Italian Bread Traditions

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In Italy, there is a saying Senza il pane tutto diventa orfano, without bread everyone is an orphan. Such is the role of bread in Italian daily life. It has a presence at every meal. Its importance, not just to Italian cuisine but to Italian culture, can hardly be overstated.

I have always had a reverence for bread. Many years ago, dining with friends, I discovered just how reverent Italian traditions are when one in our party inadvertently set a wedge of bread on the table crust side down. My Italian friend immediately turned the bread over, right side up, and crossed himself. Apparently this could bring about bad luck, not just for my friend but for the whole table. The superstition seems to be based on the religious fact that bread is considered a symbol of life. Turning it over is considered disrespectful. Bread is a staple of life. One must not risk cursing the supply.

pane-forno-legna-7-620x400Carol Field, the author of The Italian Baker  writes, “Bread is merely flour, water, yeast, and salt as the world is merely earth, water, fire, and air. These four elemental ingredients—grain from the fields, water from rivers and mountain streams, leavening from the wild yeasts of the air, and salt from the sea—have been combined since Roman days to make the breads of Italy.”

The history of the people on the sunny Italian peninsula has been a combative one, with small city states battling one another. Pride in local traditions is fierce. Only in the last 150 years did Italy become a unified country. Even today, regional differences are surprisingly large. Towns situated just kilometers apart have unique dialects, customs, and, yes, even breads. But bread they have. All of them.
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Bread consumption in Italy is higher than any other European country. Most loaves are made by artisan bakers, working on a small scale and heavily influenced by family and regional traditions. Secrets and techniques have been handed down from baker to baker over the years. Even in a metropolitan city like Rome, one finds many varieties of bread. Years ago, while dining there, I discovered a remarkable bread. It’s crust ranged from caramel to almost black; the crumb had a beautifully irregular texture, and the flavor was highly developed. I had to know who had made the bread. With the address in hand for Panficio Arnesse Giuseppe, I wandered the winding streets of the Trastevere neighborhood until I finally tracked down the baker of this bread. Giuseppe was seated in front of his warm oven, reading a newspaper. Amiable and chatty, he was happy to share. He showed me his wood-burning oven, fueled by hazelnut shells. His dough was made simply, without any refrigeration. Starters were developed in his mixers and held there for the next day. We talked for hours. His bread is the inspiration for my Giuseppe loaf.

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Matt Galvin, one of my partners at Macrina, visiting Giuseppe at Panficio Arnesse

I visited a great many bakeries, tasting more than 100 loaves. In Florence and throughout Tuscany the large, thick-crusted oval loaves are made without salt. Some say it’s because a heavy tax was levied on salt in the Middle Ages, and Tuscan bakers decided to go without. Others say the strong flavors of the local cuisine find a better balance in bread without salt. The bread takes some getting used to, but with a slice of salty typical Tuscan salami, like soppressata, I found it excellent.

Down south, on the heel of the Italian boot, Puglia is one of my favorite regions for bread. Their loaves bear influences of the Turks who long ago occupied the region. My favorite has a crunchy crust, irregular crumb, and a flavorful, chewy interior that tastes of the fragrant wheat they use. Local lore is that anyone who wastes any crumbs of this loaf will be doomed to purgatory for as many years as crumbs spilled.

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Wheat field in Puglia

Throughout much of recorded history on the peninsula, bread has been so fundamental to well-being that prices have been regulated by the locality. A fair price for bread—the staff of life—provided sustenance for all. When bread could not be obtained at a fair price, revolution or famine usually followed. Given the central role bread holds in Italian cuisine, and has since Roman times, the almost sacramental reverence it receives is no surprise. Not only has it provided daily sustenance, but its social role—breaking bread with others—is central to Italian life.

In hill towns, small protected valleys, walled cities, and dense neighborhoods, artisan bakers have nourished their communities with the work of their hands, feeding cherished natural starters, kneading and letting their dough rise, stoking the fires in their ovens, and baking traditional loaves, day in and day out. I am honored to have had the opportunity to learn from and to follow their rich tradition.

