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Manresa Bread in California

Avery Ruzicka, Founder

Company Mission

The mission of Manresa Bread is to make the most delicious, balanced, and beautiful pastries and sourdough bread in an environment focused on quality of ingredients, technique, and constant learning.

Signature Products

Our kouign amann, monkey bread and levain bread are the most popular items. Each of these products are made with the simplest of ingredients: organic flour, organic sugar, and French butter for the pastries. Organic house milled flours, our sourdough starter, water, and salt for our bread. Our products are delicious not because of huge amounts of sugar, pastry cream, flavorings, or mix-ins but because of our team’s dedication to finding the balance in the smallest details of the basic building blocks of bread and viennoiserie. For example, our kouign amann dough does not have any sugar in the dough itself; rather, organic sugar is folded in during the lamination process. The unsweetened dough is the perfect foil to let the flavors of French butter and organic sugar truly explode on the palate. The end result is a pastry that is gorgeously caramelized on the outside but soft, buttery and addictive inside and actually not in-your-face sweet.

Production Tip 

The majority of our menu is fermented in varying degrees. This means that time and space are very important parts of our production process for a large volume of product. The ability to slow down and organize the production process for pastries is key to managing labor and quality efficiently and effectively. We maximize freezer space to easily separate our lock-in process for our viennoiserie doughs from the sheeting and shaping process. On any given day, our pastry team locks in around twenty-five books or détrempes of dough. Each of these détrempes weighs nine kilos and is laminated with three kilos of butter. Each book will produce around ninety individual croissants which means that if we had to complete the process from start to finish, we would be shaping over 2,000 croissants a day by hand. In addition to locking in all the croissant books we also have to process the trim which we turn into books for our monkey bread. We have two sheeters but even with dual lamination taking place we would not be able to shape all our products needed from start to finish in one day. It would require an impossible number of hands. The simple luxury of freezer space makes this process much more elastic and manageable for our team. Not only can we separate the lock-in process from the shaping process but also if someone calls out or a piece of equipment goes down, we can easily adjust production rather than putting ourselves in an untenable situation in which product quality or labor cost might be compromised.

Equipment ‘Must-Haves’ 

The most important equipment for my pastry team is the freezer. For my bread team, the most important is our mill. We have a New American stone mill for all of our whole grain needs. All of our breads are made using anywhere from 50% to 100% fresh milled flour. The freshness of flour sets our sourdough breads apart. There are a lot of great pieces of equipment in our commissary but the majority of these pieces of equipment improve the efficiency of our teams. The mill on the other hand directly improves the flavor of our product. By combining sourdough fermentation and fresh milled flour you are bringing the very best out in both flavor, texture, and nutritional value in the grains. It is not cheaper to purchase whole grains and mill them yourself than purchase pre-milled flour. It is an added step in the process and requires additional labor, but it is essential for who we are at Manresa Bread at our core. The quality of the product and the technique must drive our decisions. Without the mill I simply could not make the same quality of bread that we have come to be known for.

Secret of Success 

Our dedication to ingredients and flexibility is what helps us stand out. I tell my team there are only two constants in our bakery: the quality of our product and the safety and happiness of our team. Everything else is open to change and evolution. This means that we are constantly asking ourselves if there is a better, new, easier, more cost effective, more delicious way to make our products at Manresa Bread. Willingness to approach each day with an inquisitive attitude helps us continue to innovate and improve. Figure out your core values but don’t be afraid to turn everything else upside down with your schedule, process, and organization.

Future Goals 

I spend a lot of time thinking about how our products and teams can improve quality and efficiency. Baking is all about variables: the team, the ingredients, the equipment, the volume, the weather. In our eight years of business, I have opened five stores, weathered a pandemic, and expanded a successful wholesale and shipping business. In 2022 I opened our Palo Alto store, our new Los Gatos store, and our Santa Cruz store. In 2023 we moved into our new commissary bakery space, quadrupling our home base. This holiday season is our first in the space and we have seen what a difference the new space and equipment makes. My equipment upgrades were specifically selected to lighten the burden on my team: larger mixing equipment and bowl lifts for the bread team, an automatic loader, a cutting table for our laminated doughs, and addition baking space. For a long time, our team worked in a space we had outgrown, with limited baking equipment and too many square feet doing double or triple duty. Our new space solved many of the old problems that we have time and energy to be more playful bakers as we head into 2024, a year that will be all about creativity!

For more info, visit https://www.manresabread.com/

(This article appeared in the Winter 2024 issue of Pastry Arts Magazine)

Pastry Arts Magazine is the new resource for pastry & baking professionals designed to inspire, educate and connect the pastry community as an informational conduit spotlighting the trade.