May Recipe of the Month: Mocha Raspberry Éclairs

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Mother’s Day always reminds me of how my mother’s passions influenced me. She was the first gourmand in our family. One of her favorite treats were éclairs from Rose’s Bakery in Portland. I have such indulgent memories of those crisp and airy cream puffs filled with pastry cream and dipped in chocolate glaze. This éclair embraces those memories with a nod to Macrina’s Chocolate Raspberry Cake. The airy golden-brown éclair is layered with rich mocha mousse and fresh raspberries. A glaze of bittersweet chocolate ganache gives balance to the creamy mousse and sends chocolate lovers like me to the moon.

Ingredients
Makes 8 éclairs

Pâte à Choux
1/2 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3 eggs

Mocha Mousse
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup brewed espresso
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted

Ganache
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Assembly
1 pint fresh raspberries
1/4 cup clear sparkling sugar
Edible flowers or petals (optional)

Preparation

Pâte à Choux
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat oven to 400°F. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk, sugar and butter. When the sugar is dissolved and the butter is melted, add the flour. With a wooden spoon, mix well and cook for 1-2 minutes. Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix on low speed for 1 minute to cool the mixture. Add the eggs one at a time, ensuring you’ve fully incorporated each before adding the next. Transfer the dough to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2″ tip. On the prepared baking sheet, pipe eight 4″ long éclairs. Leave about 1″ of space between each éclair. You can smooth out any irregularities by dipping your finger in water and brushing the dough into shape.

Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350°F and bake for another 10 minutes. The éclairs should sound hollow when tapped at the base. Let cool 20-30 minutes.

Mocha Mousse
Heat a double boiler and add the chocolate chips, brewed espresso and butter. Stir until the chocolate melts and the mix is combined. Cool for 15 minutes.

Add the heavy cream to the bowl of a stand mixer. With the whisk attachment, whip the cream on medium speed. Gradually add the powdered sugar. Whip to medium stiff peaks.

Remove bowl from mixer. Fold the cooled chocolate mixture into the whipped cream until it’s well combined. Keep cool until you are ready to use it.

Ganache
Place the heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. When the cream begins to bubble at the edges turn off the heat. Add the chocolate chips and whisk until they melt into the hot cream. Set aside.

Assembly
Cut the top 1/4″ from each éclair. Dip or brush chocolate ganache onto each top. Fill a pastry bag with the mousse (or use a spoon). Fill each éclair base with mousse (it should rise about 1/4″ above the edge). Cut 24 raspberries in half and place 6 halves on each éclair base. Cover with the ganache-glazed top and sprinkle with clear sparkling sugar. Garnish with any extra raspberries and the edible flowers.

Enjoy!

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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 with thrilling results. 

One of my favorite events of the year is Grain Gathering, an annual three-day event held every July since 2011 at the Bread Lab. 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 last 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 Expresso.

Skagit Valley – The Best Grains in the World

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, recently 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 foot 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 flour available in most grocery stores 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. A diverse range of heritage wheats were grown and 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 created 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 yearSeeing 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.  

April Recipe of the Month: Fried Egg Sandwich

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Fried Egg Sandwich

Macrina Bakery & Cafe Fried Egg Sandwich

The hens on my Vashon Island farm provide me with so many lovely eggs that I’m always looking for new ways to use them. One easy favorite of mine is a fried egg sandwich. This recipe is the one we use on our brunch menu at Macrina — our best-selling brunch item for years! I sampled fried egg sandwiches in San Francisco, Portland, Bainbridge Island and Seattle, before settling on this delicious combination. Add a few slices of your favorite bacon to this sandwich and it takes it to the moon!

Ingredients:

Fried Egg Sandwiches:

Makes 4

1 medium red onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 loaf Rustic Potato bread, sliced
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
4 slices Muenster cheese
8 eggs
1 cup spicy tomato sauce

Spicy Tomato Sauce:

Makes 1 cup

1 dried pasilla pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
6 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Fried Egg Sandwiches:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Peel onion and cut lengthwise into 8 wedges. Place the wedges on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20–25 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Remove from the oven and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Set aside to cool.