Leslie

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Ricotta Stuffed French Toast With Plum Paste From Leslie’s Larder

Ricotta Stuffed French Toast and Plum Paste Recipes

Larder is a little-used term these days, but most houses built in pre-refrigeration days had one. Usually built on the north side of the house, close to the ground with a mesh window to allow air to circulate, larders were food storehouses. Because they weren’t cold like a refrigerator, much of the summer harvest was cooked and stored in sealed jars, along with root vegetables and grains.

With freezers and refrigerators, it sometimes seems that food changed from something we make to something we buy. We lost something essential in the transition. Growing up in Portland, I helped my mother preserve buckets of berries and boxes of vegetables she’d buy from local farmers. With the larder full of our favorite jams and condiments we didn’t suffer the winter scarcity of flavorful fruits and vegetables.

Today, there is a renewed interest in maintaining a closer connection to the land. The popularity of farmers markets perhaps indicates an interest in cooking from scratch. The small investment of time spent cooking and preserving the best of summer will allow you to enjoy its riches all year. And when you’re entertaining, a well-stocked larder makes it that much easier to kick out something spectacular.

Each spring I lay out my garden, thinking both of what I love to eat fresh and the things I want to preserve in my larder. I turn a good portion of the summer’s bounty of fruits, vegetables, and herbs into jams, roasted pasta sauces, and fruit spreads. These get stored in sealed mason jars in my larder.

On my farm I have one very productive plum tree. I have made barbecue sauces, plum chutneys, brandied plums, and a series of plum pastes. But my favorite is the plum paste with rosemary. Opening a jar of this any time of year brings summer right back. The Ricotta Stuffed French Toast I make in this video is stuffed with sweetened ricotta and topped with this lovely paste.

The joy of pulling something from my larder and dressing up dishes with wonderful condiments made from my garden connects me to a special part of my childhood in Portland: The simple enjoyment of the sweet flavors of summer and treasured memories of making jams and pies with my mother.

Leslie

Space Needle

I had the pleasure of dining with Phuong Bui, Macrina’s head baker, and his wife at the SkyCity restaurant to celebrate his 10 year anniversary. It was a big treat and fun for him to see the bread he bakes on the tables of one of the most iconic locations in the country. Nothing beats the remarkable view or the delicious food of this longstanding Seattle restaurant.

Leslie

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The Space Needle

Imagine this: It’s 1961. Seattle is soon to host the World’s Fair. You walk into a bank and announce that you plan to build the tallest building west of the Mississippi and slap a revolving restaurant on top. Oh, and so it’s ready in time for the fair, you need to build it in about 400 days. Might as well ask for a time-traveling DeLorean while you’re dreaming.

But somehow they pulled it off, sans the DeLorean. A group calling itself the Pentagram Corporation, which included a few of Seattle’s most recognizable businessmen, didn’t need a bank loan. They were the bankers and developers of the day. The risk was sizable. 550 feet of risk. 467 dump trucks of cement poured to a depth of 30 feet of risk. $4.5 million dollars of risk. They sought nothing less than to present a vision of the future to the rest of the world.

Seattle_World's_Fair_and_Mt_Rainier_C13119Billed as The Century 21 Exposition, the World’s Fair of 1962 in Seattle also featured the monorail. Just before the fair opened The New York Times wrote, “The high-speed, quiet monorail cars catapult northward from the heart of Seattle for a few breath catching moments, then glide to a stop. There suddenly, all around you, are glimpses of the world of tomorrow.” The monorail was the time-traveling Delorean carrying hordes of visitors to the world of tomorrow.

Back then, world’s fairs were major spectacles, attended by people from around the globe. Seattle was a company town, a yawn of a city that functioned as a Boeing bunkhouse, and a long ways from growing up and joining the ranks of major American cities. Much of the world then thought Seattle rhymed with fetal.

As the structure went up, doubters arose. The Committee Hoping for Extra-Terrestrial Encounters to Save the Earth—CHEESE (an appropriate acronym) claimed to have plans from the 1962 World’s Fair that show the Space Needle was constructed to send transmissions to advanced beings in other solar systems. True story.

