Laura Farina: Baker & Owner of Farina Bakery
Laura Farina didn’t set out to open a macaron bakery, but three years after graduating from pastry school and up to her ears in macaron orders, that is exactly what’s happened.
Baking has always played a large role in Laura’s life. Growing up, she moved around a lot and it wasn’t long before she figured out the quickest way to make new friends: baked goods. “I would bake to ease social situations,” she explains. “It’s just really fun to see the reaction on people’s faces when you bring a cake or cookies somewhere. If you bring sugar with you, people will immediately like you. It was a nice buffer for me.”
Laura has also been working in kitchens since high school, starting as a bus girl and then working her way up the line. In 2009, she moved to Portland where she received her degree in Baking and Pastry Arts from Le Cordon Bleu. Following her graduation, Laura began working at Nuvrei, a patisserie and cafe in the Pearl known for its French pastries, macarons in particular. There, with Lisa Moss serving as her mentor, Laura learned the ins and outs of making macarons, a notoriously finicky cookie.
When she branched out on her own and began producing wholesale baked goods under the name Farina Bakery in February of 2013, Laura found that macarons quickly became her best-selling item. “I really do think that they picked me,” she explains when asked about why she chose to focus on macarons. “I’m equally interested in cakes and other pastries but it’s really clear that macarons are a thing right now and I need to produce thousands of them each week. I really can’t keep up.” But that’s not to say that Laura doesn’t enjoy what she does. “Macarons are kind of wonderful,” she acquiesces. “They’re like little bursts of sunshine on a rainy, cloudy Portland day.”
Currently, Laura offers about a dozen different macaron flavors including old standbys like salted caramel, raspberry, pistachio, and chocolate and as well as macarons inspired by classic desserts like bananas foster and tiramisu. She also has fun developing specialty seasonal flavors. This year she offered a Guinness caramel macaron for St. Patrick’s Day and malted milk ball for Easter.
Because macarons are so demanding to make “they’re horrible,” Laura says with a laugh. For Laura, a good macaron has some specific qualities. “I like a thin top that’s really flat visually, with some nice feet that are right underneath and aren’t bubbling out to the side,” she explains. “They should be chewy with a little bit of a shell but no air pocket. That chewiness then gives way to a really wonderful buttercream or ganache. Macarons should be like a chewy little cake bite.”
Laura’s macarons have become so popular that she is quickly outgrowing her current space at Kitchen Cru, a bittersweet development as she credits the community kitchen with giving her the tools and support she needed to get Farina Bakery up and running. “I really don’t think I would have ever had the guts to do something like this without a facility like Kitchen Cru,” she says. “It’s like a stainless steel wonderland. They’ve got these beautiful walk-in freezers and a walk-in fridge. You don’t have to worry about all the overhead that’s involved in buying ovens and hoods and dealing with electrical wiring and plumbing. And it’s just so fun to see all these businesses that are trying to grow. It’s a really unique atmosphere. They’ve been so wonderful to me.”
Looking forward, Laura eventually hopes to open her own retail front where she will offer her macarons along with cakes and other pastries. But for now, Farina Bakery macarons are available at a number of Portland cafes and coffee shops including Bowery Bagels, Caffe Umbria, Moonstruck, Christopher David Experience Design, Sterling Coffee Roasters, and Water Avenue Coffee. Macarons, cakes, and other treats are also available by special order.
Find Farina bakery online at www.farinabakery.com.