April 4, 2019
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She Dreams in Bombolini and Brioche
pastry-case-1

The stars aligned in Hollywood when République opened. Now, with a new cookbook and a global empire, Marge Manzke is ready for the spotlight.

The sign of good brioche dough—the sweet, yeasty base for loaves, buns, or cinnamon rolls—is that it can pass something called the windowpane test: A baker will pull at the kneaded mass to create a small, tissue-paper-thin “window.” If the buttery dough tears too easily, it wasn’t kneaded properly, or the ingredients are the wrong temperature, or the ratio of fat is off. Brioche is so delicate and soft that it’s easy to forget it starts out as a strong, resilient dough.

In her new book, written with Betty Hallock, Baking at République, the Los Angeles–based chef Marge Manzke admits that her favorite thing to make is “anything with dough, but especially bread, and particularly brioche.” For the past five years, Manzke has been churning out a staggering array of pastries and breads—both savory and sweet—at République, the all-day café and restaurant that she co-owns and runs with her husband, chef Walter Manzke. Brioche dough takes many forms on the menu and in the pastry case, from a brioche French toast as fat as a romance novel to a sticky “bomb” with maple, brown sugar, and pecans to bombolini stuffed with jam or custard. The book’s cover shot features one of Manzke’s signatures: fruit Danish, in which slices of peaches and plums are layered atop a vanilla custard nestled in soft, round pillows of brioche.

Every day at 8 a.m., Manzke’s team of 10 pastry cooks fill the restaurant’s nearly 15-foot-long pastry case with hundreds of items.

République, which is centrally located in L.A.’s mid-city neighborhood, about 10 miles east of the beach and six miles west of downtown’s flourishing dining district, has made an appearance on all of the city’s best-of lists since it opened in 2013. For dinner, it’s a full-service restaurant, with a full bar and a menu—with standards like iced oysters, eclairs stuffed with duck liver mousse, spinach cavatelli with morels and porcini, a rotisserie chicken with green garlic aioli, and pork three ways: belly, chop, and sausage—overseen by Walter. But for most of the day, the space operates as a casual café, with counter service from morning until the late afternoon.

“Everything about this space is historic,” Manzke said recently over a morning staff meal of sopes and eggs. In 1928, Charlie Chaplin had the space built to be his office; it went through a few lives and landlords until 1989, when it became Campanile, a landmark restaurant co-owned by chefs Nancy Silverton and Mark Peel. The same real estate housed Silverton’s original, groundbreaking La Brea Bakery until 2012. A year later, the Manzkes moved in.

Every day at 8 a.m., Manzke’s team of 10 pastry cooks fill the restaurant’s nearly 15-foot-long pastry case with hundreds of items. Fresh fruit tarts, glistening crème brûlée beignets, pillowy cheesecakes, crumble-topped pies, mochi loaves, savory scones, individual galettes, crusty loaves of bread, and piles of cookies draw a line of locals and tourists every day.

“We like to make it look really full every morning,” Manzke says. “So we start the day before, and we bake almost through the night.” Manzke’s bread and pastry offerings, each of which happens to be photogenic, are also technically very good. They demonstrate a deep knowledge that, because of the fast pace of food trends and power of social media hype, is becoming rare and is certainly underappreciated.

Manzke, born Margarita Lorenzana in Manila, got her first job at the age of seven. “When I wasn’t in school, I used to serve people behind the counter at my mom’s tiny, tiny restaurant, Turo Turo.” While her parents were busy running the family’s resort on the coast, Manzke would be “spooning stews or meats over rice into to-go plates,” Manzke recalls. “My sister would be behind the cash register. Now, thinking back, I wonder what the people coming in must have thought, seeing these two little kids serving them lunch!” Manzke and her siblings would also help out at her aunt’s catering company, building croquembouches, those conical towers of cream puffs. “We used to climb onto stools to reach the top,” Manzke says. She later went to college in Manila, but after her sophomore year, her parents decided to send her abroad.

Manzke and her sister enrolled at London’s Le Cordon Bleu, where they majored in culinary arts. Together, they went on to study at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Before she graduated, Manzke applied to do an externship at Spago, chef Wolfgang Puck’s popular see-and-be-seen restaurant. After graduation, Puck offered her a job. “I had become one of those people who believed New York City was the best city ever. I wanted to move there and live there,” Manzke says. “That was where I assumed I would work.” But when her sister returned to Manila, her brother—who was studying at UCLA at the time—invited her to live with him while she gave L.A., and Spago, a chance. It didn’t take long for Manzke to fall in love with the L.A. lifestyle, full of sunshine and bountiful farmers markets.

Despite the challenges of acquiring work visas and living far from home, Manzke kept landing at great, multistarred restaurants. From an externship at Spago, she moved on to Patina, chef Joachim Splichal’s highly rated fine-dining establishment, where she met Walter.

The management at Patina didn’t like it when the couple started dating. “They basically forced me out, and that’s how they handled that,” she says. She soon left for a job at Melisse, chef Josiah Citrin’s fine-dining spot just blocks from the ocean in Santa Monica. She rose through the ranks quickly to become one of Citrin’s sous chefs.

