Challah Crowns for the Jewish High Holidays 

At Macrina, we make Challah every Friday, offering it in both plain and poppy seed. We braid three ropes of dough in the European Jewish tradition to represent unity. According to The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden, the three braids stand for truth, peace, and justice, and the poppy seeds represent manna that fell from heaven. We bake our challah loaves to a deep golden mahogany color and a firm crust. The soft, tight crumb pulls apart easily. The shiny, honey-sweetened bread is excellent toasted, turned into delicate french toast, or passed around the table with a meal.

For the Jewish High Holidays, we form our Challah into rounds—or crowns—to recall the cycle of the year, or as Roden characterizes them, “where there is no beginning and no end.” The honey in the crowns represents hopes for a sweet new year. We make our crowns in both plain and studded with raisins.

This year we will be offering our Challah Crowns from September 18–20 to celebrate Rosh Hashanah and September 27–28 to celebrate Yom Kippur. Whether they’re part of your religious tradition, or you just love great bread and the tradition of sharing it with others, stop by one of our cafés and get one of these beautiful, symbolic loaves.

New Product Alert: Macrina Bakery’s Ready-to-Bake Olivia’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough 

There’s just something about that smell of cookies baking in the oven—that irresistible aroma, the building anticipation, the cookies warm and gooey, the melted chocolate and crispy edges. Our new ten-packs of Ready-to-Bake Olivia’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough make it tantalizingly easy to make your own.

We freeze the dough in individual cookie-sized dough balls. You merely preheat the oven, pop them on a tray, and bake. You can make a few at a time or the whole batch at once. What you don’t eat right away will save for four weeks in your freezer but we are guessing they won’t last that long.

They’re so good that Leslie named them after her daughter. Olivia’s Chocolate Chip Cookies are our version of the traditional Toll House classic. A combination of butter and shortening gives the cookies a soft, rich crumb. And the right blend of high-quality semisweet chocolate chips and a hefty pinch of sea salt give them the consummate chocolate chip cookie flavor. Food and Wine even included them in a list of America’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookies.

As lovely as they are at the café, they are even better right out of the oven, warm but still gooey. The kits are available at our cafés for $8.99, and available for delivery on DoorDash!

Enjoy!

September: National Honey Month 

For most beekeepers, September marks the end of the honey collection season. To celebrate and call attention to the importance of honey as a natural sweetener and the essential role honeybees play as pollinators, we’re featuring our favorite products baked with honey all month long. At Macrina, we are proud to partner with the National Honey Board and showcase the many baked goods we make with honey, whose complex caramel sweetness adds a roundness of flavor compared to the narrower flavor profile of sugar.

One of our most popular honey-sweetened products is our Vollkorn Loaf. This moist, hearty loaf is a German-style, full-grain bread blended with a six-grain cereal, toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds. A locally grown organic rye and a beer starter add a pleasantly sour flavor. Honey and molasses lend balance.

In our cafés, we use honey to sweeten our Greek yogurt and layer it with our house-made berry compote. This creates the perfect nutritious fresh-tasting parfait.

Later in September, we will be showcasing our Challah Crowns, both plain and with raisins, to celebrate Rosh Hashanah (September 18–20) and Yom Kippur (September 27– 28). Our Challah is traditional egg bread in the European Jewish tradition. Honey sweetened, this braided loaf has a firm crust a burnished golden mahogany color. The soft, tight crumb pulls apart easily.

Another loaf sweetened that we sweeten with honey is our Whole Wheat Cider pan loaf. It’s excellent texture and flavor make this one of our most popular pan loaves. Apple cider and honey enhance the mild nutty flavor of Shepherd’s Grain whole wheat flour, cracked wheat berries and toasted sesame seeds.

These are just a few products we are showcasing, but we have many other recipes that include honey. Stay tuned throughout September for more featured products that celebrate the importance of our pollinators—and the lovely byproduct of their life-giving labor.

Our New Make-at-Home Kits 

Turn your kitchen into a professional bakery with our new make-at-home kits.

One silver lining of the quarantine is the perfect environment it has created for a surge in home cooking, bread making, and baking. Stores have been running short of flour and yeast. Newly minted bakers proudly fill their Instagram feeds with drool-worthy photos of crackly sourdough loaves, glistening muffins, and elegant cakes.