Cut eight 1/2″ slices of our Rustic Potato bread and lightly butter one side of each slice, using approximately 4 tablespoons.

Place two slices of bread, buttered side down, in a nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium heat. Spread one slice with 1-1/2 teaspoon of Dijon and top the other with a slice of cheese.

While the bread is sautéing, add 1/2 tablespoon of the remaining butter to another nonstick pan over medium heat. Add two eggs, season to taste with salt and pepper, and fry each side to desired preference (for over-medium eggs about 1.5 minutes on each side). On the slice of bread that was spread with mustard, layer the eggs, a quarter of the roasted onions and 1/4 cup of warm spicy tomato sauce. Top with the other slice of bread, transfer to a plate and cut in half to eat more easily. Repeat to make the remaining three sandwiches.

Spicy Tomato Sauce

Place the dried pasilla pepper in a small bowl, cover with boiling water and soak for 10 minutes. Drain well and let cool, then remove the core and seeds from the pepper. Coarsely chop and set aside.

Place the olive oil in a medium saucepan and heat to medium –low. Add the onions. Cook covered for 5 minutes or until the onions become translucent. Stir in the garlic, cumin and coriander. Cook for another 1-2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and pasilla pepper. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper. This sauce is best used warm.

Enjoy!

Meet Natalie Godfrey, Macrina’s Wholesale Sales Assistant Manager

Wholesale Sales Assistant Manager

One of the best ways to audition potential sales managers is to observe them in action—selling products that aren’t your own. That is just how we came across Natalie Godfrey. Leslie Mackie was in Walla Walla to meet with some of the farmers who grow wheat for Macrina Bakery. After a long, hot day, much of it spent in the field, Leslie dropped by the tasting room at Tamarack Cellars. A handful of Macrina employees joined her. At the time, Natalie worked there as a sales associate. 

“When I met Natalie at Tamarack Cellars,” Leslie says,  “I was impressed with her vast and descriptive knowledge of the wines she was selling. She took them very seriously and shared detailed stories about the wines. Her approach was so genuine and enthusiastic that she drew all of us in. We bought a bunch of wine to take home.” 

Natalie attended high school on Bainbridge Island, which is where she first tasted Macrina’s breads. “My mom brought home Macrina bread from Town and Country all the time,” she says. Whitman College and a degree in rhetoric studies had pulled Natalie to Walla Walla, but she entertained the idea of returning to the Seattle area. At the tasting, the whole Macrina team agreed that Natalie had a natural talent for selling products so Leslie left Natalie her business card. 

Natalie decided to move back to Seattle and called Leslie who was delighted to hear from her. “The sales team is the face of Macrina,” Leslie says. “If Natalie shared a similar connection with our breads and pastries as she did with the Tamarack wines, I knew she’d be a perfect fit.” 

”When I called Leslie to ask her about a job,” Natalie says, “she emphasized how Macrina invests in their employees and offers so many opportunities for them to be nurtured by others and to grow. She was honest, and I felt like it would be a good company to work for—one that I wanted to work for!” 

Natalie started working for Macrina in January as the Wholesale Sales Assistant Manager, joining Amy Bui, General Manager of Wholesale Sales, and Fanny Alvarado, Wholesale Manager, to make up our sales team. Amy has been showing her the ropes. “Natalie has already proven to be a great fit for the role, and I look forward to working with her,” Amy says. 

“I’ve learned so much already—about bread, sales, and hard-working people—and am inspired by it all. I love how Macrina is a community of inspiring, diverse individuals who all seem united by their love of bread,” Natalie says.  

