Macrina Cornetti

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For years, my business partner, Matt has asked if we could make cornetto. Matt spent a year living in Italy and became quite enamored of the Italian breakfast – a stop at the local café on the way to work, a beautiful cappuccino, a cornetto and an animated conversation, usually about soccer. Every time Matt asked, I had to tell him we don’t have enough space. Well, this summer, we moved into our new production facility. There is space and I am finally able to grant Matt’s wish!

Cornetti are often referred to as the Italian cousin to the French croissant. Cornetti are made with laminated dough. Buttery dough is repeatedly folded and rolled to lace the dough with thin layers of butter fat. This creates a moist and flaky texture. Macrina’s laminated dough is slightly sweeter and made with a smidge less butter to create the perfect texture. We use the laminated dough to make our Cornetto, Chocolate Cornetto, Morning Rolls and Orange Hazelnut Pinwheels.

The story behind laminated pastry is an interesting one. It seems to have originated in Austria with a pastry called a kipferl. Some say the crescent shape was created to celebrate the Austrian defeat of the Ottomans whose flag carried an image of the crescent moon. Whether that story is myth or not, what is certain is that the pastry spread throughout Europe with regional and national differences.

Recently, The New Yorker published a story, Straightened-out Croissants and the Decline of Civilization” after one bakery in England started making their croissants un-curved. We have wisely opted to stay out of the centuries old England-France controversy. Our cornetti are slightly curved and available in our cafes and for wholesale sales. Come down to one of our cafés, order a cappuccino and a cornetto, and treat yourself to an Italian breakfast (while you read the New Yorker article, it is a fun one!)

Leslie

 

Cornetto (pictured above): “Little horn” in Italian. We form our cornetti from a triangle of our laminated dough rolled to create a crescent shape, brushed with egg wash and sprinkled with pearl sugar and baked to a deep brown. Lightly sweet, flaky on the outside and moist inside. Enjoy plain or with fresh preserves.

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Chocolate Cornetto: Our cornetto filled with batons of semisweet chocolate.

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Morning Rolls: Our laminated dough layered with house-made vanilla sugar and rolled into a swirl. Baked to a golden brown. Flaky and light with buttery caramelized sugar at the base.

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Orange Hazelnut Pinwheels: Our laminated dough layered with house-made hazelnut sugar and fresh orange zest, rolled into a pinwheel and baked golden brown. Dusted with powdered sugar. Flaky and sweet with just the right touch of citrus.

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

The Thanksgiving Rush

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Thanksgiving is such a special time of year, a time for family and friends to come together to celebrate food. Not surprisingly, the Thanksgiving holiday is the busiest time of year for us at Macrina. Demand for our offerings has grown every year. So many customers have told me how helpful it is to get items from us—our pumpkin pie, for instance—that allows them to spend more time with family and friends, offerings they know will shine.

And isn’t it really the sides and the pie that make the Thanksgiving holiday? I enjoy a slice or two of turkey, but what I go for is the stuffing, the vegetables, the cranberries, the rolls, and at my table anyway, various crostini with interesting spreads. To this end, we make a stuffing mix that has gotten very popular. We used to sell the stuffing mix only in the cafes, making it with leftover bread. Now we bake loaves just for the stuffing mix. You can find them at many places that carry Macrina’s breads. Our crostini and spreads have also taken off, as have our dinner rolls, our Winter Pear Crown and, of course, our pies.

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Loaves of bread waiting to be prepped into our stuffing mix

We start our planning in early September when I sit down with our lead bakers, our savory department, and our retail managers. We talk about past favorites and new ideas. We test recipes. When we finally have our season’s list of offerings, we talk about logistics. This is no small challenge. Even with our fabulous space in Sodo, which once seemed so big, we are bursting at the seams. The spatial challenges and work-flow planning fall on the capable shoulders of Production Manager Jane Cho. The mixers run around the clock now, with three shifts managing dough production. On Thanksgiving eve last year they mixed nearly 20,000 pounds of dough. A seasonal crew is brought in to help with the production and packaging of the stuffing mix. Given the limited floor space, Jane maps out the production floor on charts that resemble architectural renderings.

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Loaves of Guiseppe awaiting delivery to local grocery stores.