4171626313_f5d5797ce6Another fun fact: Elvis filmed a movie at the Space Needle during the World’s Fair named, aptly enough, “It Happened at the World’s Fair.” In the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, reporter John Voorhees described the insanity surrounding The King: “The biggest attraction at the World’s Fair continues to be Elvis Presley, who may turn out to be the biggest boon to the sellers of camera film since the Space Needle was unveiled.”

Fast forward a little more than 50 years and Seattle has been transformed from the scenic hillside town without an interstate to one of the fastest growing major cities in America. In the shadow of the Space Needle, South Lake Union has been transformed by Amazon’s growth. Boeing is still a major employer, but the local economy has diversified, much of its new growth driven by the technology sector.

amazon-campusThrough all this growth the Space Needle has provided a spectacular revolving view of the city’s evolution; neighborhoods torn down to build Interstate 5, construction cranes raising Belltown to new heights, new high-rise towers, more cranes, more towers, and suburbs oozing further north, east, and south.

While some today consider the Space Needle an anachronistic vision of the future, more Jetsons than anything that looks like the future today, it has always symbolized a city leaning into the future. So, when the weather is clear, take the elevator up 500 feet to the SkyCity restaurant and enjoy the Macrina potato rolls (or a basket of our pastries at brunch) while you peruse the menu and take in the revolving view of this beautiful city. We’re proud to play a small role in such an iconic location.

space-needle-northwest-scenescapesAnd lastly, while you’re enjoying your meal don’t forget that only the interior rotates, not the external structure. If you set your drink on the window ledge, it’ll slowly drift away from you. More than a few enterprising and frugal drinkers have enjoyed their neighbors fine scotch, or their cocktail; one after the next, helpless to resist as they just kept appearing on the window ledge next to their table.

Visit this link for a long list of Space Needle fun facts.

Walnut Street Coffee

Walnut Street Coffee is a perfect destination, whether you’re a local or looking for a little weekend adventure. Downtown Edmonds is a charming spot. The baristas are friendly and efficient and they make beautiful coffee. ~ Leslie

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A headline in the recent issue of the Edmonds Beacon declares “Edmonds is no longer ‘Deadmonds.” With a growing population and an invigorated downtown, Edmonds is on the rise. Pam Stuller, the founder and owner of local favorite Walnut Street Coffee, is just the kind of entrepreneur that has helped make downtown Edmonds the vibrant place it is today.

When she found the space for her cafe in 2006, Walnut Street was pretty quiet. She and her husband, who live in nearby Richmond Beach, were riding their bikes around town and encountered a funky cinderblock building that had originally been built as a boat engine repair shop. Its defining feature was a roll-up garage door. A dream location; downtown, but enough off the beaten track to be the place locals would seek out away from the ferry and tourist crowd. One problem: a flower shop occupied the space. So she sent the letter to the landlord and six months later he called.

“People thought I was a crazy to take the space,” Pam said.

IMG_4350Out of college Pam didn’t imagine herself running a busy coffee shop. For ten years she worked in human resources. In 2002, a friend, Michael Prins was opening the first Herkimer Coffee on Phinney Ridge. She was working for Nature Conservancy, an organization she loved. But she was restless.

“If you can’t love your job and you’re working at an amazing organization what do you do? I felt like I’d already done everything I could to love what I do and it wasn’t working.”

So she left her job to help Michael get Herkimer Coffee up and running, focusing on the things she had experience doing, such as hiring a staff. A year and a half later she found herself still working there as a barista.

“It was the most fun, most rewarding, most enriching work experience I’d ever had. I loved it. I’d always loved cafes and cafe culture but I’d always been intimidated by the art of coffee. That was where I got to learn the craft and the trade. I knew then this was what I wanted to do. In coffee, you get to know people in such a different way. Most people are pretty routine about their coffee. You have this two-minute touch. Over time you pick up all the little intimate details—a kid is sick, news of a vacation, job changes—and you build a meaningful personal relationship. It’s pretty amazing.”

That led her to Edmonds and Walnut Street Coffee. She and her husband did most of the buildout themselves.

“My goal was to do one thing and to do it really well and to keep focused on what brings me joy. I figured that if I was happy to come here every day, the customers would follow.”

They did, but it took a lot of work. For the first two years, Pam worked seven days a week.

