Signature Starter

Macrina Bakery & Café’s Pane Francese is made with their signature Hightower Starter – developed from Hightower Cellars Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Learn how.

Macrina Bakery & Cafe in Seattle is popular for many types of artisan breads. One is known as Pane Francese, which combines Shepherd’s Grain Whole Wheat Flour, unbleached flour and their signature Hightower Starter – developed from Hightower Cellars Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

“People are trying to work with more local products, and to me that’s where the opportunity opened up,” says owner Leslie Mackie of their partnership with Hightower Cellars Vineyard that started about three years ago. “To me, the greatest gift is the whole partnership. We gained a friend and a business partnership.”

Macrina’s Pane Francese, offered as a 1-lb loaf at retail for $3.50, harmonizes the best of French and Italian breads into one unique loaf. It is shaped like a classic French baguette. This long loaf has a lot of crust and a light airy texture with a slightly sour flavor. The bakery also produces a 2-lb loaf used for its sandwich program. “This bread has a light texture with a thin crust,” Mackie says. “It’s very popular. We like it so much we adopted it to our sandwiches.”

To make the Hightower Starter, which is developed from Hightower Cellars Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, Macrina’s follows these steps: 

STEP 1 - Start with freshly picked Hightower Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. “I tasted them and they were actually delicious. Not as sweet as table grapes, but nice sweetness and acid balance. I always thought wine grapes would not be tasty but their flavor is brought out in the process of making wine,” Mackie says.

STEP 2 - Discard any unfavorable grapes. Wash to remove any debris.

STEP 3 - Weigh out grapes to 1½ lb.

STEP 4 - Wrap grapes in cheese cloth to make a sachet.

STEP 5 - Gather needed ingredients: grapes, all-purpose unbleached flour and water. Recipe calls for 1-1/2 lbs grapes, 2 lb all-purpose flour and 3 lb water at 75°F.

STEP 6 - Combine water and flour.

STEP 7 - Mix until smooth.

STEP 8 - Holding grape sachet over bowl, squeeze sachet, releasing juice into the flour mixture. Submerge sachet into flour mixture.

STEP 9 - Let stand for 24 hours at room temperature to start the fermentation process. After 24 hours, remove sachet and discard. Look at the activity from the natural yeast found on the skins of the grapes. Our starter is born.

STEP 10 - Combine your recipe of 2 lb flour and 3 lb water. Mix thoroughly in a separate bowl. This will be added to the starter.

STEP 11 - For your first feeding, you directly add the mixture and again let stand at room temperature for 24 hours. Mix thoroughly.

STEP 12 - The feeding process takes place every day. After the first feeding, discard ½ the starter and feed flour mixture to that. Your volume will get too large if you don't discard. If you have liquid gathering at the top, you need to move your starter into the refrigerator.