Rachael Coyle — whose résumé includes The Herbfarm, Columbia City Bakery and Le Pichet — now runs her own stellar bakery in Greenwood.
The cretzel might be all the rage at Coyle’s Bakeshop, but it isn’t owner Rachael Coyle’s favorite thing.
Sure, she likes the extra-crunchy, super-buttery croissant-pretzel hybrid. “The cretzel is really fun and it’s very tasty, and I wouldn’t serve it if it were just gimmicky,” Coyle says. She’d heard about them — she’s not exactly sure of their origin — then did a class with the author of “Pretzel Making at Home” at the Book Larder, Fremont’s community cookbook shop where she was culinary director for two years. Afterward, she had leftover lye, and thought, why not make cretzels for her Book Larder pop-up bake sales?
They sold like crazy. She’s happy that people love them — but there’s so much else to try at her brand-new Greenwood bakery.
Plan a visit
7 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays, 8300 Greenwood Ave. N., Seattle (206-257-4736 or coylesbakeshop.com).
“I want people to be like, ‘I’m going to see what’s here today, what’s seasonal or what just came out of the oven,’ ” Coyle says. “If you become known for this one thing, that’s the only thing people want to try. It becomes sort of like this checklist: ‘I went to that place, and I had the thing that you have there,’ and then: done.”
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It would be a baked-good tragedy to miss out on Coyle’s seasonal stuff. Last week, she made a tender olive-oil cake, its sweet-crisped, golden-brown top dusted with powdered sugar, the inside mined with springtime’s first tart, optimistically pink rhubarb.
In the savory department — Coyle is a firm supporter of the equality of sweet and savory in baking — there was a croissant shaped like a windowpane framing a filling of roasted red onions, blue cheese and frilly dark-green rapini. When local asparagus arrives any day now, she’ll make a pastry with that and green garlic pesto.
“Pretty simple,” she says.
When Coyle’s Bakeshop first opened, her work sold out so fast that customers got mad. “I think some people thought it was a marketing ploy,” she says. “I was like, ‘No! I don’t want to run out!’ ”
Coyle uses social media to tell everybody what the Bakeshop is up to, letting customers know what’s new and gently dispelling the expectation that the selection will always be the same. “It seems to be working,” she says. “People seem to accept that we’re not going to have a raspberry tart except in, like, July.”
It helps that whatever you might find is bound to be very, very good. Coyle’s pastry ranks with Seattle’s very best: Café Besalu, Crumble & Flake, Honoré. Her plain croissant, a litmus test, is a buttery-browned shell encasing light, melty layers in a whorl as delicate as a fingerprint.
Her expertise is the product of years of devotion. Growing up in Seattle, she started baking in second grade, trying a few recipes and then going free-form for some apple minimuffins, which her friends said were good but she found substandard. “It was the first time I had that sort of dissonance between the thing that was in my head and the thing that I wanted it to be,” she says — yes, in second grade. By fifth grade, she was baking baroque cakes from the pages of Gourmet.
After a detour to Cornell for an English degree (“I enjoyed it, but I was always thinking about cooking and baking”), she went to the French Culinary Institute in New York. Her first job, right out of the gate, was as pastry chef at the renowned Herbfarm under the great Jerry Traunfeld. Her résumé also lists Seattle treasures Columbia City Bakery and Le Pichet.
Opening her own place has been a quest. The Book Larder pop-ups were a testing ground while Coyle gathered resources for her shop; she plans to “pay it forward” by hosting pop-up dinners (and also hints at her own eventual dinner menu). She bought the antique chandelier that hangs in the airy, pretty space four years ago. “I thought, ‘I’ll definitely need this soon,’” she laughs. Before Coyle’s Bakeshop finally launched about a month ago, her mom took all the crystals off the chandelier to polish them to the perfect shine. It sparkles above the baked goods like a dream come true.