But not everyone has the skills or time to produce pastry-chef quality loaves and pastries. A month ago, to help those who wanted to bake professional-grade loaves, we created a kit for an organic whole wheat loaf. The response has been overwhelmingly favorable. Some people make them with their kids; others have sent beautiful photos of their masterpieces. And many have requested kits for more items.

So we’ve come up with three more make-at-home kits for some of our café favorites: Fresh Fruit Gluten-Free Muffins, Fresh Fruit Coffee Cake and Squash Harvest Bread.

Each kit comes with baking molds (or muffin liners), with all dry ingredients pre-measured and ready to go, and easy-to-follow instructions. You choose your favorite seasonal fruits and supply common wet ingredients like milk, butter, and eggs.

We love to see you in our cafés, but during these coronavirus times, we understand the desire to stay at home. The smell of your favorite breakfast treats baking might even drag your teenagers out of bed early. Enjoy!

Fresh Fruit Gluten-Free Muffin Kit

We started offering these in the cafés about five years ago, and even wheat lovers have become devotees. Our gluten-free dry mix takes the guesswork out of baking. Choose your favorite seasonal fruits, and we’ll help turn your kitchen into a high-end bakery.

Fresh Fruit Coffee Cake Kit

This coffee cake is one of our most requested recipes. The natural sweetness of the fruit permeates the cake and keeps it moist. Choose your favorite seasonal fruits, and we provide nearly everything else, including the baking molds.

Squash Harvest Bread Kit

Our most popular breakfast bread has been on our menu since the day we opened in 1993. The list of ingredients is long, but our kit includes most of them pre-measured and ready to go. You provide the wet ingredients; we do the rest.

The coronavirus has created the perfect environment for a surge in bread-baking. People suddenly have time around the house to do fiddly things they wouldn’t normally, like proofing yeast and monitoring rising dough. Some are looking for a fulfilling hobby, or for sustenance for their families, or just something to do with the home-schooled kids that’s not another video game. Measuring, kneading and shaping dough can be a balm for the anxiety that has accompanied the virus. And some people, faced with the prospect of the conveniences of modern life being upended, are feeling the need to be self-reliant, even in small ways.

Project Barnstorm: Leslie Mackie’s Fruit Spreads 

When I started Macrina Bakery, I had every intention of making homemade fruit spread for our pastries but simply got too busy. Instead, I found an excellent freezer jam made from local berries. I’d been making jam and fruit spread ever since I was in my early twenties. My mother taught me how. Every year, in berry season, she’d get as many of those mouth-watering native strawberries, raspberries and blueberries and set about making jam, fruit spread, and conserves. Most of her jam was freezer jam, but I took to sealing it in jars since it keeps longer and you can store it in the larder.

Now all these years later, I’m finally starting to make fruit spread in quantities large enough I can sell some commercially. The fruit spread business is called Project Barnstorm. Most of the spreads are made from fruit grown on my Vashon Island farm such as Concorde grapes, blackberries and Montgomery cherries. I’m also making apricot, raspberry and blueberry spreads with fruit from a local organic farm.

Project Barnstorm is a celebration of the seasons. By picking the fruit at its peak, or buying it straight from some of the best local farmers, the fruit spreads capture the natural essence of the fruit. Because fruit spreads have less sugar than jam, the natural sweetness of the ripe fruit shines through.

To get the right consistency, I make all the spreads in small batches and cook the fruit until I’ve reduced its water content enough that it will set with just a little pectin. The ratio of fruit to sugar in my spreads is much higher than commercial jams. A full, fresh fruit flavor is the result. A single spoonful in winter will bring you back to summer, if only for a moment. Fortunately, there is the rest of the jar to enjoy!

The fruits spreads are delicious with our toasted artisan breads but are also a great accompaniment with cheese on our flatbread or crostini. My latest indulgence is a spoonful or two over ice cream in the evenings or yogurt in the morning.

If you haven’t made fruit spreads before, take advantage of Washington’s bountiful blackberry crop starting in late July. Often you can find them, purple and bursting with juice, along roadsides throughout the area. Enjoy!

~ Leslie

Leslie’s Blackberry Jam 

Ingredients:

8 canning jars and lids (6-8 oz in size)

8 cups ripe blackberries

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

1½ cups sugar

3 tsp Pectin (Pomona’s Universal Pectin)

Directions:

Fill a canning pot with water and bring it to a boil. Submerge jars and lids in boiling water to sterilize for 5 minutes. Remove and let dry at room temperature.