Moroccan Mussels with Tomatoes and Aioli

January 2019 Recipe of the Month

Moroccan Mussels with Tomatoes and Aioli

This light, sophisticated meal is surprisingly straightforward to prepare and quick enough that it can be a weeknight dinner. It is also easy to double or triple if you’ve got a crowd. Fresh mussels pair perfectly with our new Whole Grain Baguette, which is crusty enough to soak up the delicious broth. The natural sweetness of the stone-ground whole wheat complements the bold flavors of ginger, garlic and harissa. Although it was once hard to find harissa in the Seattle area, the North African chili paste is now widely available at specialty shops and many supermarkets but you can also make your own. With a little prep beforehand, you can step into the kitchen for 10 minutes and emerge with steaming bowls of flavorful mussels. Serve with a dry Riesling and an extra bowl for the empty shells.

Ingredients

Serves 2

Mussels

1 pound live mussels
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 medium shallot, diced (2 tablespoons)
1-1/2 teaspoons harissa
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely diced
2 tomatoes, medium dice
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Aioli

1 egg yolk
3/4 teaspoon garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup canola oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Assembly

1 Macrina Whole Grain Baguette
2 tablespoons aioli

Directions:

Mussels

Rinse and remove beards from mussels and set aside in the refrigerator.

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter and add the shallots, harissa and ginger. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the shallots are translucent. Add the garlic and tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes to blend the flavors. Add the mussels and white wine. Cover sauté pan and simmer for 3-4 minutes until mussels open. When all mussels are open, stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the cilantro and season to taste with salt and freshly cracked pepper.

Aioli

Whisk the egg yolk, garlic, lemon juice and Dijon in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Add the canola oil in a slow stream while whisking constantly to emulsify the mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.

Assembly

Divide mussels between 2 shallow bowls and top with cooking broth. Drizzle aioli over the mussels. Serve with slices of Whole Grain Baguette. Enjoy!

December Recipe of the Month: Panettone French Toast

Panettone French Toast with Ricotta and Fresh Cranberry Compote

In Italy, the arrival of panettone in the stores means the holidays are near. This sweet, rich bread filled with raisins and candied orange originated in Milan and spread throughout Italy (and the world) in the 20th century. There are plenty of imported commercial panettone out there, but there’s nothing like a fresh artisanal version of the famous Italian bread. We offer ours exclusively in December, with our final bake on Christmas Eve. It is incredible on its own – especially when served with a glass of Prosecco or a dollop of mascarpone – but it also makes delicious French toast. For such an elegant holiday brunch item, this recipe is easy to prepare and won’t take you more than 30 minutes to pull together.

 

Ingredients

Serves 4

2 cups fresh cranberries, washed and destemmed
1 cup water
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
2 tablespoons orange zest, divided
1 cup whole milk ricotta
1 Macrina Panettone
5 eggs
1-1/2 cups whipping cream, divided
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, divided
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
Unsalted butter

Preparation

Preheat oven to 300°F.

In a medium saucepan, add the cranberries, water, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon orange zest. Bring to a simmer and cook until cranberries release their juice and the sauce starts to thicken; about 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, 2 tablespoons of sugar and the remaining tablespoon of orange zest. Set aside.

Remove the paper mold from the panettone. Slicing top to bottom, cut four slices that are each about 1-1/2″ thick. Then cut each slice in half diagonally. Make a slit midway on the diagonally cut side of each piece and gently spoon a dollop of sweetened ricotta into each pouch. Set aside.

To make the custard, combine the eggs, 1/2 cup whipping cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla, brown sugar and orange juice in a medium bowl. Mix well and set aside.

In another medium bowl, combine the remaining cup of whipping cream, 1/4 cup of sugar and teaspoon of vanilla. Whip until the cream retains soft peaks. Refrigerate until needed.

Dip panettone slices in the custard to coat both sides. Place on a rimmed baking sheet to rest.

Place a medium sauté pan or pancake griddle over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon butter. Once the butter is sizzling, add as many half slices as will fit. Cook for 2-3 minutes then flip when underside is a deep golden brown. As the pieces finish, transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Add more butter to your pan as needed. When you’ve sautéed all the slices, place them in the oven for 3-5 minutes to ensure you’ve cooked them all the way through.

