PCC has the best blueberries. They’re as big as the end of your thumb, dusky blue, perfectly sweet-tart, and ready to burst with finger-staining nectar. Called Sweet Baby Blues, they come exclusively from LaPierre Farms in Zillah, Washington.
To honor the arrival of berry season in the Pacific Northwest, we’ve collaborated with our friends at PCC Markets on a Mini Blueberry Coffee Cake. I’ve made my favorite fresh fruit coffee cake with many types of berries and other fruits, but the juiciness of the blueberries from LaPierre Farms, and their balance of acidity and sweetness, is unique enough that it took several modifications to adjust my recipe. The cinnamon sugar streusel topping complements the tartness of the berries nicely and I find the combination irresistible. The cake will be featured at PCC as well as in our cafés.
We began selling our breads and other baked items at PCC in 2014. “Customers are loving this partnership,” said PCC’s Senior Grocery Merchandiser Scott Owen. “We began selling Macrina breads in King County locations and they sold so well we expanded the products to all of our stores.”
I have great admiration for the dedication PCC has shown toward improving our local food supply. They maintain partnerships with local and regional farmers to provide the best-tasting, freshest produce possible. One way they do this is through the PCC Farmland Trust, which works to protect threatened farmland in Washington. The trust also helps local farmers be productive growing sustainable and organic crops. It was through them that we learned of an excellent wheat grown on PCC Farmland Trust land by Williams Hudson Bay Farm and processed by Fairhaven Mills. We now use the whole grain whole wheat flour in some of our breads.
Wayne and Marni LaPierre are an example of the type of family farm PCC has supported. In 1984, after finishing college with a horticultural degree, Wayne returned to the Yakima Valley where his grandparents had farmed. He planted an orchard of cherry trees and soon after began growing organically. In 1989, PCC began their relationship with LaPierre Farms and each year customers have eagerly awaited the arrival of Wayne and Marni’s fruit throughout the summer.
Just a few years ago, Wayne began growing blueberries. PCC contracted the whole crop.
“LaPierre Farms is a very special farm, with a grower that is seemingly doing the impossible,” Scott said. “He picks, cools, packs, and ships in about 24 hours. Our stores often get them barely a day of the vine. They are amazing in quality, texture, and flavor.”
Aside from great soil conditions and careful watering at night, one key to the great berries is careful handpicking. Blueberries don’t ripen all at once, requiring patience and multiple picks. Wayne trains all of his pickers how to identify berries that are mature. When they’re at their best they come off easily. “We just roll’em off with our fingers,” Wayne said.
It’s that kind of care, and attention to every detail in the growing process, that distinguishes Sweet Baby Blues. Give the berries a try. I think you’ll understand why they inspired me to create Macrina’s newest product, the Mini Blueberry Coffee Cake. Macrina shares PCC’s value of sourcing the best ingredients from local farms, which makes it an honor and a joy to collaborate with them.