Gently rinse off the blackberries and pat dry. In a medium saucepan place the berries and mash with a potato masher. Add the lemon juice and half the sugar (¾ cup). Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes. Skim any foam that might form on the surface of the mixture and discard. Combine the remaining sugar with the pectin and whisk into the simmering jam mixture. Simmer for another 2 to 3 minutes. Turn off heat.

Taste the jam for sweetness. You can add a bit more sugar or lemon juice at this point to accommodate for the natural sweetness of your berries (they do vary).

Bring the canning pot water up to a boil again. Ladle the hot jam into the sterilized jars, filling to ¼ inch of the top.

Place the metal top and rim over the jar and tighten rim to seal. Gently place the covered jars into the boiling water. Be sure the water is covering the jar. Boil for 10 to 15 minutes to seal.

Remove the jars from the boiling water and let cool at room temperature. Ensure that all the jars are tightly sealed. A good test is to remove the rings and lift the jar by its lid. If it releases, the seal is no good; refrigerate and use within a month (or freeze for up to 6 months). Well-sealed jars will hold at room temperature for 1 year.

From Seed to Loaf: Growing Your Own Wheat 

Now in her second season of growing wheat on her farm, Leslie Mackie shares the challenges and joys of her experience. 

Baking was my first love, but gardening is not far behind. To me, they go hand in hand. So when someone suggested I put the two together and grow wheat on my Vashon Island farm, I thought, why not? I dreamed of making wholegrain bread from wheat I grew myself. Last year, I planted my first crop. Regular readers of this blog will recount my post on just how hard I worked to yield a mere twelve pounds of wheat. So, you ask, why go through that again? 

Well, Im nothing if not persistent. In fact, baking teaches you persistence. Great bread and pastries are the result of recipes developed by failing better with each new version until you finally sink your teeth into a loaf that tastes just like you dreamed it would. 

Armed with the long list of lessons learned with my first crop, I cleaned up the two-acres I had tilled for wheat. When you hear about the wheat farms in Eastern Washington that measure in the thousands of acres, two doesnt sound like much. But when youre doing much of the work by hand, it looks pretty intimidating. 

Id been monitoring the weather all April, waiting for a period of rain. Last year, Id gotten my seeds in the ground too late. This year I was on it early. But the weather has its way with farmers, as theyll readily tell you. On this side of the mountains, one thing you can usually count on in April is rain. Not this year! Wed been having a historically dry month. Fortunately, near the end of April, still in my optimal planting window, a storm system was rolling in from the Pacific. 

I had bags of Bow Edison wheat seeds, a hybrid heritage grain developed by Dr. Stephen Jones at the Bread Lab in Mount Vernon that grows well in this climate. I hauled them out to the field and began casting. You cannot imagine the tranquility of casting the wheat seeds over the freshly tilled earth. Even the birds seemed to celebrate, carrying on with their song. Then the mild wind picked up, the warm sunlight faded, and sprinkles of rain pocked the dry soil. 

After spreading the seed, I still had to rake them into the soil. Even though I was soon tired, I kept at it for three hours in ever heavier rain. Finally, I clomped my way back to my mudroom. Safe to say, it earned its name. I looked out at the field, exhausted but utterly satisfied knowing the seeds will germinate properly with the three days of rain ahead. After that, a dry spell. The sun would warm the soil and begin the growth. 

With this years crop in the soil, I drove up to the Bread Lab with the wheat Id harvested last year. Steve Lyon, a senior scientific assistant at the Bread Lab, had promised to help me process it. With the help of an intern from Italy, Steve ran my wheat through an old combine of theirs. Separating the kernels by hand is a prolonged process. Doing it, you understand very quickly how threshing came to be synonymous with spending lots of energy to produce very little. But with the aid of the combine, it didnt take long for Steve and his assistant to turn my bags of wheat stalks into 10 pounds of clean kernels. To me, it looked like a bag of gold! 

Finally, I made my first loaves with wheat Id grown myself. As it goes with baking, the first loaf wasnt perfect. Id milled the wheat too coarsely. A finer grind and the second loaf turned out much better—but still not perfect. The flavor was amazing, but the texture wasnt quite right. So, on to the third loaf, with further refinements. 

If it was easy, I might get bored. Passion projects like this, and continuing to learn about this amazing grain and what you can do with it, are what make me thrilled to still be baking bread more than 25 years after opening Macrina. 

