Spring Spark: An Encore Performance with PNB

Pacific Northwest Ballet’s spring fundraiser pairs ballet dancers with pastry chefs to create unique desserts.  

One of the tastiest fundraisers in town is back for an encore performance this Saturday, May 11, at the Francia Russell Center in Bellevue. Pacific Northwest Ballet’s (PNB) Spring Spark is a one-night event where ballet dancers, local distilleries, and Seattle’s dessert virtuosos collide in a night of celebration and support. Guests will have the pleasure of sampling and voting for their favorite desserts and signature cocktails. 

Last year, we collaborated with Lucien Postlewaite, and our Oberon’s Rose Pavlova won the playful competition for best dessert. We’re honored to be invited back for another pas de deux! This year, our dance partner is Leta Biasucci, a principal dancer at PNB. “I’ve long been a huge fan of Macrina’s pastries, and since the opening of the Maple Leaf location, I’ve had the pleasure of sharing regular Cornetto dates with my 17-month-old daughter, Alma,” says Leta. “So when I had the opportunity to work alongside the individuals behind Macrina’s magic, I was so excited!” 

After weeks of auditioning ideas and refining them, Leta and our pastry team have a winner: The Earl of Puff, an airy pâte à choux filled with an Earl Grey Bavarian cream and rhubarb raspberry compote.  

Our pastry team is composed of Leslie Mackie, Macrina’s founder, Katarina Ducharme, our Retail Production Manager, and Sam Stout, our Retail Pastry General Manager. “We had the pleasure of talking favorite pastries with Leta,” says Leslie. “She’s a brilliant dancer and lives a demanding life performing, traveling, and being a mother. When she gets a break, she enjoys a warm cup of tea and her knitting or a good book. It restores her.” 

Leta also mentioned that her dessert preferences run toward rustic Italian. With those factors in mind, we set about experimenting, going in several different directions, and ultimately landing on our variation on the cream puff. Pulling in Leta’s love of tea, we came up with the Earl Grey pastry cream filling and the seasonal touch of the rhubarb.  

At our final tasting, Leta suggested refinements and our pastry team set to work. We’re happy to announce that The Earl of Puff is ready for its debut on Saturday night! And for those of you not attending the Spring Spark, the dessert will be available in our cafés over the Mother’s Day weekend from May 10–12.  

“Sam, Katarina, and Leslie are such masters of their craft,” says Leta. “Having a front row seat to Macrina’s creative process has been such a privilege and wonderful experience. I am so excited to share this special dessert at Spring Spark!” 

We, too, look forward to the playful competition at the Spring Spark and tasting the many other fine desserts and libations. “This is such a fun and privileged project to work with Leta and PNB,” says Leslie. 

Celebrating Mothers!

 

Tramy Thi Le, our GM of Wholesale Pastry, raised two daughters while managing a large team at Macrina. 

Penelope Phan is set to graduate with honors from Smith College, one of the nation’s best, on May 19, 2024. She has been accepted into a master’s program and dreams of becoming a university professor. No one is prouder than her mother, Tramy Thi Le, our GM of Wholesale Pastry, and a working mom. Her younger daughter, Paulina, a high school senior, will attend Bryn Mawr College in the fall — another prestigious school. 

“My goal was to have both daughters get their bachelor’s degrees,” says Tramy. “I’m so proud of them. God keeps us in his good hands.” 

Originally from Vietnam, Tramy moved to Seattle with her then-husband in 2000, seeking a fresh start and a better life. Three months after arriving, she began working at Macrina. Following a divorce in 2012, she faced the challenges of being a single working mother. “Macrina was very supportive,” Tramy recalls. “They offered me flexibility when I needed time off for my daughters’ appointments.” 

Tramy’s mother also played a crucial role in raising the girls, traveling back and forth from Vietnam over eight years to provide support.  

“Tramy has two wonderful daughters and still maintains a demanding work schedule with us at Macrina,” says Leslie Mackie, Macrina’s founder. “I attribute our success in wholesale pastry to her. She worked in retail pastry for four years and learned our foundational recipes and more detailed finishing with cakes and tarts, which helped us develop more wholesale pastry offerings.” 