I work with Head Baker Phong Bui on all the items, such as this year’s Porcini Roll Tray, or the Winter Pear Crown, a sweet bread spiked with black pepper. Mi Kim, our head pastry chef, stays busy prepping lots of pie shells, pies, and ingredients to be ready for the big Thanksgiving rush. She says, “Every day is a busy day for our bakers once the holiday season is here! Long days are logged from everyone when needed, and we have fun doing it!”

In our savory department, Savory General Manager Marilyn Mercer and her team, in addition to preparing items for the cafes, are busy making the spreads, including a new one, a smoked trout spread. Savory Assistant Manager Elizabeth Hall says, “It’s Scandinavian-inspired, with smoked white trout from Gerard & Dominique, a premium purveyor of smoked fish, located right here in Washington state. We blend the smoked trout with a hint of horseradish, cream cheese, scallions, parsley, chervil, and lemon.”

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Our pastry case stocked with Thanksgiving treats.

The cafes must also do lots of extra planning, upping their pars to ensure they have enough on the shelves for their customers. Crystal Kitchin, general manager of cafes, starts the month off with a two-night Thanksgiving tasting. Each member of the retail staff tastes the products and learns how different items pair so they can help guide customers. On Thanksgiving Eve the management team comes in early in the morning to put together the long list of special orders that have been placed throughout the month. Elizabeth Krhounek, general manager of the McGraw Cafe, says, “Being here at 2:30 in the morning in my pajamas to get all the orders ready is really fun, also putting on music we usually can’t listen to in the store. Last year my lead came in wearing his red onesie pajamas.”

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Crystal checking to make sure all the orders are organized for pick up.

While all the extra work provides new challenges, it’s exciting to see all the teamwork. “In production you see everyone moving fast, working their hardest, but we have fun,” Jane Cho says. “It’s exciting. And then after months of planning it’s just suddenly over and we get to enjoy the holiday with family and friends.” It really is a rush, in every sense. I love it all.

Our Thanksgiving menu is now available for the whole month of November. We will be taking advanced orders for the holiday through noon, November 23rd.

Leslie

Sweet Week

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Macrina’s head pastry chef, Mi Kim, has a visible presence in our cafes—in the cakes, the croissants, brioche, cookies, and much more—but you rarely see her in person since she’s usually busy in the kitchen turning croissant dough by hand, making Pate a Choux, or putting her artistic touch on a wedding cake. But with Seattle’s Sweet Week approaching, and a recent feature article in bake, a leading trade magazine for members of the baking industry, she’s in the spotlight.

Sweet Week, in its second year, is a little like restaurant week, but a lot sweeter. For a full week, beginning this coming Monday, September 14th, through Sunday, September 20th, at participating restaurants and bakeries, you’ll find special $5 items and samplers not ordinary on the menus. Mi Kim created this years’ Macrina offering, the Mini Banana Cake. It features layers of banana cake and chocolate cake filled with roasted bananas, whipped cream, and glazed with ganache. Mi Kim says, “This cake has it all. Delicious layers of chocolate and banana cake, bananas roasted with rum and sugar that turns into a bit of a caramel, and whipped cream to lighten it all up!” The new cake is so good that once Sweet Week is over, Macrina will continue to offer it throughout the fall.

Mi Kim also has an entertaining and instructive blog, A Piece of Mi, filled with sweet and savory recipes, baking insights, and bits of her life.

We have all enjoyed taste testing Mi Kim’s new cake around here, I hope you get to enjoy our new Mini Banana Cake soon.

Leslie Mackie

 

Challah Crowns

challah crownThroughout time people have gathered to break bread, brought together by warm loaves made from simple ingredients: flour, water, salt. Some special loaves bring people together with religious significance. Challah is just such a loaf. A traditional egg bread in the European Jewish tradition, the rich, golden loaf is similar to brioche or the Russian babka. It is typically eaten at the meal marking the beginning of the Sabbath, the day of rest. Traditionally the loaf is braided to symbolize unity. Some loaves are sprinkled with poppy seeds to symbolize manna from heaven.

At Macrina we make Challah every Friday, offering it in both plain and poppy seed. Our recipe came from our friend Andy Meltzer, a former baker at Macrina, who is currently a baking instructor at the Culinary Institute of America. He got the recipe from friends in upstate New York. Our Challah is such a favorite, I included it in the first Macrina Bakery and Cafe Cookbook. We form ours into three braids. It bakes into quite a beautiful loaf. Our challah is a deep golden mahogany color and has a firm crust. Its soft, tight crumb pulls apart easily. Gently sweet, the bread is great toasted, turned into delicate french toast, or passed around the table with a meal.