“The business almost ate me alive. Around year three I began adding enough staff that I could have a couple of days off a week.”

Keeping things simple has been key to her success.

“My passion and my love is espresso. But I don’t have experience making pastries. I’ve worked in restaurants and I know how much goes into food service. I wanted to keep things as simple and focused as possible.”

Initially, bakery options were few, but as Edmonds has grown so have options.

IMG_4338“I’m so thrilled to have Macrina. Edmonds is enough off the beaten track that delivery
options are few. You’re not on your way to anywhere when you come to Edmonds. When Macrina started delivering here, I was thrilled. The caliber and consistency of the baked goods are first-rate. Our customers love them.”

Approaching her ten-year anniversary, Pam is lucky to have two baristas who have been with her for over eight years. That’s exceptional in a high-turnover industry where the average barista stays at a job for one year. With her background in human resources maybe it should come as no surprise.

“I have a pretty amazing benefits package, especially for this kind of business. I have a retirement plan, profit sharing, health care, paid time off, holiday pay.”

She attributes much of the success of her business to her employees.

“I never underestimate the value of my people. They’re instrumental in maintaining and in continuing to build our business. Our business has grown every year since we opened, which includes the downturn.”

Occasionally she thinks about expanding, but worries she’d wind up doing more of the stuff she doesn’t love doing, like bookkeeping and back of the house work.

“I love the connection I have with my staff and my customers, and I worry that would get diluted. I live simply, and I’m happy the way things are. I hike, bike, cross-country ski, garden, walk my dog, I’m an avid reader, and I love to spend time with my family, friends, and my parents. I don’t want to lose any of that.”

Her love of the city recently led her to get involved in a business group called the Edmonds Downtown Alliance. She served a stint as president last year.

“That was rewarding, developing deeper relationships with the other merchants and finding ways to take what is so great about this town and amplify that so everybody does better.”

IMG_4345If you don’t already spend time in the seaside town of Edmonds, it’s time to make a trip. There are a couple of breweries, a distillery, a movie theater, lots of shopping, a bookstore, tasty restaurants. Most shops are small and owner-operated.

“You wouldn’t have to leave Edmonds if you didn’t want to. We kind of have it all in this little pocket, and it’s so scenic. It’s very Mayberryish in a way, but it also has an authenticity to it that I really enjoy.”

Start with a caffe latte and a treat from Walnut Street Coffee and take a stroll down 5th Avenue towards Main Street and you’ll discover that “Deadmonds” no longer exists.

POP! Bubbles & Seafood

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This coming weekend I’ll be participating in the Seattle Wine and Food Experience (SWFE). This event has grown into one of the premier Northwest culinary events – gathering epicureans from all over the region. This year, I have been asked to work with sustainable seafood, specifically Weathervane sea scallops. After playing around with different approaches, I will be serving Seared Scallops with Feta and Citrus Vinaigrette on Rye Crostini. It is a tasty appetizer that would be fun to serve at a party.

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More than 200 vendors will be there, including many other chefs, lots of great wine, brew masters, and distillers. An excellent way to find new favorite foods, wines, and more.

This year a percentage of the proceeds go to Les Dames D’Escoffier Seattle, an organization dear to my heart. The non-profit focuses on raising funds for scholarships for women in the culinary, beverage, and hospitality industries. All efforts are based in Washington State. Les Dames also supports community outreach programs and sustainable agriculture projects.

If you’re free this weekend, come down to SWFE and find me. Try a bite of my scallops before heading off to find your new favorite Washington wine.

Leslie

POP!  Bubbles & Seafood is held at McCaw Hall on Saturday, February 20th between 6:00-9:00 pm.  Tickets are $75 per person.

Seattle Wine & Food Experience is held at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall on Sunday, February 21st, between 1:00-5:00 pm.  Tickets are $60 per person.  A weekend pass for both events is sold for $140.

 

Wedding Cakes

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I didn’t intend to get into the business of wedding cakes, exactly. I wasn’t particularly averse to it – it’s just that when you’re busy with the daily routine of bread and pastries, throwing a wedding cake into the mix sounds complicated. And wedding cakes can be pretty show-offy, lots of frills and sugar flowers, with a greater focus on glamour than taste, and as subject to the vagaries of fashion as bride’s dresses are. I worried it was too far from my focus to keep up. But when my sister Allison and brother-in-law Marty asked me to do their wedding cake, I jumped on the opportunity.