Since 2013, Tramy has been the general manager of our wholesale pastry team, which now includes over 50 people, mostly Vietnamese immigrants. Tramy, who studied English at Seattle Central Community College, is fluent in both English and Vietnamese. With 24 years of professional baking experience and a background as a teacher in Vietnam, she effectively trains new hires as our department continues to grow. 

Reflecting on the dual challenges of being a primary caregiver and having a demanding career, Tramy emphasizes her continuous learning journey. “When my daughters were teenagers, they had changing needs, and I had to adapt my parenting style to support them better,” she explains. “I worked on controlling my emotions and staying calm.” 

Remaining positive is a hallmark of Tramy’s leadership at Macrina. She is an effective communicator who leads by example and listens carefully to her crew — usually with a smile on her face.  

“I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to grow myself at Macrina,” says Tramy. “Balancing motherhood and managing a team hasn’t always been easy, but my daughters appreciate very much all I do for them. I’m incredibly proud of them.” 

Recipe of the Month: Mother’s Day Cake

This cake is inspired by the Norwegian cake known as verdens beste, “the world’s best.” The story behind it is almost as good as the cake itself. In the 1930s, Hulda Ottestad, a café owner in Harstad, a town on Norway’s largest island, Hinnøya, bought two recipes from a Danish pastry chef. She transformed one of them into what’s known today as Kvæfjordkake. Over the years, the cake’s popularity surged, and in 2002, it was crowned Norway’s National Cake. I’d never baked a sponge cake and meringue in the same pan and was intrigued. I tried several variations, settling on the following recipe, which uses sweetened whipped cream in place of custard. The luscious combination of sponge cake, almond meringue, berries and cream comes together with surprising ease, making it a great addition to any Mother’s Day brunch!

Printable PDF

Makes 8 servings.

Cake Layer
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar 1
tsp lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup King Arthur cake flour (or a gluten-free equivalent like Bob’s Red Mill GF One-to-One Baking Flour)
1 tsp baking powder
4 egg yolks (reserve egg whites for the meringue)
1/3 cup milk

Meringue Layer
4 egg whites
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup + 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
2/3 cup sliced raw almonds

Cream Filling
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 cup fresh strawberries, 1/2-inch dice

Garnish
2 Tbsp powdered sugar
12 whole strawberries

Cake Layer
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Prepare a 9-inch square baking pan by brushing it with neutral flavored oil and lining it with a 12-inch square piece of parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together for 3 to 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the lemon zest and vanilla extract, mixing well to combine.

Sift together the flour and baking powder. With the mixer running at low speed, gradually add the sifted ingredients to the butter mixture, mixing until you have a smooth paste.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and milk together. With the mixer set to medium speed, gradually add the egg yolk mixture to the batter in three additions, mixing for 30 seconds after each addition. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl, ensuring all ingredients are well combined.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared baking pan.

Meringue Layer
Clean and dry the mixer bowl. Using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed. Sprinkle in the salt and cream of tartar. Once the egg whites become foamy, gradually add the sugar, and continue to whisk on high speed for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the meringue becomes shiny and holds firm peaks.

Scoop the meringue onto the top of the cake batter, smoothing it so it covers the cake. Sprinkle the sliced almonds evenly over the meringue.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the meringue is dry to the touch and almonds are golden brown.

Let cool for 15 minutes. Run a paring knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake. Carefully lift the cake out of the pan using the overhanging parchment paper and place it on a wire rack to cool completely.

Cream Filling
Clean and dry the mixer bowl. Fit the stand mixer with the whisk attachment and whip the heavy cream on medium-high speed. Gradually add the sugar and continue to whip until the cream is firm but not curdled in texture.

Fold the diced strawberries gently into the whipped cream. Keep the mixture chilled until you’re ready to assemble the cake.

Assembly
When the cake has completely cooled, remove the parchment liner and cut the cake in half, to make two 4½-inch x 9-inch pieces.

Place one piece of the cake, almond-side down, on your serving plate. Spread the strawberry whipped cream evenly over this layer. Top with the second cake half, almond-side up. Chill the assembled cake for 30 minutes to firm it up for slicing.

Using a serrated knife, gently cut the cake into 1½-inch slices, taking care not to squeeze out the filling. Before serving, dust the top of each slice with powdered sugar and garnish with fresh strawberries. Enjoy!