Leslie 

Olivia’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix

Our Olivia’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix is now available through DoorDash. This mix makes our famous cookie easy to prepare at home. With a minimum of effort, you’ll have warm, gooey chocolate chip cookies that’ll impress the shrewdest palate.

“Like the omelet, which many believe to be the true test of a chef, the humble chocolate chip cookie is the baker’s crucible. So few ingredients, so many possibilities for disaster,” David Leite wrote in a 2008 New York Times article. Given the number of mediocre versions that are all too easily found, it’s hard not to agree with him.

At Macrina, our house version is Olivia’s Chocolate Chip Cookies. Named after Leslie’s daughter, Olivia, the cookies are Macrina’s version of the traditional Toll House classic. A combination of butter and shortening gives the cookies a soft, rich crumb and that consummate chocolate chip cookie flavor comes from the right blend of high-quality semisweet chocolate chips and a hefty pinch of sea salt. Food and Wine even included them in a list of America’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookies.

You can find the recipe in the Macrina Bakery and Café Cookbook. But for those of you who love homemade cookies without too much fuss, try our Olivia’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix. You supply a stick of butter, an egg, and a quarter cup of shortening (Crisco or another trans-fat free version). We provide everything else, including the blend of premium flours we use at the bakery.

We recommend using a stand mixer, but you can also hand mix if you don’t have one. Our mix has the sugar on top. You scoop it into the mixer and blend it with the butter and shortening. Add the egg and then dump the rest of the mix in and hand mix until incorporated. Chill the dough for two hours. (You can skip this step if you’re in a hurry, but if you’ve got the time, it helps the moisture in the dough to fully incorporate, which leads to a better consistency.) Scoop onto a tray, bake, and voilà—the best homemade cookies you’ll ever have.

The cookie mix also makes a fabulous gift to mail to friends and family that could use a pick-me-up. The mix is shelf-stable so you can keep backups in the pantry for when that irrepressible urge strikes.

Bread Baking Made Easy

Our organic whole wheat bread kit makes two excellent homemade pan loaves, one for now, and one to share with a lucky neighbor. 

Do you love homemade bread but have always been too intimidated to try baking it yourself? Our organic whole wheat bread kit allows you to make amazingly easy, excellent bread at home without fancy equipment or any special bread-making skills. You’ll get all the smells, two flavorful, nicely-textured loaves, and the sweet reward of having made it yourself. For those of you with kids, this is also a great project to undertake with them.

We chose this loaf for our first-ever bread making kit because it’s one of Leslie’s favorites to make at home. “To me, this pan loaf is the perfect comfort food,” Leslie says. “It smells so good while it’s baking, and the organic whole wheat flour we include gives the bread an excellent texture and flavor.”

Our kit includes everything you need but a standard bread loaf pan, oil for brushing the pan, and honey (or agave or maple syrup). Our recipe has two options: A no-knead version, and a stand-mixer version. The no-knead method takes a little longer (an extra 90 minutes) but turns out a loaf equally as good as the one from the stand mixer. If you don’t have a mixer, this is the path for you—or if you just want to save yourself some extra cleanup.

From start to finish, you’ll need to allow for three hours of combined proofing time (four and a half for the no-knead method) and about 45 minutes of baking time. The active time—mixing the dough and shaping the loaf—won’t account for more than 20 minutes of your time.

If you’re tired of being confined to your home and want to try something new, this kit gives you the chance to turn out professional loaves without the stress. You’ll enjoy the rewards, one slice at a time, for days. 

 

Caring for Those Who Care for Us

Not all heroes wear capes, but many wear masks. And scrubs. And theyve been working insanely long hours during this crisis, giving their all to serve those in need. To express our appreciation and admiration, Macrina Bakery is donating 220 care packages each week in April to area hospitals. Each care package contains a Sliced Oatmeal Buttermilk Loaf, Rye Crostini, Sardinian Flatbread, Olivias Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Granola Bar Cookies.

Chris at Overlake said, “Everything was great! My staff greatly appreciated the generosity and gratitude.” Julie at Swedish Edmonds wrote, “I cant tell you how much the staff appreciated the care packages. They were SO excited! Thank you so much; we very much appreciate this thoughtful gesture!”

If youd like to help us support them, you can donate a care package, and well deliver it on your behalf. The care packages are $25 and we are currently visiting Overlake, Harborview, Swedish Edmonds, UW Northwest and Seattle Childrens.