Place 2 halves of French toast on each plate and top with a generous spoonful of cranberry compote and sweetened whipped cream. With the sweetness of the bread, compote and cream, maple syrup isn’t necessary, but indulge if it is calling you!

November Recipe of the Month

Winter Pear Crown Bread Salad with Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken Breast

This warm bread salad features our Winter Pear Crown loaf, a seasonal favorite made with Washington State pears. Its natural sweetness pairs nicely with savory squash, spinach, walnuts and currants. The hearty salad goes well with prosciutto-wrapped chicken breast—a method of preperation that was shared with me by our Savory Manager, Marilyn Mercer. Finding boneless breasts with the skin on can be a challenge, but it’s worth seeking them out as the chicken will be more flavorful. Central Market, PCC, or other stores with butcher shops will most likely have them. A full-bodied red wine makes this beautiful autumn dinner complete.

– Leslie Mackie

Ingredients:

Serves 4
4 boneless chicken breasts with skin on
4 slices prosciutto
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus additional for seasoning to taste
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped, divided
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
Delicata squash, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, cored and cut into 1/2″ semi-circles
2 ripe pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2″ wedges
1/2 Macrina Winter Pear Crown loaf
1/2 cup walnuts
3 tablespoons dried currants
4 tablespoons shallots, finely chopped, divided
1 teaspoon garlic, finely chopped, divided
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Cracked black pepper, to taste
4 cups fresh baby spinach, packed
1 cup white wine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Season chicken breasts with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1-1/2 teaspoons of thyme. Wrap each in a slice of prosciutto. Set aside with seam side down.

Toss squash with 2 tablespoons of canola oil and spread across one half of the rimmed baking sheet. Season lightly with salt.

Toss pears with 2 tablespoons of canola oil and spread on the other half of the baking sheet. Roast for 25-30 minutes until cooked through and squash is golden brown on the edges. Let cool.

Cut half of a Winter Pear Crown into 1″ slices. Tear the slices into smaller crouton-sized pieces. Place on the second baking sheet, along with the walnuts. Roast for 10-15 minutes to dry the bread and toast the nuts. Let cool.

For the dressing, combine the currants, 2 tablespoons of shallots, 1/2 teaspoon of garlic, sherry vinegar, Dijon mustard, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt in a medium bowl. While whisking continuously, slowly add 1/4 cup canola oil and the extra virgin olive oil. Season to taste with cracked black pepper. Set aside.

Add 2 tablespoons of canola oil to a large oven-safe sauté pan over medium-high heat. Place the chicken breasts skin side down and sauté until deep golden brown. Turn to caramelize the other side. Place sauté pan in oven and roast for 15-20 minutes, until internal temperature registers 165°F on an instant-read meat thermometer.

While chicken is roasting, place the squash, pears, walnuts and toasted bread in a large bowl. In a sauté pan, warm the sherry dressing and add the spinach, tossing lightly to wilt. Add the spinach and warm dressing to the bowl. Gently toss all ingredients together. Season with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Let sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Plate chicken breasts. To the sauté pan, add 2 tablespoons shallots, 1/2 teaspoon garlic and the remaining thyme. Sauté for 1-2 minutes and deglaze with 1 cup white wine. Cook until wine is reduced by half. Turn off heat, add the butter, and whisk until dissolved.

Add a generous scoop of bread salad to each plate and spoon sauce over each chicken breast. I like to serve this autumn dinner with a bottle of full-bodied Tempranillo.

Enjoy!

Thanh Huyen Dang: Bread General Manager

Since I opened Macrina in 1993, so many amazing people have helped make the bakery what it is today. In honor of our 25th anniversary, we are spotlighting a few key employees. Each fills an essential role at Macrina. 

When I interviewed and hired Huyen Dang she was still a senior in high school. Our wholesale pastry manager, Tramy Le, recommended her. Right away Huyen made an impression with her hard work and attention to detail. Over the years she’s proved she can handle big responsibilities. Not only does she know how to do just about every job in production, she is frequently on the floor helping whichever group most needs the help. She plays a key role in our success.