On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, challah takes on extra significance when it is formed in a circle to recall the cycle of the year. For this occasion the bread is often dipped in honey to represent hopes for a sweet new year. We refer to the circular Challah we make for Rosh Hashanah as a crown. Whether challah is part of your religious tradition, or you just love sharing great food with others, come try this beautiful, symbolic loaf for yourself.

This year Rosh Hashanah starts Sunday, September 13th and ends Tuesday, September 15th.  Our three cafes will be well-stocked with challah for the duration of the holidays.

Leslie

Farm to Brunch: Touring Seattle Tilth

logoEarly this June I visited Seattle Tilth’s farm incubator in Auburn with Marilyn Mercer, Elizabeth Hall, Mandela Turner, and Crystal Kitchin, Macrina’s brunch team. We were especially excited to visit the farm – Macrina is one of the lucky few establishments that buys freshly grown vegetables from Seattle Tilth for our weekly rotating brunch menus.

Seattle Tilth started in 1978 with its Urban Agriculture Center in Wallingford. The Tilth Association began as an alternative agriculture movement with the aim of supporting and promoting biologically sound and socially equitable agriculture in the Pacific Northwest. While the parent association disbanded in 1984, Seattle Tilth has continued to grow and thrive with a stated mission today to inspire and educate people to safeguard our natural resources while building an equitable and sustainable local food system. They teach people to grow food organically while taking care of the environment through a wide variety of classes, programs, and community events. There are classes for both kids and adults, many of them located in Seattle’s most diverse and densely populated urban neighborhoods. They’re an amazing resource for organic gardening education in the region.

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One of their newer programs is the farm incubator.  Matthew McDermott, the director of Seattle Tilth Farm Works, and Chris Iberle, the Food Hub Manager, led us on our tour of their forty-acre site in Auburn. They call it “The Red Barn Farm.”  While we walked through the fields of young starts, Matthew filled us in on the history of the land. Originally owned by former Seattle Supersonics Greg Ballard, who bought the land for a kid’s basketball camp, it was later donated to Seattle Parks and Recreation. They make it available to Seattle Tilth Farm Works as part of their Parks Urban Food Systems program.

The program provides farm business training and support to immigrants, refugees and people with limited resources in South King County. Each year they add ten new farmers to their training program that runs from February to June, reserving ten spots for returning farmers. Their aim is to help new farmers get into small farming, teaching them not just the elements of organic farming through hands-on experience, but also business planning, operations, and marketing. Matthew explains that the average age of an American small farmer is 60 years old. They hope to lower that through their program.

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Each of the twenty farmers tends a quarter-acre parcel, growing vegetables for Seattle Tilth’s CSA subscription program that provides subscribers with a weekly box full of fresh, delicious produce from June through October. The farm also supplies the fresh produce for their Good Food Bag program, which helps supply healthy organic vegetables to qualifying limited-resource families. We saw peas, radishes, onions, garlic, corn, squash, and pole-beans. In addition to the open fields they have 13 100-foot hoop houses, most of them planted with tomatoes. Due to the low snow pack this year and the possibility of a drought they mandated a water irrigation system. To supplement their water supply, they have a large cistern that collects rainwater. At the end of our tour, we stopped by the cleaning station where the farmers wash and trim their veggies, weighing their daily harvest and logging it onto the weekly production board.

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It feels good to be a part of a program that is training young farmers in the best practices for sustainable and environmentally sensitive farming. Moreover, their produce is simply delicious. Visit one of our Macrina cafe locations over the weekend and try something off of our rotating brunch menu to see for yourself.

Leslie Mackie

Pumpkin, Spice & Everything Nice

Cozy scarves, crisp leaves and piles of orange pumpkins, that’s what fall is made of. Judging from local breweries, coffee shops, and supermarket shelves, we’re not alone in our love of pumpkin. Spiced with cinnamon, sweetened with brown sugar, or blended with butternut squash, pumpkin-spiked pastries and pies have taken over our Autumn Menu. With so many to choose from, we bet you can find a favorite for any time of day.

Pumpkin Cranberry Muffin & Vegan Pumpkin Scone

Fall Menu

The sun may not be up when we climb out of bed, but the promise of pumpkin keeps us from hitting the snooze button. Both of these breakfast staples are topped with a sprinkle of sugar and toasted pumpkin seeds for extra texture and flavor. Pair them with a cup of Caffé Umbria coffee or a Mocha to kick-start your morning.