 

Meet Cong Son: General Manager of Packing

 

Cong won our Continuously Improving Core Value Award 

People committed to a life of continuous learning show up with curiosity. They’re skilled listeners and keen observers. Cong Son, our GM of Packing, is one of those individuals. From the day he first stepped into our bakery, Cong has been a dedicated student.  

Shortly after his family moved to Seattle from Vietnam, Cong came to Macrina in 2014 looking for a part-time job. He’d heard good things about the company from a friend he met in his ESL classes at Seattle Central. We hired him into the packing department. A year later, he became a full-time employee. His quick mastery of day packing, night packing, slicing, pastry packing, and labeling — the full range of packing activities— underscored his rapid advancement. A promotion to packing lead was followed by another to assistant manager. Then in September 2023, we promoted Cong to general manager of packing. Cong manages a staff of about 30 people. Over three shifts, they pack and label all our breads, pastries and other baked goods.  

Cong speaks fluent Vietnamese and Cambodian and his English is commendable, especially considering it’s his third language. Still, Cong is challenging himself to improve his English. “Now that I’m a general manager, I want to be better able to communicate with general managers of other departments,” Cong says. “Communicating with my team is easy. Many of them speak Vietnamese, and we work together every day.”  

Challenges stimulate Cong. “I’ve been learning computers in my new role,” he says. “Macrina is giving me a lot of support. Like they did by sponsoring ESL classes for me and other managers earlier in my career.”   

Cong seemed to be the only person surprised when he won our Continuously Improving Core Value Award. “Seeing my name on the plaque was a surprise,” he says. “I keep learning, keep building new skills, and taking on more responsibility.”  

That’s the attitude and work ethic Cong brought to Macrina and that has carried him into the ranks of general managers.  

Beyond his professional success, Cong Son finds joy and balance in his personal life. Making his home in the Rainier Valley near Columbia City, Cong enjoys time with his family. Depending on the season, you’ll find him spending his free time digging clams and geoducks on Vashon Island or squidding in Elliot Bay.  

Cong’s journey is a testament to the power of continuous improvement and the opportunities it brings. 

Kilts For Kids! Vote and Get a Free Coffee and Cookie!

Free cookie and a drip coffee for all voters when you stop by and vote at one of our cafes! 

VOTE HERE!

Kilts for Kids is a charity event organized by the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) to support the needs of children and their families. Macrina joined in 2019 at the invitation of Manny Chao, Georgetown Brewing’s founder and avid RMHC supporter. We’ve been a faithful supporter ever since and we’re at it again this year.  

The spirited competition requires participants to don kilts and encourage people to vote for them. With a $10 donation per vote, RMHC has raised over $700,000 since 2012. This funding provides a crucial lifeline to families who must travel to access critical medical care for their children. RMHC’s offerings include Ronald McDonald Houses—a comforting haven for families with hospitalized children — and Ronald McDonald Family Rooms, which offer a peaceful respite within hospitals. Additionally, the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile program delivers essential healthcare services to underserved communities. 

Motivated by our competitive spirit and a desire to raise significant funds for children in need, we are offering a free drip coffee and cookie (excluding our Brown Sugar Shortbread Cookies) as a thank-you to all voters for each vote cast. 

Voting begins on April 8 and runs through April 22. Vote early and vote often! This is one kilt-raiser you can feel good about.   

VOTE HERE!

Thank you!  

Our New Ancient Grain Loaf

A hearty gluten-free loaf made for bread lovers (made in a gluten-friendly environment) 

At Macrina, in particular over the last decade, we’ve been baking with more and more heritage grains. We’re fortunate to have a close relationship with the renowned Bread Lab and Cairnspring Mills, both located nearby in the Skagit Valley. The quality, flavor and nutrition of the heritage grains they make available, many grown in-state, has led to thrilling possibilities. 

One goal has been to make a gluten-free loaf that celebrates different grains without compromising on flavor or texture. Leslie Mackie, Macrina’s founder, has spent months experimenting in our test kitchen to develop a loaf that rises to her standards. The result is our Ancient Grain Loaf. “This is unlike any other gluten-free loaf I’ve tasted,” says Leslie. “It’s highly nutritious, packed with fiber, minerals, and vitamins, and its excellent flavor makes it ideal for open-faced sandwiches or toast.” 