Leslie

Huyen’s Role at Macrina

Thanh Huyen Dang, who goes by Huyen (pronounced “Wen”), is the general manager of Macrina’s bread production. She oversees the teams that prepare the dough, bake the bread, and do the packing. Overall, Huyen manages nearly 100 people. While she has plenty of office work to tackle, you’ll often find her on the production floor shaping loaves of bread. Huyen says, “Because we form every loaf of bread by hand, it is a lot of work.”

Huyen earned her general manager position through hard work and a talent for managing people. She was still in high school when she started working part-time at Macrina in 2002. After finishing high school, she moved to full time in the wholesale pastry department. Two years later, Phuong Bui, Head Baker, invited Huyen to join him in the bread department as his general. She was promoted to Bread General Manager in 2012. 

While many at Macrina know how hard Huyen works, few know it better than Jane Cho, Macrina’s Production Manager. “Huyen’s work ethic is incomparable,” Jane says. “She has the most positive can-do attitude and is always willing to help with whatever is needed.” 

December is always a hectic month at Macrina with holiday production in full swing. Jane remembers her first holiday rush in her new job as Production Manager vividly. “Huyen and I had already been working for 16 hours and still had a lot to do,” Jane says. “I insisted she go home, but she saw that delivery drivers were already starting to arrive and so much packing still had to be done. We formed a tag-team pack station on the fly. We were delirious from exhaustion and just when we thought we were done, someone rolled up a few more racks of bread. We just looked at each other and started to laugh hysterically.” Jane smiles at the memory of Huyen being right there supporting her through the challenge, then adds, “But here’s the thing about Huyen, she does that for everyone—co-managers and employees in all departments. I am so grateful for her support and guidance.”

Huyen and Family

What makes Huyen’s demanding job even more impressive is that she also has three children, ages fifteen, six, and five, to care for. Fortunately, Huyen comes from a close family, and her parents are available to help with the kids. 

Huyen and her family moved to Seattle from Vietnam when she was ten. She attended Whitman Middle School and Ingraham High School. “At first, learning English made school hard,” she says. “My parents don’t speak English. ESL classes at school helped.” 

Fluent in both English and Vietnamese, Huyen helps many of Macrina’s Vietnamese employees when they need help with a translation. “While I speak Vietnamese at home, there are many words related to baking that I didn’t know. My Vietnamese has gotten better in the time I’ve worked here.”

 

Trieu Ly, Packing Department

Since I opened Macrina in 1993, so many amazing people have helped make the bakery what it is today. In honor of our 25th anniversary, we are spotlighting a few key employees. Each fills an essential role at Macrina. 

Trieu Ly is an amazingly disciplined and meticulous person. I admire the pride he takes in his job and the entire performance of the packing department. His gentle personality and touch, both with baked goods and co-workers, make him a treasured member of our team. He’s consistently accurate and kind. He’s one of our best.

Leslie

 

Between all the kneading, proofing, hand-shaping, baking, and delivery of our various products lies one essential step: packing. While easy to overlook as a major step in the process, it’s every bit as important. About 20 people work in our packing department. Our baked goods and pastries are delicate and must be handled with care, and our customers count on us for precision. Their businesses depend on what they order arriving on time and in excellent condition. Trieu Ly fills a critical role in this process.

Trieu in the Packing Department

We hired Trieu to as a packer ten years ago. By personality, he’s neat and organized. Through a translator, he says, “If you’re messy you waste lots of time looking for things. Efficiency is important. I think of the most efficient way to move through the bakery so I gather what I need to pack without wasting steps. At home, I’m the same. Just ask my wife.”

Trieu’s supervisor, Cong Son, backs this up. “Trieu is very organized, neat and careful at his work station,” says Cong. “In ten years, he’s made very few packing mistakes. He also helps me train new employees.”

