turned into a loaf of bread sold in their stores.

Sharing food made with the very best ingredients, sourced as close to home as possible is something we take great pride in and solidifies our bond with PCC.

“It is such a joy with work with PCC,” adds Leslie. “The staff is appreciative of our products and genuinely excited to sell our breads.”

Meet Our Family: Blake Gehringer

Food Safety Department

Born and raised in the Deep South, Blake Gehringer proved his knack for culinary arts was no fluke when he landed a pastry chef apprenticeship despite the stiff competition. He settled into a coveted position as head pastry chef at an upscale restaurant in Charlotte, North Carolina. But, fate had different plans for Blake. During a visit to Seattle, Blake fell in love.

“When I returned to North Carolina, Annie sent me a Seattle ‘recruiting’ package. In this package was an application for Macrina Bakery,” Blake recalls. He couldn’t resist the strong pull West and three months later he was back in Seattle, only this time, it was for good. After a brief stint in construction, a term with AmeriCorps, and some time in the donations department at the Habitat for Humanity Store, Annie (now Blake’s fiancée) persuaded him to return to his passion for pastry, gently prodding him with that same job application.

“At this time Macrina required a pastry and baking education, which I didn’t have,” says Blake, who earned his degree in construction management. “I must have made a decent impression on [Production Manager] Jane Cho, though. She gave me a chance.”

For three years, Blake played a pivotal role in Macrina’s Retail Pastry Department at Sodo. But, just over a year ago, we decided to enhance our high food safety standards by forming a dedicated Food Safety Department. With his dedication, upbeat attitude and penchant for leadership, we knew right away that Blake was the person to head up this new team.

Trading a rolling pin for a clip board, Blake now oversees new protocols for impeccable standards in all areas of the company while guiding staff on proper procedures.

“It forces me to wear different hats at any given moment,” Blake says, running through a list of things he documents each day, ranging from allergen control to equipment maintenance. Working with people who are passionate about Macrina and being part of a supportive team makes it all so much easier, he adds.

Since the inception of our new Food Safety Department, Blake has been at the forefront of our Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point program and helped us excel with top-notch food safety audit scores.

“The best part of my job is being able to interact with all departments on a daily basis. It’s a fantastic community to be a part of. Also, the bread, my gosh the bread!”

Colomba Pasquale: A Springtime Tradition

Colomba Pasquale for EasterSo many wonderful things mark the arrival of spring: sun-drenched days, flowers in bloom, fresh produce in the market, and our favorite, Colomba Pasquale. This bread has been an Easter menu highlight for years, ushering in a new season and adorning tabletops alongside tulip-filled vases.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a bakery in Italy not spilling over with freshly baked loaves of Colomba Pasquale this time of year. Hailing from the Lombardy province in Italy, “Colomba Pasquale” translates to “Easter dove.” Similar to Panettone at Christmastime, this bread is widely known in Italy as a favorite for Easter celebrations. While it’s less common in the states, our customers look forward to it each year.

Studded with candied orange peel, topped with a baked glaze of sliced almonds, and dusted with powdered sugar, our Colomba Pasquale is just as delicious fresh as it is toasted. Slices can be drizzled with honey and served with fresh fruit for a pre-Easter Egg Hunt brunch, but its also perfect with afternoon tea. Whether you’re looking for a hostess gift or just want to add some extra sweetness to these spring mornings, Colomba Pasquale is a natural.

Be sure to pre-order a loaf or two for Easter morning. Colomba Pasquale will be available in our cafés through April 12.

Demi Baguette: The Not-So-Humble Ham and Cheese Sandwich

Earl of Sandwich

The first sandwich started with a few basic ingredients: meat, bread, maybe some cheese. We’re talking about the fabled lunch of the great food innovator John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich.

Sandwiches have come a long way since the Earl’s day in the 1700s. Americans eat about 200 sandwiches on average each year. Whether you prefer yours stuffed with egg and bacon at breakfast, towering with turkey at lunch, or griddled with cheese at dinner, we’re willing to bet you’ve enjoyed at least one sandwich today.

While we serve a smattering of sandwiches featuring creatively combined ingredients on our breads, our Demi Baguette sandwich goes back to basics. This Lunch Menu mainstay is stuffed full of savory ham slices, creamy Fontina cheese, tendrils of fresh organic field greens, and a smear of lip-smacking Dijon.

Not only is our ham and cheese a comforting classic, only a little grown up, it’s uncompromising in quality. Recently we looked for a way to improve this sandwich, which led us right to Hempler’s. Located in Ferndale, Washington, just a hop, skip and jump away, the family-owned company has made mouthwatering, high-quality ham for over 80 years using ingredients with sustainability in mind. Pit-smoked and sweetened with a bit of honey, Hempler’s ham is completely free of allergens, gluten, MSG, phosphates, and artificial color. It’s also nitrate and chemical free. Who knew something so basic could be so good?

Get a taste of this new ham on our Demi Baguette at any of our cafés and let us know what you think.