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Manresa Head Baker Avery Ruzicka Launches a Spinoff: ManresaBread

Eater's new column Drawn & Ordered reveals what's on the menu at the hotly anticipated bakery, opening later this week.

After nearly two years of farmer's market pop-ups and one devastating fire at the mothership, ManresaBread, the bakery-focused spinoff of the two-Michelin-starred California restaurant, is finally ready to open its doors later this month. For baker/co-owner Avery Ruzicka, the brick-and-mortar bakery — located around the corner from Manresa — represents the "natural progression" from her role as the restaurant's head baker. "Bread has been used in desserts, in amuse, it's been used in entrees," Ruzicka says of bread's role on the constantly evolving Manresa menu. "Our pumpernickel, some of our different sourdoughs have been used in sauces, as a toast for something simple — like sea urchin, caviar," she says. "It depends on the inspiration of the moment." (In the past, Manresa's chef/owner David Kinch has called Ruzicka's bread program, which also includes a bread course highlighting four to five varieties, "pretty ambitious.")

ManresaBread's new 800-square-foot space represents the concept's first time in a legitimate bakery. "We were in a two-Michelin-starred kitchen, and we were shoving lambs around to put our racks in the walk-in," Ruzicka laughs. "The changes that we've been able to make in the bread, just based on the consistency of the environment that we're in, have been monumental." The recipes remain the same, "but because the walk-in stays a consistent temperature — versus everyone's in and out all day long — we've taken our bread from 18 hours of fermentation to a minimum of 36 hours," she says. "That's been really exciting."

After the bakery opens, which should be by the end of the month, Ruzicka will continue the existing ManresaBread farmer's market stalls and pop-ups. (Kinch and Manresa partner Andrew Burnham have also hinted that future locations could be forthcoming.)

Here now, a look at the ManresaBread bakery menu on the day it officially opens — expect lots of loaves, sweet and savory pastries, and some very beloved brioche:

Whole wheat loaf:
According to Ruzicka, the ManresaBread menu will offer seven "daily" bread varieties, with one or two rotating specials. Considered one of ManresaBread's "everyday loaves," the round of whole wheat bread joins Ruzicka's signature levain (a sourdough bread with white flour), baby baguettes, and what Ruzicka calls "high-butter content" brioches as crossovers from the Manresa menu.

For all of Ruzicka's breads, wheat flour, rye flour, spelt, and flax seed are sourced from Southern Oregon's Camas Country Mill, which provides non-commodity products. "They're either farming it themselves or they buy it directly from farms that are local, and they're milling it right there," Ruzicka says of the family-owned farm. "It doesn't enter the commodity wheat market at all. It's literally a very small loop, and we really love it." For the whole wheat loaf, Ruzicka uses a red fife variety. Other daily loaves include whole wheat polenta sourdough; a rye and whole wheat fruit-and-nut bread dotted with currants, raisins, pumpkin seeds; and a "sandwich loaf" — "it's got a little bit of a tighter crumb, so it's good for sandwiches," Ruzicka says. Potential rotating bread varieties: olive sourdough, buckwheat, and buckwheat cherry.

Sweet & savory tarts:
"Having grown from the restaurant itself and all of us having a fine-dining background, the menu definitely lends itself more toward classic dessert pastries, things that are more technique-driven versus a sugar bomb," Ruzicka says. To that end, croissants hew toward classics — chocolate, almond — and the layered croissant dough also emerges in sweet and savory tarts. On the savory side, a potato with gruyere and onion tart makes many appearances on the ManresaBread Instagram feed: Its edges are sprinkled with a sunflower seed and millet mixture for added texture.

Chocolate brioche:
In Manresa Bread's series of pop-ups, Ruzicka's chocolate brioche has proved a popular item, which she attributes to its high-butter, low-sugar content. "The chocolate brioche is based off of a simple sponge brioche recipe I had," Ruzicka says, noting "it actually has the same amount of sugar as the brioche we serve at Manresa." But the intense chocolate flavor comes through in the use of Valrhona chocolate (a premium French brand) and additional chocolate chunks; the whole thing is then topped with pearl sugar, "compressed so that when you bake the brioche, the sugar doesn't melt," Ruzicka says. Valrhona chocolate appears elsewhere on the pastry menu, most notably in the shop's current cookie variety: a soft-baked Valrhona chocolate and toasted walnut cookie.

Kale and parmesan scones:
Although Ruzicka mentions her variety of "sandwich bread," the brick-and-mortar bakery is holding off on sandwiches and other lunch items for now. (She does note that eventually serving sandwiches is "something we're very much interested in.") In the meantime, those seeking a savory fix can look to the aforementioned onion tart and a kale and parmesan scone — one of two scones planned for the daily bakery menu — paired with drip coffee by Santa Cruz's Verve Coffee Roasters. (Espresso service, Ruzicka says, could also be coming soon.)

Check out Eater's past coverage on ManresaBread here.


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