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Their wedding was January 22, 1994, just six months after I’d opened Macrina. They needed a cake to serve to 250 guests. Amidst the chaos of running a new bakery, I set to work making a large cake with four tiers. The bottom cake was 16” in diameter. I vaguely remember each layer being a different type of cake. The wedding was in Portland. I loaded the layers flat into the back of our delivery van. Fortunately, the weather was winter cold. Heat is not good for the cakes and the icing. I worried that the cakes would get damaged, but everything survived the journey. I assembled the cake there, decorating it with a white-chocolate, cream-cheese buttercream, edible gold flakes, and fresh flowers. I was so proud of the way it turned out.

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Since then Macrina has done hundreds of wedding cakes. The style is much the same as the one I did for my sister—simple, fresh and elegant. Once I’d done a few, word of mouth brought in newly engaged couples. For years, I coordinated and delivered the wedding cakes. I made many a cake delivery with my daughter Olivia. Her baby backpack had a frame that allowed it to stand and she would sit patiently while I stacked, finished, and decorated the cakes. In 2002, our pastry department took over the wedding cakes. Significant improvements were made to the wedding cake department. Our decorating got more creative while remaining simple, fresh and elegant.  About ten years ago we added wedding cakes to our website. This has been a great discussion opener for interested couples.

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Today, Anna Moomaw-Parks is our wedding cake coordinator. She gathers details, manages the schedule and delivery and is the point of contact for couples and wedding planners, all to make sure our customers get the best possible service. Anna says, “Wedding cakes aren’t the primary focus of Macrina. They are a special thing we do, and we work hard to make them special. We don’t have a team of people producing them. One of our pastry chefs, Mariah Eubanks, makes and decorates the cakes. We’re careful not to take more orders than we can handle. It is an important day for the customers. We want to be sure we do all we can to make it wonderful.”  About a year ago we had the pleasure of making a cake for Anna’s wedding.

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I love the way our tradition has evolved while holding to its roots. Mi Kim, our head pastry chef, baked and decorated all the wedding cakes for several years. A couple of years ago she trained Mariah, seamlessly passing the tradition to another talented pastry chef. Now Mariah is designing a Macrina wedding cake for her own nuptials this coming October. She’s leaning towards the almond torta cake with the same white chocolate cream cheese buttercream I made for my sister’s cake.  Of course, she won’t be making her cake. Superstition says the bride who bakes her own cake is asking for trouble.

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We are currently in the midst of wedding planning season. Quite a few engagements happen over the holidays, with weddings planned for the summer. Mariah has been busy meeting with couples to design their cakes.

Looking through pictures of the cakes we’ve done over the last 20 plus years makes me so proud of our tradition of fresh baked, delicious and beautifully decorated wedding cakes. And I am very pleased that and so many couples wanted to include us in their special day.

Leslie

For more information on our wedding cakes please visit our website.

Meet Linda Derschang

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For over 20 years Linda Derschang has been a dynamic figure in Seattle’s dining and nightlife scene, particularly on Capitol Hill.

It all started in 1994 on Pine Street, in the heart of the now thriving Pike/Pine corridor, with the beloved and quirky Linda’s Tavern. The tavern drew inspiration from the mountain bars around Crested Butte near where Linda grew up in Colorado. Located on a formerly gritty stretch of Pine Street, the neon sign in the window reads “TOOLS RADIO TACKLE.” When you step through the door you are transported somewhere else. The rustic wooden booths, neon signs, the rough-hewn planks that hold the liquor bottles, and the glowering bison head behind the bar are not the stuff of any ordinary scruffy bar. Add to that one of the best patios in the city, a crowd of talented creatives, and you’ve got a hit.

Twenty years on, it’s still hard to find an open table. The bar looks much as it did when it opened though the neighborhood surrounding it has changed immensely. And Linda, both the person and her namesake bar, have helped shape the aesthetic that makes Capitol Hill such a draw.

