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

Heyday – Not Your Average Burger Joint


In the kind of cosmic connection that makes us all smile, Gary Snyder, co-owner of Geraldine’s Counter and now co-owner of Heyday, shares a random point of intersection with that other Gary Snyder, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Zen Buddhist, and protagonist of Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums. The publisher of Gary Snyder, the poet, is also named Heyday. Gary Snyder, the restauranteur, had no idea. He and his business partner, Dang Nguyen, chose the playful name because the space is located on Day Street in Seattle’s quiet Mount Baker neighborhood. “Names are really hard to come by,” Snyder said. “My partner came up with Heyday and it just stuck. It works.”


Heyday is no ordinary burger joint. Starting with the interior. The space was designed by Graham Baba, the architect behind many treasured eating spots such as Melrose Market, Chophouse Row, and La Spiga. Floor-to-ceiling windows, sleek lighting, concrete floors, slotted wood on the walls and ceiling, and the use of lots of blue in the tile work that surrounds the bar and an inspired geometric mural that adorns a back wall give the space a warm, modern look.


And the burgers aren’t the usual assortment. The menu was created by Melissa Nyffeler, the former chef/owner of the beloved Capitol Hill restaurant Dinette, which closed in 2013. The Saigon patty has equal portions beef, pork, and shrimp and is topped with Napa cabbage, fresh mint, cilantro, pickled daikon, carrots, and Sriracha aioli. Other offerings are made with lamb, bison, falafel, jerk chicken, and cod. All are served on Macrina Bakery’s potato buns and served with a side of the house-made pickles. Creative starters such as blackened cauliflower are excellent, and so are the hand-cut french fries that are deep-fried twice for the perfect crunch. The thick, crispy onion rings shouldn’t be overlooked. Another standout is the house-made pickled vegetables served with every burger and available as an appetizer.


Snyder and crew went through a lengthy process to choose the right bun for their burgers, looking for one that would hold all the ingredients without getting soggy or being so firm that the filling squeezes out. “Originally I thought we should have a different bun that works for each burger,” Snyder said. “We sampled multiple buns from different bakeries. Macrina’s potato bun just worked, and it worked on every burger. Such a good bun. It toasts really well. We decided we didn’t need different varieties.”


Heyday is family-friendly, with the space split about evenly between seating in the adults-only bar and the all-ages restaurant side. “We get a lot of families. I almost wish I had more room than I do. That’s the part that fills the quickest,” Snyder said.

While the neighborhood is quiet, Heyday is open late. Regular hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m, with the kitchen serving until 10 p.m. At some point next year weekend brunch may become a reality. Keep your ears open. Geraldine’s brunch is so highly-regarded that the to-be-determined offerings will surely be worth investigating.



Behind the Scenes

sh8I’m always surprised how much goes into making one of our short videos. Patrick Kehoe, a local director and photographer, has worked with me to produce eight videos so far. We have our rhythm down. Cooking in front of a camera doesn’t intimidate me—especially with recipes I’ve made hundreds of times before—but it’s still a lot of work. I want everything to look just right and to convey the tranquility I feel living out on Vashon Island and to share my love for cooking, especially with vegetables and fruits and edible flowers I’ve grown myself.


For our fall video I chose pumpkin pie, for the obvious reasons, but also inspired by a beautiful pumpkin in my garden. It still impresses me that this beautiful large squash grew out of one of the dry little seeds I planted in April.

On the day of filming, I woke early—baker’s hours—to get the house ready. The day was overcast, but thankfully not raining, something you can’t count on in October around here. Patrick prefers to film in natural light, so I set up my dining room table near the windows as a work table. I made two recipes of the Flaky Pie Dough from my first cookbook. Since each recipe makes enough for two crusts I’d have plenty extra, just in case. When filming you always need to be sure there is extra. You never know when you might need to reshoot something. Then I set about making one pumpkin pie in advance. Having one finished already makes the shoot go faster. When I put the one I made on camera into the oven, we were able to move right into filming the finished pie.

With my food prep finished I made sure there were eggs in the chicken coop and that nothing had happened to the garden pumpkins. Next I arranged my work table, putting all the tools and ingredients out that I would need. I take great pride in displaying ingredients in colorful bowls and using family dishes collected over the years. The final detail was to instruct my dad, who’d agreed to help, when to get the pizza for lunch. In the past, we’d worked twelve hours without eating. A terrible idea, especially when working with food all day.


Patrick and his assistant Casey arrived punctually at ten with their bags and boxes of cameras. While Casey set up, Patrick and I went over the script I’d prepared. We broke it into nine scenes: fetch eggs from the chicken coop; get pumpkin from the garden; cut, clean, roast pumpkin; roll out the pie dough; bake the crust; make the decorative leaves for the pie with the extra dough; make the filling; bake the pie; cut and serve a slice. With only one dish—the pie—this video was easier than others we’d done.

Before starting each shot we choreograph the action. I explain to Patrick what I’m going to do. We do a dry run to see what it looks like. With our rehearsal done, Patrick sets up the cameras for the shots he wants. As we get going there are lots of pauses, lots of “stand by’s” and “go for it’s.” Often I must repeat actions slowly. Patrick stops to change lenses or cameras, working to get the best shot. He has a remarkable eye, lots of patience, and a great way of talking me through the process.


We progressed from the chicken coop to the garden, getting the shots we needed, all with my dog Louis barking. This is life on the farm. Louis doesn’t tolerate visitors as gracefully as my other dog Jasper.  But the extra noise doesn’t matter since we record the sound last. Patrick mixes the audio with the video back in his studio.

By about noon we had the squash cut and roasting in the oven as well as the pie crust when my dad showed up with the pizza—lunch time. After a short break we resumed filming the finished pie, using the one I had baked earlier in the morning. I always fuss with the final presentation and this time was no different. I added some grapes to the plate for color, added the sweetened whipped cream, and sprinkled the plate with a mix of powdered sugar and cinnamon. Then I added one of the leaves I’d cut from the leftover dough and baked. It didn’t look right. Fortunately I had seven more slices. I nailed it on the next one—without the leaf.


Later in the afternoon we finished filming the filling and had baked the second pie. Only the talking parts remained. Maybe because I’m tired by this point, or because I’m not as practiced at narrating all the details of what I do when I’m cooking, this is always the harder part. I create an outline. This helps me talk more authentically. Patrick is really helpful at pulling out key phrases. While we can do take after take, the more retakes we do the more difficult it feels to me. Sometimes I get too lavish in my descriptions, over-explaining the process, and Patrick has to rein me in. “This is going to be a short video,” he reminds me.

After what feels like too long, my liveliness waning, we had what we needed. Patrick and Casey packed up their gear and I worked on cleaning up the many dishes I’d created, amazed again that it had taken twelve hours to film a four-minute video. But the results were worth it. They always are.


Click here to see the video.