Trieu and the packing team come in the evening and work late into the night, so that our products are fresh and ready to go in the morning. This schedule works well for Trieu because his wife works at a hotel during the day. When their two boys were younger—the youngest is now 19—this allowed them to have a parent around at all times to help with the many challenges and needs that come with raising children.

At Macrina, Trieu stuffs bread into bags and readies them for drivers. Pastries are packed by order. One of Trieu’s challenges and small joys at work is to look at an order, visualize how he will pack it, and choose a box that will fit without wasted space. “It’s like a puzzle,” he says. “You need to get all the delicate pastries into a box so that they don’t slide all over in delivery. And you don’t want to have to resort to a second box.”

Trieu’s Journey

When Trieu came to America from Vietnam, he had very little. “I had only two shirts and two pairs of pants,” he says. “Macrina helped my family and me a lot. They helped with living expenses, utilities, rent, and more.” 

The story of Trieu meeting his wife is more adventurous than most. The Vietnam War displaced a significant number of Vietnamese citizens. About a million and a half refugees wound up in camps in Thailand, including Trieu’s wife. In 1989, Trieu got a ride into Cambodia, then traveled by foot into Thailand, a month-long journey in all. He and his wife met, fell in love, and married. For a time they stayed happily in Thailand, but eventually, the Thai government forced them to return to Vietnam. Life for returning war refugees in Vietnam was not good. Trieu’s brother, also a refugee, had come to Seattle in 1986. He sponsored Trieu and his family’s resettlement in the U.S. 

“I’m very grateful to America for giving my wife and me an opportunity to work and to get a good education for our kids,” Trieu says.

He dreams of exploring more of America. His list includes skiing at Snoqualmie Pass and a California vacation. “In America, if you follow the rules of the road the police won’t pull you over,” he says. “In Vietnam, I used to get pulled over for a bribe no matter what I did.”

Trieu stays close to family, spending time with the kids when he can and visiting with his brother frequently. In his free time he spends hours tending his garden, and you guessed it, cleaning and organizing the house.

Macrina’s 25th Anniversary Loaf: Skagit Sourdough

Macrina’s Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Loaf: Skagit Sourdough

After twenty-five years of baking numerous types of bread with Macrina, you might think I’d be tired of it. On the contrary! I am as excited to be baking now more than ever. This new loaf is the product of all I have learned, and I am excited to be making something that’s so close to home. With the growing market of organic wheat varieties harvested and processed right here in the Northwest, I feel very fortunate to live where I do.  I wanted the name to reflect where the loaf came from, so Skagit Sourdough was chosen in honor of the many grains grown in Skagit Valley.

I love how the Skagit Sourdough turned out! Creating this loaf has taken months of tinkering. It’s important to get to know how the ingredients work together when creating a new loaf. I do this by making it over and over again with slight alterations. I experiment with ratios and combinations of flour, proofing time and varying types of fermentation, until finally, it’s just right! Being aware of how each step of the process changes the loaf makes all the difference.

The Final Product

There is so much flavor in this loaf. This comes from the grain, the long fermentation, and the original starter I made when Macrina first began. But it’s the germ and the bran that really carry the flavors of the field into the bread. The crust is delightfully crisp, made even more so by flakes of spelt. Spelt is an heirloom grain, one of the oldest in food history. It is naturally high in protein, with a broad range of nutrients that add to the Skagit Sourdough’s nutritional value.

When you cut into the loaf, the interior is tender, moist and incredibly flavorful. This is partially to do with the long fermentation process. I found that a day-long ferment, with a light dose of starter, brought about the great texture and sour flavor I was looking for. There is a balancing sweetness from the natural grain that develops during the fermentation, which is complemented by the nuttiness of the bran. The result is one of our most grain-forward loaves Macrina has ever made. It has so much substance and nutritional value while celebrating the bounty of Northwest in all its natural beauty. You can’t help but feel good while eating it.

On our anniversary, August 27, we will be giving away loaves of the Skagit Sourdough at our cafés in specially designed Macrina totes. Please stop in, grab a loaf and celebrate with us.

Leslie