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A stream of very different and equally memorable places followed Linda’s: The Capital Club, The Baltic Room, Chop Suey, (she has sold her interest in these three), King’s Hardware, Smith, Oddfellows Cafe and Bar, Little Oddfellows in the Elliot Bay Book Company, Bait Shop, and Tallulah’s.

With the exception of Ballard’s King’s Hardware, all of them are a short bike ride away from each other. Each attracts an eclectic and devoted neighborhood crowd. What unites them is Linda’s unerring sense of design—whether it’s applied to the airy, elegant Oddfellow’s Cafe or the eccentric dive-bar feel of Bait Shop.

Linda has been a long-time wholesale customer of Macrina, a relationship we’re very proud of. Recently we had an opportunity to ask her a few questions.

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Each of your places feels like someone had fun creating them—that sense of  “Wouldn’t it be cool if….” And they feel authentic. There seems to be a real enjoyment of design down to the smallest details, such as the owl salt/pepper shakers at Tallulah’s. Would you talk a bit about your design process?

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The design process is different for each project. I approached Little Oddfellows very differently because it was a remodel of a business than from Tallulah’s, which was in new construction, or Oddfellows which is in a very old building. Sometimes I make up a story about the place I am designing. For Little Oddfellows I imagined a coffee shop in Amsterdam or Copenhagen perhaps. Sometimes I think of a few key terms like turn of the century mercantile.

You’re right about the loving of the details, that can be the most enjoyable part. I think when opening a business it can be easy to think that you’ll get to the little details later but I believe it’s really important to open with them to give a really finished feel to a place.

Found objects play a role in a number of the establishments. Are you always on the hunt?

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I am always keeping an eye out and over the years, I’ve ended up with lots of interesting, quirky objects that often I will keep at my home for a while before I find the perfect spot for them. Take the portrait wall at Smith – I started collecting old portraits because I kept running across them at all sorts of places, years ago they were very inexpensive and I felt that in a sense they were all orphans. I really loved using many of them at Smith. I feel that they add to the charm and look.

Where do you find so many cool signs, great used furniture, the drink mixer at Bait Shop, etc.?

I find things all over the place, including antique malls, thrift stores, and Craigslist. Cashmere, the huge cat painting in Tallulah’s, came from Kirk Albert in Georgetown as did the old Firebird hood mounted to the wall at Bait Shop. I love the stories these pieces can add to a space. 

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How has your design taste evolved over time? 

My taste and style has always been a mix of old and new and high and low. Having a mix of styles has always been very natural for me. I think traveling has definitely added to my taste, I get so much inspiration and so many ideas from other places. I went to Denmark a few months before I opened Little Oddfellows and the Scandinavian cafes I visited while I was there were so inspiring and influenced my approach to designing the space.

Do you come to a space with a concept in mind or does the space drive the concept?

I always think about the neighborhood the space will be part of. I try to create businesses that are meaningful to their neighborhoods and communities. Each one of my businesses is different from each other, but they are all neighborhood spots. That’s a common thread they share.

http://www.thederschanggroup.com/who-we-are/ for more information on Linda.

 

Panettone

panettone smallThere is hardly a more Italian way of celebrating the holidays than a slice of panettone and a flute of prosecco, a December ritual in homes, cafes, and restaurants throughout Italy. This sweet toque-shaped yeast bread stuffed with raisins and candied orange and lemon peel originated in Milan. It’s often served with a sauce of zabaglione, a custardy sauce made with egg yolks, sugar, and Marsala wine, or crema di mascarpone, and accompanied with a glass of sweet wine such as Moscato d’Asti. The name panettone comes from the Italian word “panetto,” a small loaf cake. The addition of the suffix “-one” makes it a large cake.

The origins of the cake date back to a type of leavened cake sweetened with honey and enjoyed by nobility during the Roman Empire. The cake makes cameo appearances in Italian paintings in the 16th century and is associated with Christmas in the 18th-century writings of Pietro Verri, who wrote an epic history of Milan.

But Panettone didn’t become a household item until 1925 when Angelo Motta, a Milanese baker, began commercial production of the bread. He’s credited with modifying the shape from a low, dense loaf to the tall, airy bread we know today. He introduced a natural leavening process, more like that used in sourdough, and allowed the bread to rise three times over 18 hours before baking. This produces the bread’s lightness and soft texture.

