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.”

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.

Flour 101: A Few of Our Favorite Flours

National Flour Month

Let’s face it, without flour our bread racks would be bare, our pastry cases empty, and there would be a little less bounce in our steps. It’s a key ingredient in just about everything we make, so it’s only natural that we put a lot of consideration into the brands and types we use.

In honor of National Flour Month, we’re dipping into the fluffy world of flour with a little series taking you from grain to loaf. First up, let’s talk about our favorite flour suppliers and why Leslie selected each one.

Fairhaven Organic Flour Mill – More and more we are reaching for Fairhaven Mill’s flour for our products. The folks at Fairhaven strive to work with local farmers whenever possible, and as a result 70 percent of the grain used in their flour is grown right here in Washington. The whole-grain milled flour that we get from Fairhaven is made with grain grown on the Williams Brothers’ farm in Walla Walla. Milling the grain completely intact preserves its nutrition and natural sweetness. That exceptional flavor and texture really shines through in our Vollkorn, Pane Francese, Greek Olive and Raisin Pumpernickel to name just a few.

Cook Natural Products – Leslie chooses Cook’s identity-preserved wheat flour, because it creates a very flavorful bread. Identity-preserved grain is never mingled with other grains nor is it ever modified, so bakers know exactly what to expect with quality and flavor. This fine ingredient is one of the reasons our signature Baguette is so delicious.

Shepherd’s Grain – Shepherd’s Grain flour is a favorite staple among many local bakers. Recognizing the benefits of sustainable agriculture, this brand sources grain from family farms built with those practices in mind. Their growers use no-till and direct seed farming to conserve soil, prevent erosion and increase fertility. You’ll find Shepherd’s Grain Low-Gluten Strength Flour in our Mrs. D’s Vegan Cookie.

As simple an ingredient as flour may be, sourcing the best not only impacts the food we make, it affects our environment and farmers too. You can find more information on the flour we use as well as recipes for many of our artisan breads in our More from Macrina cookbook.

Now that we have the basics covered, check back next week when we’ll get into the nitty gritty of working with wet dough!

Mustard and Co.: Just Plain Good

Mustard and Co.

Photo courtesy of Mustard and Co.

It seems like most people don’t give mustard much thought. Its section in the condiment aisle is dwarfed by towers of mayonnaise, ketchup, barbecue sauce and an alarming array of hot sauce. That bright yellow bottle is familiar, but what’s in it?

That’s what Justin Hoffman wondered as he scanned the list of ingredients on a jar of mustard at a deli one day. As his eyes fell on the words “white vinegar,” he was hit with what he calls “divine inspiration.”

“It struck me as cheap and bland,” Justin remembers. “And at that moment I decided I was going to make a honey mustard using balsamic vinegar, which I saw as a more complex and tasteful option. It’s since been quite an unexpected journey. It’s like a child dropped into my arms, for which I must now care.”

That child is Mustard and Co., a swiftly up-and-coming condiment business that he formed last year with his friend and business partner Bryan Mitchiner. Justin spent the last few years tweaking his recipe. Only a handful of ingredients go into his mustard, but he’s dutifully sought out the best. Unlike most mustards, Mustard and Co.’s is never subjected to heat, resulting in a curiously spicy kick that’s balanced with a bit of curry and raw honey.

Bryan dropped off a bottle of their signature blend at Macrina not long ago for us to consider selling in our cafés. It didn’t take much more than a taste to convince us.

“They are exactly the kind of local company that we would like to support,” says Crystal Kitchin, general manager of cafés. “They are very nice and their product is all-natural, which pairs nicely with our bread.”

Not only can you find Mustard and Co. on our shelves these days, but Head Savory Chef Elizabeth Hall has been folding it into our lunch menu. It was practically made for our Pretzel Roll.

Justin’s favorite way to eat it? “Put a little chèvre on a cracker, top it with a piece of smoked salmon and a drizzle of mustard and it will take you to a new place.  I also love it in potato, tuna or egg salad mixed with a bit of mayo, or aioli if that’s your preference.”

Mustard Aioli
Click here to print this recipe!

Ingredients

1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
*1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Mustard and Co. mustard
1/2 cup canola oil

*Available in our cafés or online.

Instructions

1. Whisk the egg yolk, garlic, lemon juice and mustard in a medium bowl to thoroughly combine.

2. Start adding the canola oil just a few drops at a time, whisking constantly until the mixture begins to emulsify. As it thickens, continue adding the oil in a slow stream, making sure each addition is thoroughly blended before adding more.

3. Season to taste with salt, then cover the aioli and refrigerate until needed.

4. Enjoy spread on a corned beef sandwich or as a dip with a soft pretzel.

Rustic Potato: Fellowship From Farm to Table

Potato Loaf

Every week about 15,000 pounds of Russet Norkotah potatoes arrive on our doorstep. From there, they are mashed (peels and all), mixed with unbleached flour, yeast, extra virgin olive oil, and sea salt, and then crafted into one of our biggest selling breads: Rustic Potato.

These spuds get their start as seedlings under the watchful care of Mattawa’s Wahluke Produce, nestled in the arid Columbia basin. Wahluke Produce is owned by the Christensen family, who has farmed the area for three generations. Even though it is a fairly new potato variety, the easily adaptable Russet Norkotah is a staple on this farm. Light in texture and full of flavor, they are a baker’s dream for whipping up perfect potato bread.

Eventually these potatoes find themselves on your table in the form of a sliced loaf, lightly toasted, and slathered with sweet preserves; a basket of warm, soft rolls, passed among family; or perched on a party tray as petite sliders sandwiching your favorite fixings.

