Seattle's Macrina Bakery has come of age, with a new flagship in SoDo worthy of its founder Leslie Mackie, the "Goddess of Bakers."
LESLIE MACKIE, who opened Seattle’s first Macrina Bakery in Belltown in 1993, might be Seattle’s most well-known baker. She’s been nominated repeatedly for the James Beard Award for “Outstanding Pastry Chef,” and she’s an active member of the Bread Bakers Guild of America. Chef Tom Douglas has dubbed her Seattle’s “Goddess of Bakers.” But up until last year when she decided to consolidate operations for her three bakeries to one place in SoDo, she never had a location worthy of her reputation, or enough space to meet the ever-growing demand for her breads and pastries.
Now she’s well-installed in a soaring, 100-year-old, concrete-and-timber building at 1943 First Ave. S. that earned Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) status for its renovation. At 15-plus, the bakery has truly come of age.
“At the old location,” says Mackie, “we were bursting at the seams.” The original Belltown space housed production, dining and retail in 847 square feet until the bakery acquired a basement under Wasabi Bistro, half a block away. “Out of there, we were supplying the Belltown café, the Queen Anne café, and a café on Vashon Island.” (The Vashon location was closed after the new SoDo location was up and running.)
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“I never wanted a bread factory or a commissary kitchen; I think it’s important to connect the process with the product.” So just like the original store, the new bakery is equipped with windows into the fabrication areas so that customers can watch breads and pastries take shape. “People need to see the hands of the workers and understand that there is skill and artistry as well as flour and water involved in making bread.”
The new space is still intimate, but in its new incarnation, there’s ample room for tables, chairs and the conga lines of customers who crowd the service counters at lunchtime for a sandwich or a fresh baked roll and a bowl of house-made soup. There’s also room for art. Overhead, a paper chandelier takes the whimsical form of an inverted wedding cake, and across the dining room, a mural of a pear tree by Seattle artist Jane Bradbury is rendered on eight panels of hand-beaten silver leaf. It’s stunning, more worthy of a gallery than a bakery, and yet the same might be said of Macrina’s breads and pastries, unwrapped and lavishly arrayed on top of the counter and in the display cases. This is food as art, and the new bakery serves as its frame.
Greg Atkinson is a chef instructor at Seattle Culinary Academy. He can be reached at email@example.com. John Lok is a Seattle Times staff photographer.
Macrina’s Rustic Potato Loaf
Makes 1 large loaf
“This,” writes Leslie Mackie in her 2003 “Macrina Bakery and Café Cookbook,” “is Macrina’s most sought-after loaf.” Mackie leaves the peels on the potatoes. They give the bread “a fuller flavor and more interesting texture.” The recipe calls for a baking stone and a baker’s peel (paddle). Wing it without the peel if you must, but a serious baker will want a stone, which can be purchased at a good kitchen store for less than $50.
1 ¼ pounds (about 2 medium) russet potatoes
1 tablespoon kosher salt, divided
1 ½ teaspoons dried yeast
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Spray bottle of water
1. Scrub the potatoes and cut them into 1-inch chunks. Place potatoes and 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the potatoes are tender when poked with a knife, about 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes and save ½ cup of the cooking liquid. Cool to 90 degrees, about the temperature of a warmed baby bottle.
2. In a small mixing bowl, whisk the reserved potato water with the yeast.
3. Pile the drained potatoes in a the bowl of a stand mixer. With the paddle attachment mash the potatoes on low speed for 1 minute. Motor in the olive oil, then the potato water and yeast mixture. (If mixing by hand, mash the potatoes with a potato masher, then mix in the olive oil and potato water with a wooden spoon in a large mixing bowl.)
4. Exchange the paddle attachment for the dough hook and on low speed, motor in the remaining salt and the flour on low speed, then increase speed to medium and mix for 11 minutes. (If mixing by hand, stir in the salt, then stir in the flour one cup at a time, switching from the wooden spoon to your clean bare hand for the last cup, then knead the dough by hand for 10 minutes or until the dough is springy and elastic.) When the dough is ready, a small amount pinched between two fingers will stretch to two inches before breaking. Transfer the dough to an oiled, medium-sized mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to proof in a warm place until it is doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
5. Transfer the risen dough to a floured work surface and flatten it with your hands into a rectangle. Starting with a short end, roll the dough away from you to form a tight log. Just before the log is sealed, stop rolling and dust the last inch of dough with flour. (This will create a seam that will open slightly while the loaf bakes.) Wrap the dough, seam-side-down in a well-floured dish towel and let it proof at room temperature for 45 minutes.
6. While the loaf is proofing, place a baking stone on the center rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Carefully unwrap the risen loaf and plant it, seam-side-up on a baker’s paddle or a sturdy piece of clean cardboard. Moving swiftly, transfer the loaf from the baker’s paddle to the center of the baking stone and heavily mist the oven with a spray bottle. After 5 minutes, mist the oven again, then continue baking until the loaf is well-browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, a total of 45 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes before slicing.
— Adapted from “Macrina Bakery and Café Cookbook”