Motta’s bread was an enormous success and soon a competitor arose. Giacchino Alemagna created a similar bread, pricing his higher. The competition proved good for both brands, with Motta seen as the panettone of the middle-class, while Alemagna targeted those willing and able to pay premium prices. Today, the brands Motta and Alemagna dominate the market. Over 100 million panettone are produced by Italian bakeries each holiday season. Italy only has 60 million people! Even with about 10% of production bound for export that is a lot of panettone per person.

While commercial production of panettone dominates in Italy and abroad, many small bakeries (or le pasticcerie in Italy) make their traditional versions of the famous bread. Macrina’s version was inspired by a recipe in Carol Field’s wonderful book The Italian Baker. Our loaf is studded with candied citrus and dried fruits and enriched with eggs and butter. Nowadays it’s easy to find decorative paper baking molds, but I prefer to bake these loaves in clay flowerpots, which look beautiful and make great holiday gifts. The dough takes time and cannot be rushed, but it’s more than worth the wait. If you’re looking for an alternative to the version shipped over from Italy you can pick one up at any of our cafes this month, or find my recipe in the Macrina Bakery and Cafe Cookbook. Then grab a bottle of prosecco and invite some friends over for a very Italian holiday celebration.

Happy Holidays, Leslie

Heyday – Not Your Average Burger Joint

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In the kind of cosmic connection that makes us all smile, Gary Snyder, co-owner of Geraldine’s Counter and now co-owner of Heyday, shares a random point of intersection with that other Gary Snyder, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Zen Buddhist, and protagonist of Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums. The publisher of Gary Snyder, the poet, is also named Heyday. Gary Snyder, the restauranteur, had no idea. He and his business partner, Dang Nguyen, chose the playful name because the space is located on Day Street in Seattle’s quiet Mount Baker neighborhood. “Names are really hard to come by,” Snyder said. “My partner came up with Heyday and it just stuck. It works.”

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Heyday is no ordinary burger joint. Starting with the interior. The space was designed by Graham Baba, the architect behind many treasured eating spots such as Melrose Market, Chophouse Row, and La Spiga. Floor-to-ceiling windows, sleek lighting, concrete floors, slotted wood on the walls and ceiling, and the use of lots of blue in the tile work that surrounds the bar and an inspired geometric mural that adorns a back wall give the space a warm, modern look.

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And the burgers aren’t the usual assortment. The menu was created by Melissa Nyffeler, the former chef/owner of the beloved Capitol Hill restaurant Dinette, which closed in 2013. The Saigon patty has equal portions beef, pork, and shrimp and is topped with Napa cabbage, fresh mint, cilantro, pickled daikon, carrots, and Sriracha aioli. Other offerings are made with lamb, bison, falafel, jerk chicken, and cod. All are served on Macrina Bakery’s potato buns and served with a side of the house-made pickles. Creative starters such as blackened cauliflower are excellent, and so are the hand-cut french fries that are deep-fried twice for the perfect crunch. The thick, crispy onion rings shouldn’t be overlooked. Another standout is the house-made pickled vegetables served with every burger and available as an appetizer.

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Snyder and crew went through a lengthy process to choose the right bun for their burgers, looking for one that would hold all the ingredients without getting soggy or being so firm that the filling squeezes out. “Originally I thought we should have a different bun that works for each burger,” Snyder said. “We sampled multiple buns from different bakeries. Macrina’s potato bun just worked, and it worked on every burger. Such a good bun. It toasts really well. We decided we didn’t need different varieties.”

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Heyday is family-friendly, with the space split about evenly between seating in the adults-only bar and the all-ages restaurant side. “We get a lot of families. I almost wish I had more room than I do. That’s the part that fills the quickest,” Snyder said.

While the neighborhood is quiet, Heyday is open late. Regular hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m, with the kitchen serving until 10 p.m. At some point next year weekend brunch may become a reality. Keep your ears open. Geraldine’s brunch is so highly-regarded that the to-be-determined offerings will surely be worth investigating.

