Leisen’s Bridgeway Farms is a regular stop for me at the Santa Rosa Veterans Building Farmers’ Market. They have outstanding produce and amazing microgreens in addition to honey, eggs and chickens. They lost everything in the Tubbs Fire but have bravely showed up at the market regularly since then with some storage produce and some winter vegetables, including Dutch cabbage. Dutch cabbage is cone shaped and very sweet.
Janet and Corrie Leisen were on a cruise to Florida when they heard about the fire. The farm has been in the family since 1870, though the couple had only been selling to Bay Area farmers’ markets for the past five years.
They lost hoop houses, olive trees, fig trees, a greenhouse, all of their farm stand supplies, vintage cars and farm vehicles. Leisen estimates that half of their 200 chickens perished. On another 3-acre site where they grow produce, there is no power to water the crops, so they likely will die.
Janet says “It looks like we probably are going to shut down.” She said they weren’t making enough from the farm to justify restarting. Both are 62 and retired from careers in the dental industry.
I know everyone who shops with them at the market feels, as I do, that it would be a great sadness to lose them. They are lively, engaged farmers and sellers. They have encyclopedic knowledge of their products. It is always fun to chat with Janet about her cooking and how she uses the produce and products from their farm. Which brings me to the point of this story. When I was at the market last Saturday, in addition to purchasing one of those Dutch cabbages, Janet and I checked in on how Christmas went for each of us. She is a trouper and, while I know the story is not simple, she said everything was great. That’s who she is.
One thing she did mention was that she had lost all her family recipes for Christmas baking. She said one of her sisters who lives in Chicago had gone to the library and was able to research a Finnish Christmas bread recipe that was similar to the one she remembers from her mother. I never would have thought about that personal loss for families impacted by the fire. Those family recipes are like photographs. They define our clan and reconnect us to our past. A sad loss indeed.
When I was leaving that day, she said another recipe she lost was for biscotti. She said it had anise seeds. I asked if it also had anisette and she said yes. I told her I have a recipe that may be a match. I’ll bake it for her this week and she can do a taste test when I next see her. I hope so, and I hope it helps in a very small way to build bridges back and encourages them build bridges forward.
- 1-¾ cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- Kosher salt
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- ⅔ cup sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon anisette liqueur
- 1-½ teaspoon whole anise seeds
- Preheat oven to 325 F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper, coat with cooking spray.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and pinch of salt. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with the sugar as medium high speed until fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time until just combined. Beat in 1 tablespoon of the anisette. Beat in the dry ingredients at low until just combined. Mix in the anise seeds.
- On the prepared baking sheet, using lightly floured fingers, shape the dough into a slightly flattened log 12 inch long, ¾ inch thick. In a small bowl, whisk the remaining egg with the remaining 1 teaspoon of anisette. Brush the log with the egg mixture. Bake for 20 minutes until pale golden. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let the log cool slightly.
- Using a serrated knife, cut the log into ½ inch slices on the diagonal. Arrange the slices on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake, flipping the biscotti halfway through, for about 10 minutes. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let the biscotti cool.