Teff and millet, two ancient grains naturally free of gluten, add flavor and texture. Brown rice flour and finely-ground oats round out the grains, to which we add organic flax and chia seeds, olive oil and honey for enhanced flavor and richness. A long, slow fermentation process allows the bread to develop a semi-dense texture while retaining plenty of moisture. The bread has a subtly nutty flavor with a hint of honey sweetness.  

At room temperature, the bread has a shelf life of two days, but refrigerated it will stay fresh up to a week.

Creamy Risotto with Mushrooms and Broccolini

April’s lengthening days and blooming tulips hint at upcoming visits to the farmer’s market and dining al fresco, yet the persistent showers and crisp evenings make me crave healthy comfort food. Risotto, a dish I find appealing throughout the year, feels particularly fitting now. This straightforward recipe can be prepared in just over 30 minutes and is surprisingly easy to make. By incorporating half the stock initially, you only need to stir occasionally while sautéing the vegetables, then focus more as it approaches readiness. The broccolini introduces a refreshing burst of green and harmonizes well with the lemon zest. Meanwhile, the mushrooms add a rich umami flavor to the risotto, enhancing its overall depth.

Printable PDF of this recipe here.
Makes 4 servings.

½ cup olive oil, divided
¼ cup shallots, finely diced (approximately 2 each)
1 cup Arborio rice
5 cupes chicken or vegetable stock (you may not use all of it)
3 cups fresh mushrooms (chanterelle, shiitake, oyster, or button)
4 cups broccolini, cut into 1½-inch sections (2 bunches)
1 heaping Tbsp garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
1 cup Parmesan, finely grated, divided
1 lemon, for zesting

In a medium saucepan, heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil over medium heat and then add the shallots. When the shallots are translucent, stir in the Arborio rice. Coat the rice completely in the oil, then pour in half the stock. Simmer for about 35 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally, gradually adding more stock as the rice absorbs it.

Meanwhile, wipe the mushrooms with paper towels to clean them. Trim the ends and slice the mushrooms into ½-inch pieces. In a sauté pan, heat ¼ cup olive oil over medium high heat, then add the mushrooms, sautéing until they are golden brown. Lower the heat slightly and add the remaining 2 Tbsp of olive oil, broccolini and garlic. Sauté for another 2 minutes and season to taste with salt and fresh ground pepper.

When the rice is al dente, fold in the vegetables and ½ cup of Parmesan into the risotto. Stir gently over low heat for a minute to marry the flavors. The risotto should be tender but firm to the bite. If it’s on the stiff side, stir in a bit more stock to loosen it up (it continues to absorb liquid even off the heat).

Divide the risotto between 4 plates and garnish with the remaining Parmesan. Grate lemon zest over each portion using a microplane. Excellent on its own, the risotto is even better served with a warm crusty loaf of Macrina Casera bread and a generous bowl of extra virgin olive oil for dipping. Enjoy!

 

Pan de Muerto: Order Ahead for Dia de los Muertos


Pan de Muerto is a soft, round, sweet yeast-risen bread –– similar in texture to challah –– with a crunchy cinnamon sugar glaze studded with fresh orange zest and spiced with orange flower water, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves. We lay two crossed links of dough over the top to symbolize crossbones, representing those no longer among the living. The bread is excellent sliced and toasted for breakfast or dipped in Mexican hot chocolate as an afternoon snack.

History of Pan de Muerto

The bread of the dead — is traditionally placed on Dia de los Muertos ofrendas to celebrate a family’s ancestors. The Day of the Dead, celebrated on November 1–2, is a time when the souls of the dead reunite with the living. Pan de Muerto is taken to the gravesite, often along with photos and the favorite foods of the deceased and is eaten there. Food is very important to the celebration, for it is believed that the dead are drawn back to the living by the scent of their favorite foods. The tradition dates back hundreds of years and honors the belief, held by many in the Latino and Indigenous communities, that their ancestors are a part of the community — present on another plane of existence. Macrina’s Pan de Muerto is made in honor of this wonderful tradition.
Our Pan de Muerto is available online and in cafés until 11/2. Each loaf feeds four living souls or countless spirits present on another plane.