Brown Sugar Pumpkin Spice Cupcake & Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookie

Fall Menu

When the afternoon lull sets in, the combination of chocolate and pumpkin or spiced cake and brown sugar buttercream will put some bounce back in your step. Teamed up a cupcake or cookie with our cold-brewed iced coffee and sail through the rest of your day.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Cranberry Compote & Pumpkin Pie Bar

Pumpkin Pie Bar

These desserts were so popular last holiday season, we knew we had to bring them back. Our silky cheesecake and signature bars are full of autumn flavors and intriguing enough to set themselves apart from the pack. Pick one up to enjoy after dinner with a cup of hot cocoa.

Pizza Bianca: A New Lunch Favorite

Pizza Bianca

Adorned with dimples, flakes of sea salt and just a hint of fresh rosemary, Pizza Bianca is the latest addition to our Lunch Menu. With its chewy exterior and bubbles throughout the crumb, it’s perfect for soaking up sandwich spreads. Inspired by co-owner Matt Galvin’s favorite lunch when he lived in Italy, this bread is a new house favorite at Macrina.

“Our Pizza Bianca is closer to a thin, airy focaccia,” says Leslie Mackie. “It is a very simple but habit-forming obsession. It is so versatile as it is so good used as a sandwich bread – grilled or not – or eaten plain, dunking it in a favorite hummus or Tuscan Bean Spread.”

Pizza Bianca and Schiacciata are very similar and some may refer to each as the same. Our Schiaccatta was made with a larger amount of olive oil and flavored with freshly chopped herbs, giving it an almost flaky texture. Leslie was looking for something lighter for our sandwiches and played around with a Pizza Bianca recipe until it was just right.

Now you can enjoy this bread as part of our lunch sandwich rotation. This week we’re layering it with roasted artichoke hearts, zucchini, Mama Lil’s peppers, provolone, organic field greens and Tuscan White Bean Spread for our Verdure Sandwich.

To Gluten or Not to Gluten

gluten_free_biscuit Macrina Bakery & Cafe Seattle

Macrina’s Gluten-Free Biscuit

Now that March’s National Flour Month is over, we’d like to honor our gluten-free friends with a tribute to treats without the grain that gives them grief.

Gluten, Latin word for glue, is a protein found in all forms of wheat (durum, semolina, spelt, kamut, einkorn, and faro) and other grains including rye, barley, and triticale. Ideal for baked goods, gluten makes the dough spongy and elastic, giving it the strength and consistency needed to retain its shape and fluffiness. It is also used as a stabilizing agent in food products such as soup, ice cream, salad dressing, and ketchup.

Gluten can be difficult for some people’s systems to process. How do those of you with gluten sensitivity live in a “gluten-ous” world? Very carefully. It’s challenging to bake without wheat flours at Macrina – we love and rely on them for our breads. But we have figured out a few ways to delight our gluten-free* friends who visit our cafes.

Gluten-Free Biscuit
A version of our lightly sweetened cream biscuit made with gluten-free corn flour, tapioca flour, gluten-free flour, sugar, baking powder, xantham gum, salt, and heavy cream, topped with marionberry freezer jam.

Macaroons
Our chewy coconut cookie in chocolate or vanilla.

Ganache Cupcake
Rich flourless chocolate cake filled with raspberry preserve and glazed with dark chocolate ganache.

Banana Cake
One layer of our rich flourless chocolate cake sandwiched between two layers of moist banana cake filled with roasted bananas and white chocolate buttercream, topped with dark chocolate ganache glaze.

Banana Cupcake
Moist banana cake topped with whipped chocolate ganache.

Bittersweet Chocolate Gateau
Velvety flourless chocolate cake baked with swirls of raspberry preserves and dusted with powdered sugar.

Torta Gianduja
Six layers of rich torta featuring layers of chocolate espresso cake and chocolate hazelnut cake, glazed with bittersweet chocolate ganache and decorated with hazelnuts.

One of each, you say? Even those of us who can tolerate gluten enjoy our gluten-free treats. Call your nearest location to find out what gluten-free products are currently available in the pastry case. We will continue to expand our gluten-free offerings…stay tuned.

*Macrina Bakery is not a gluten-free facility; cross-contamination may occur during the baking process.