 

 

Behind the Scenes

sh8I’m always surprised how much goes into making one of our short videos. Patrick Kehoe, a local director and photographer, has worked with me to produce eight videos so far. We have our rhythm down. Cooking in front of a camera doesn’t intimidate me—especially with recipes I’ve made hundreds of times before—but it’s still a lot of work. I want everything to look just right and to convey the tranquility I feel living out on Vashon Island and to share my love for cooking, especially with vegetables and fruits and edible flowers I’ve grown myself.

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For our fall video I chose pumpkin pie, for the obvious reasons, but also inspired by a beautiful pumpkin in my garden. It still impresses me that this beautiful large squash grew out of one of the dry little seeds I planted in April.

On the day of filming, I woke early—baker’s hours—to get the house ready. The day was overcast, but thankfully not raining, something you can’t count on in October around here. Patrick prefers to film in natural light, so I set up my dining room table near the windows as a work table. I made two recipes of the Flaky Pie Dough from my first cookbook. Since each recipe makes enough for two crusts I’d have plenty extra, just in case. When filming you always need to be sure there is extra. You never know when you might need to reshoot something. Then I set about making one pumpkin pie in advance. Having one finished already makes the shoot go faster. When I put the one I made on camera into the oven, we were able to move right into filming the finished pie.

With my food prep finished I made sure there were eggs in the chicken coop and that nothing had happened to the garden pumpkins. Next I arranged my work table, putting all the tools and ingredients out that I would need. I take great pride in displaying ingredients in colorful bowls and using family dishes collected over the years. The final detail was to instruct my dad, who’d agreed to help, when to get the pizza for lunch. In the past, we’d worked twelve hours without eating. A terrible idea, especially when working with food all day.

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Patrick and his assistant Casey arrived punctually at ten with their bags and boxes of cameras. While Casey set up, Patrick and I went over the script I’d prepared. We broke it into nine scenes: fetch eggs from the chicken coop; get pumpkin from the garden; cut, clean, roast pumpkin; roll out the pie dough; bake the crust; make the decorative leaves for the pie with the extra dough; make the filling; bake the pie; cut and serve a slice. With only one dish—the pie—this video was easier than others we’d done.

Before starting each shot we choreograph the action. I explain to Patrick what I’m going to do. We do a dry run to see what it looks like. With our rehearsal done, Patrick sets up the cameras for the shots he wants. As we get going there are lots of pauses, lots of “stand by’s” and “go for it’s.” Often I must repeat actions slowly. Patrick stops to change lenses or cameras, working to get the best shot. He has a remarkable eye, lots of patience, and a great way of talking me through the process.

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We progressed from the chicken coop to the garden, getting the shots we needed, all with my dog Louis barking. This is life on the farm. Louis doesn’t tolerate visitors as gracefully as my other dog Jasper.  But the extra noise doesn’t matter since we record the sound last. Patrick mixes the audio with the video back in his studio.

By about noon we had the squash cut and roasting in the oven as well as the pie crust when my dad showed up with the pizza—lunch time. After a short break we resumed filming the finished pie, using the one I had baked earlier in the morning. I always fuss with the final presentation and this time was no different. I added some grapes to the plate for color, added the sweetened whipped cream, and sprinkled the plate with a mix of powdered sugar and cinnamon. Then I added one of the leaves I’d cut from the leftover dough and baked. It didn’t look right. Fortunately I had seven more slices. I nailed it on the next one—without the leaf.

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Later in the afternoon we finished filming the filling and had baked the second pie. Only the talking parts remained. Maybe because I’m tired by this point, or because I’m not as practiced at narrating all the details of what I do when I’m cooking, this is always the harder part. I create an outline. This helps me talk more authentically. Patrick is really helpful at pulling out key phrases. While we can do take after take, the more retakes we do the more difficult it feels to me. Sometimes I get too lavish in my descriptions, over-explaining the process, and Patrick has to rein me in. “This is going to be a short video,” he reminds me.

After what feels like too long, my liveliness waning, we had what we needed. Patrick and Casey packed up their gear and I worked on cleaning up the many dishes I’d created, amazed again that it had taken twelve hours to film a four-minute video. But the results were worth it. They always are.

Leslie

Click here to see the video.