If you live in the Seattle area, this book probably needs no introduction. If you don’t, however, the name of the popular Macrina Bakery probably doesn’t ring a bell – yet. The bakery is known well for its top-quality baked goods and breads, the kind that make even chefs go out of their way to stop in when they’re in the area. The bakery emphasizes the use of organic, local and natural (and high-quality, of course) ingredients.
Leslie Mackie’s Macrina Bakery and Cafe Cookbook is a collection of some of the most popular recipes from the bakery, and it includes breads, cakes, cookies pies and a variety of other pastries. Although there are more sweet/pastry types of recipes in the book than breads, the breads still get top billing in the book and there is no doubt about how important they are to the bakery when you read Leslie Mackie’s thoughts on them. She details how to set up a “natural” or sourdough starter using organic grapes, as well as information on how to keep it going and why it’s such a great way to bake bread. Biga starters and active dry yeast are used for some of the other bread recipes.
The cakes and pastries all sound delicious and most seem to stand out from the usual muffin-coffeecake-cookie fare you might expect to see in a similar cookbook. The flavors combinations are usually a bit out of the ordinary and special care is taken to make sure that those flavors always come through in the finished product. The muffins, quickbreads, cookies and other similar types recipes are clear and easy to follow, as are the instructions for the breads and pastries. That said, since the pastries and breads require a lot of from-scratch components (croissant dough for the pastries, for instance) and waiting around (for natural fermentation), the recipes can be quite time consuming – although the results are well worth it.
If you’ve ever been to the bakery, this book is a good way to find out how some of your favorites are made. It’s also a good addition to the collection of a baker who is interested in doing more from-scratch breads and pastries. The only drawback is that the book is short on photos, although some instructive illustrations are thrown in to help. This isn’t a dealbreaker, although it would have been a nice inclusion, because the finished products speak for themselves and you’re unlikely to be disappointed with your results.