Here are Macrina, we believe that good things are even better when they are shared. And, our potato bread is a perfect example of the communal bond from farm to table.

Good Grains! It’s National Flour Month!

Macrina Bakery Flour ScoopEach year we celebrate the usual March holidays – National Pi Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and Women’s History Month, but, most importantly, we honor National Flour Month. As a bakery, flour is one of our basic ingredients, whether it’s whole grain, whole wheat, or all-purpose.

Since the beginning of civilization, flour has been the staple of cuisines around the world. When our ancestors discovered they could crush grass seeds into a powder, they dined on flat, hard cakes cooked over a fire. It is the Egyptians in 3,000 BC that figured out how to harvest and use yeast, creating soft loaves by fermenting the dough with heat from the sun.

Luckily, we do not have to grind the grains ourselves. News of this innovation traveled, Romans created watermills, and with the Industrial Age came the technology to mill the flour in large quantity. We have a handful of wonderfully dedicated millers that we rely on for our flours. One of them is Fairhaven Organic Flour Mill in Burlington, about one hour north of Seattle. Fairhaven began in 1974 as a cooperative, and since 2007, has been family-owned by Kevin and Matsuko Christenson. Leslie had the opportunity to visit the mill a while back and was taken by the Christenson’s sincere pledge to buy only locally grown, organic grains that are milled weekly in small batches so they retain as much nutrients as possible.

Macrina Bakery Flour BowlAmidst the earthy aromas of the fresh, weighty whole grain flour, the Christensons shared their passion for the farmers with whom they have continued to support over the years. It is that commitment to their craft that is most appreciated by the Macrina family. We use Fairhaven’s Rye Flour for many of the artisan breads we produce, including Vollkorn, Pane Francese, and Greek Olive Bread. The recipes for these breads are included in our cookbooks, Macrina Bakery & Café Cookbook and More From Macrina. We hope you will pick up Fairhaven Organic Flour for your bread-making needs and test out some of our recipes in honor of National Flour Month. Happy baking!

Inspiration through Unity: How a Bakery and Winery broke bread

Tim and Kelly Hightower

Tim and Kelly Hightower

One thing you will notice in all of our breads is the care and inspiration baked into each item. A favorite of these inspired bread stories is the Hightower Cellars Bread Starter, a sourdough bread starter made with skins from Sauvignon grapes and developed with our  dear friends Tim and Kelly Hightower.

In the mid 1990s, while keeping their day jobs, Tim and Kelly Hightower pursued their passion of winemaking. In Woodinville, WA, the couple’s research and determination proved successful with their inaugural release of 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon. Soon after, they moved to Benton City in Eastern Washington where they purchased acres of prime vineyard land.

Hightower's vineyards.

Hightower’s vineyards.

Macrina’s friendship with Hightower Cellars began years ago when Leslie visited their beautiful winery perched within the Red Mountain appellation hills near the Yakima Valley, three hours east of Seattle.

In 2010, these passionate, gifted winemakers proposed to Leslie a pretty quirky idea, offering cabernet sauvignon wine grapes to be used as a sour bread starter. Sourdough starters can be developed from the natural yeast found on grape skins, adding leavening and delicious flavor.

A few dashes here and there of this and that, and soon we pulled our Pane Francese from the oven. This is an Italian version of a crusty baguette: batonlike, with a light, porous crumb and a crisp, caramel-brown crust. Our Pane Francese is a beautiful, tasty creation with a story rooted in a genuine, heartfelt bond between artisan industries.

From a simple meeting sprang the creation of a bread that the Hightowers could use for tasting and Macrina could offer in our cafes. We think you, and your guests, would love the pairing of these two artisanal favorites this holiday season. Now that you know the story behind the bread, and the wine, we hope you will enjoy both at your table.

Stiebrs Farms Eggs

Are you a fan of our fabulous weekend brunch menus and our Bialy Egg Sandwiches? This June our cafes made the switch to using cage-free eggs from Stiebrs Farms in Yelm. With their amazing golden yolks, their fresh eggs look great and taste delicious. We’re very proud to be using them for all of our brunch and café pastry offerings.

Leslie first became familiar with Stiebrs Farms eggs at the grocery store. She was delighted to learn that the eggs that she bought for home use were from Yelm. It was natural to want to use them at our cafes. As eggs age, they lose both flavor and nutritional value. Stiebrs’ proximity to Seattle helps ensure that the eggs we use are as fresh as can be.

Stiebrs Farms was one of Washington’s first cage-free and organic egg producers. Jan and Zelma Stiebrs immigrated to the United States from Latvia with their two children, Anita and Jon in 1949. They made a home for themselves in Yelm and decided to start a farm with just a dozen chickens. By 1953, their hard work had paid off and the farm had enough hens to start selling their eggs door-to-door and later to businesses in Tacoma.

In 1978 Jan and Zelma retired, passing the farm to their son Jon and his wife Dianna. Along with their children, they now employ about 70 people across 800 acres of farmland. The hens all perch in community houses and are outside all day, except when the temperature is too cold.  The Stiebrs own a feed mill and produce all of their feed for the chickens on the farm, using a blend of corn, wheat, soybean meal and oyster shells which help to create a stronger eggshell.  They also employ a nutritionist to make sure that each chicken’s diet is complete. Jon is quick to point out that their source of eggs is self-sustaining; they raise all of their replacement hens.  John is very proud of the quality of his eggs and we are pleased to be using them.