In addition to the frontline healthcare workers, we know that many others are giving themselves to serve others. Our care packages are available for anyone you know who could use a little extra support right now. A huge thank you to all of you who have already ordered them.

To order care packages, please call 206-448-4089 or visit one of our cafés.

The (Tasty) Benefits of Heritage Grains

Does “great taste” come to mind when you think of heritage grains?

Many Americans consider heritage grains a health food—something they should eat, not something they want to eat. Fortunately, that appears to be on the cusp of change. Top chefs and bakers have been cooking with new heritage grain hybrids to thrilling results.

One of my favorite events of the year is Grain Gathering, an annual three-day event held every July at the Bread Lab (the event started in 2011). Expert bakers, millers, grain scientists, farmers, and industry representatives gather in the Skagit Valley. Their goal is to break the dominance of commodity wheat and to find a way to sell America on the benefits of heritage grains. Flavor is the number one selling point. Nutrition is another along with environmental sustainability. Virtually every community in America used to grow wheat. More robust heritage wheat hybrids could again make this economically feasible, benefitting local economies.

At a Grain Gathering a few years ago, I was introduced to two hybrids developed by Bread Lab. One is called Skagit Magic, which is grown in the Skagit Valley and milled at nearby Cairn Springs Mill. The other is called Expresso Wheat (or, in the lab, T-85). It is grown in Walla Walla and also milled at Cairn Springs Mill. When I started Macrina, flours like these just weren’t available.

For Macrina’s twenty-fifth anniversary this year, I developed two new breads that utilized these new organic flours. I spent many hours playing around with various techniques and found the heritage flours work best with a slow fermentation. This helps develop subtle, bright flavors and hydrates the bran. I made our Skagit Sourdough with the Skagit Magic. This is one of our most grain-forward and flavorful loaves. The Whole Grain Baguette is our other new loaf, which we make with the Expr results. At Macrina, our two latest breads feature heritage wheats—the primary reason being the astonishing flavor they add. Edouardo Jordan, the star chef and creator of JuneBaby, named America’s best new restaurant by the James Beard Foundation, opened Lucinda Grain Bar, a concept focused on ancient grains. “As Americans, we eat some of the most flavorless, unhealthy grain-based products in the world,” Jordan said. “Commercialization has stripped down all the nutritional value in our grain product. We are excited to explore the flavor and potential of ancient grains.” Jordan noted that some of the best grains in the world are grown in the Skagit Valley.

The Bread Lab, located in the Skagit Valley, deserves no small amount of credit for this. Part science lab, part high-end bakery, this extension of Washington State University occupies a 12,000 square feet space in Mount Vernon that includes a research and baking kitchen, a cytology lab, the King Arthur Flour Baking School, a milling laboratory and a professional kitchen. The director of the Bread Lab, Dr. Stephen Jones, is currently one of the most influential voices in the food world. Jones is determined to bring diversity to the range of flours widely available. Currently, the bland, chalky white flour born of industrial agriculture is found in almost all the bread sold in America. You won’t find much else at your local supermarket either. By breeding heritage grains that have both taste and nutritional benefits, but that also have the robustness that farmers need to produce high yield crops, Jones hopes to make regional grain farming viable again.

The standard flour available at grocery stores today comes from wheat that has been bred to be optimal for a fast-food hamburger bun. A hundred years ago that wasn’t the case. Diverse wheats grew and were milled in communities across America. Between 1890 and 1930 America went from over 22,000 flour mills to less than 200. The State of Washington had 160. Now there are two. The widespread use of new roller mills that could efficiently strip the grain of both the bran and the germ creating a flour that had an almost indefinite shelf life ushered in this change. This coincided with the rise of the industrial production of food. We got sliced bread in plastic bags and the phrase, “The greatest thing since sliced bread.” However, we lost a wide range of regional flours milled from an incredible range of wheats, many of which had much better flavor than what worked best for industrial bakeries. Not to mention nutrition. Jones writes, “By using only the white portion of the seed, wheat is reduced from a nutrient-dense food to one that lacks basic nutrition.”

When I started Macrina in 1993, it was thrilling to be part of the artisan bread movement that brought French and Italian-style breads to many cities in America. I’m even more excited about the heritage grain movement—so much so that I’m growing heritage wheat on my Vashon Island farm this year!  Seeing grain scientists, farmers and bakers unite around the idea of building a better tasting and healthier bread may just be the greatest thing since sliced bread.