Manresa Bread: Side Project Turned Bakery


Photo by Francesca Fallow.

When you enter Manresa Bread, you will immediately smell the sweet aroma of pastries and coffee offered by this small town store while being greeted by the employees. Manresa Bread, located in Los Altos downtown, offers a variety of different pastries, breads and coffee. Before the small town store became an established bakery on June 1, it started off as a side project from Manresa Restaurant in Los Gatos.

“We were born out of [Manresa Restaurant], started baking breads in the kitchen and then started selling our breads at farmers markets locally,” barista Aevan Balan said. “Shortly after that we realized we had a market so we started the Manresa Bread project.”

From there, the first Manresa Bread officially opened in Los Gatos and eventually opened its second location here in Los Altos, operating separately from its parent restaurant. The owners hoped that Los Altos’ small town feel would draw customers to the bakery.

“There’s a lot of stuff that happens in the downtown area,” Balan said. “They found that Los Altos is one of the only other places that really captured the kind of spirit that they wanted.”

Manresa Bread and all its employers make sure to create all their products with care and style to ensure that every customer is pleased with the results. Their Levain bread is a great example of this attention to ingredients and taste, with its crunchy crust, chewy texture and tangy sourdough flavor.

“We source from farms to get all of our different kinds of flour,” Balan said. “A cool thing about our breads is that we do not use commercial yeast, so all of our breads are technically sour doughs. They go through a 30-60 hour fermentation process so they grow naturally.”

They aim to maintain the integrity of their foods by focusing on their roots, as they do with the Kouign-amann, a French bread. Along with that, those at Manresa Bread like to implement their own styles into their products to make them stand out from other bakeries.

“We have our own twists on different kind[s] of pastries like the monkey bread and pepper jam danish,” Balan said. “We like to stay true to our French rustic style.”

Nowadays employees are able to determine which items will sell more than others, seeing the pattern in what customers prefer. The Monkey Bread, one of the bakery’s most popular pastries, requires a wide variety of ingredients in order to achieve its sweet, complete flavor.

“The big sellers are probably the Kouign-amann [and] our Monkey Bread,” employee Ryan Watkins said. “If anything, the Kouign-amann is my favorite.”

These products are common recommendations by the employees. Believe it or not, there are no special ingredients to make these products. It’s simply the way the food is made naturally that makes it unique.

“How we source it, we [want to] do everything organic and local,” Watkins said. “It’s honest and fresh ingredients.”

Along with fantastic pastries and breads, the bakery provides a welcoming atmosphere.
“[The food] is great,” customer Ginger Manchester said. “[The employees] are wonderful, friendly and informative.”

Above all, Manresa Bread looks to continue to do well in the neighborhood while ensuring all its products are up to its standard of quality.

“We put a lot of work into the product that not a lot of people would do,” Balan said. “That’s what we take pride in: the quality and the time and effort we put into our products.”