Order ahead now! 

Recipe of the Month: Apple Pie Braid

Sometimes you want to shake things up when making apple pies in the fall. I love using phyllo dough for its crisp and light texture, nicely contrasting with the baked apple filling. Phyllo layers are found in the freezer section of most grocery stores and offer many options for savory and sweet treats. If the thought of working with pastry intimidates you, rest assured phyllo is your friend. The key is to prevent it from drying out as you assemble the braid. Simply keep it covered with plastic, and you should be fine. The end result? A stunning braided pie with a buttery, flaky crust.
-Leslie Mackie

Printable PDF of this recipe here.
Makes 4-6 Servings.

Ingredients  
3 large Granny Smith apples
¾ cup granulated sugar, divided
1 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
½ tsp ground cinnamon
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into ½-inch cubes
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 sheets of phyllo dough, 9 x 14-inch (covered with plastic and defrosted)
1 Tbsp powdered sugar

  
Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare 2 rimmed baking pans by lining them with parchment paper.

Peel, core, and slice the apples into ½-inch wedges. In a medium bowl, toss the apple wedges with ¼ cup sugar, flour and cinnamon. Spread evenly in one layer on one of the lined baking sheets.

Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature. This step evaporates some of the juices, helping prevent the base of the tart from getting soggy.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a separate small bowl, make the vanilla sugar by mixing the remaining ½ cup sugar with the vanilla extract.

On the second baking pan, lay a sheet of phyllo dough with its long side parallel to the long side of the baking sheet. Lightly brush the surface with melted butter. Layer on the second sheet of phyllo and brush again with butter. Add the third layer, lightly brushing with butter, and sprinkling a heaping tablespoon of vanilla sugar evenly over the sheet. Repeat this same procedure for the next 4 sheets. For the 8th sheet, lightly brush with butter, then arrange the baked apples lengthwise in the center, forming a 3-inch-wide row.

Along both lengthwise edges of the phyllo, use scissors to make 5 evenly spaced cuts, each about 2½-inches long, at a slight angle toward the center. This will leave you with six strips on each side. Fold these strips over the apples, braiding them in the center (start at one end, crossing alternating strips to create a braided pattern). Brush the braid with the remaining butter and sprinkle any remaining vanilla sugar on top.

Increase the oven temperature to 375°F. Bake the apple pie braid on the center rack for 40 to 45 minutes, or until light golden brown. Let cool for 30 minutes.

Before serving, dust the braid with powdered sugar. Enjoy with sweetened whipped cream or your favorite fall ice cream!

Employee Recipe Series: Matt Galvin’s Bui Bun Meatball Sub

We’re celebrating our 30th Anniversary by sharing some of our staff’s favorite recipes using Macrina Bakery products.

You know those nights when you want a break from cooking, but you and the kids are famished? Matt Galvin, co-owner of Macrina, knows them all too well. With four kids — hungry from soccer, ballet, and life — he would often turn to the cheesy, saucy, messy splendor of a meatball sandwich made with DeLaurenti’s meatballs, marinara sauce, and melted fresh mozzarella on Macrina’s Bui Buns. “The whole thing comes together in minutes, and you can scale it if, say, one of your kids brings a friend or three.”

Matt found a love of food working in many local restaurants and developed a fondness for Italian food while living in Italy. “The meatball sandwich is an Italian-American creation,” he says. “Like most Italian dishes, it’s just a few ingredients in the right proportion. The quality of the ingredients makes all the difference. Use excellent meatballs, fresh mozzarella, and the right bread, and you’ve got a dynamite meal.”

Macrina’s head baker, Phuong Bui, designed these buns specifically for the banh mi, the famous sandwich from his native Vietnam. It boasts a crisp crust and tender, airy crumb that Matt says is perfect for the ultimate meatball sandwich.

“DeLaurenti makes the best meatballs,” says Matt. “I heat them in DeLaurenti’s marinara sauce, slice up a few balls of Ferndale Farms fresh mozzarella, fill a Bui Bun with a couple of meatballs, top it with a spoonful of marinara and a few slices of mozzarella, then broil it briefly to melt the cheese. It’s pretty simple.”