Eventually, after marrying, the Manzkes started consulting on restaurant projects together. Their first big splash was in 2007, when they opened Bastide. The serious but casual French-inflected bistro in West Hollywood was owned and financed by the notoriously mercurial Hollywood music video director Joe Pytka. After two years—and a three-star Los Angeles Times review—the Manzkes were out. When Walter took a job as the chef of a new brasserie called Church & State, in a then-unknown part of town called the Arts District, Marge developed the desserts. Local bloggers raved, but Manzke wasn’t all in.

“I wanted to take a step back. I made some tart recipes, and I even worked as a server, but I was thinking about starting a family then,” Manzke says. That’s when the idea of their own place, a sprawling, all-day concept, started to take shape—and when they had their son, Nico. Their daughter, Olivia, would follow a few years later. The Manzkes left Church & State in 2010 to focus on what would become Republique while consulting on projects in L.A. and Chicago.

At first, nothing went according to plan. After putting their life savings down to hold a massive, warehouse-like space in downtown L.A., building permits and contractors fell through. “We lost thousands and thousands of dollars,” Manzke says. In those days, the Manzkes were hopping between consulting gigs, hosting investor dinners, doing pop-ups, and driving their beat-up hatchback to ticketed food festivals, towing crates of gougeres, roasted meats, portable ovens, and coolers into makeshift stalls to help draw crowds in for a good cause.

When, in 2012, Sprout Restaurant Group approached them with the space that used to house Campanile, the Manzkes toured it and pretty much signed the deal on the spot. “We walked in, and we knew immediately that the left side would be the kitchen and the right side would be the bakery,” Manzke says. “It all fell into place.”

République, named after the neighborhood in Paris, opened a year later while Manzke was still working on her bakery menu. “At the time, it was not very common to have a restaurant that was open all day,” Manzke says. Her opening pastry menu consisted of just eight items. “At first, no one came,” she says. “But we just kept going and kept hoping people would get it.” That first year, locals would wander into the empty restaurant at 9 or 10 in the morning, grab a coffee and maybe a chocolate croissant, and see Manzke and Nico, barely three years old, cracking eggs for brioche or pasta dough. “We started them young, just like my parents did with me!” Manzke says.

Weeks went by, and then months, and then “suddenly there was a line out the door,” Manzke says. It wasn’t long before the line to get into République at 8 a.m. was just as long as the line to get in at 8 p.m. Now, tour buses actually stop in front of the restaurant several times a week, in the mornings and afternoons, with guides that explain the drill: There’s an exterior window where one can order a quick croissant and coffee to-go, but for the full effect it’s worth lining up in front of the pastry case.

“The thing people don’t get, have never gotten, about Marge is that she’s not just a pastry chef.”

Manzke learned humility, alongside hard work, early on. “It wasn’t as if our parents had time to recognize, or praise, every little thing we did,” Manzke says. But that might be why she’s not known for tooting her own horn, and not better known among the country’s most lauded culinary professionals. It’s something that frustrates her husband. Though Manzke is the executive pastry chef at République, she also works on the savory side of the menu with Walter, suggesting edits or additions on dishes as new produce comes into season. But because she’s been doing pastries since she started working alongside Walter, she’s often pigeonholed as a pastry chef.

“The thing people don’t get, have never gotten, about Marge is that she’s not just a pastry chef,” Walter is fond of repeating, almost exasperated each time he has to explain this. “She can do every single station on the hotline, from fish to the grill to expediting, and she can bake. I can only really do savory. Marge can do it all.”

Marge blushes a little bit when her husband talks about her, but then she quietly beams. She might be low-key on the outside, but that masks a laser focus and outsized ambition. That ambition—and a family connection—took the Manzke brand international.

“We had this idea to do something with my family in Manila,” Manzke says, crediting her sister, Ana Marie Lorenzana de Ocampo, as the mastermind and co-operator of what is now a sprawling empire of 17 restaurants, cafés, and ice cream shops in the Philippines.

De Ocampo runs the day-to-day business of Wildflour Bakery + Cafe, part of a restaurant group that the Manzkes and de Ocampo own and operate across the Philippines. When asked how they run an international operation, Manzke laughs, credits her sister again, and says, “FaceTime!”

In 2015, Richard Pink, co-owner of L.A.’s famous Pink’s Hot Dogs and a regular at République, approached the Manzkes with an idea. “‘If you ever want to take Pink’s to Manila, we should talk,’ he said. Walter and I looked at each other and said, ‘Why not?’” Manzke says, laughing. Pink’s Hot Dogs opened in Manila in 2016.

A year after that, back in L.A., a personal dream of hers came true. “I used to always joke with Walter and say, ‘One day, I’m going to open a Filipino restaurant!’” And in classic Walter fashion, he encouraged it. Though she never wrote out a business plan, the idea for a small place that served the food she grew up eating was always on Manzke’s mind. When a space owned by République’s management group opened up inside downtown L.A.’s Grand Central Market, Sari Sari Store was born.

In part modeled after Turo Turo, the shop Manzke ran for her mom as a kid, it’s a simple meat-over-rice operation. Jonathan Gold was an early fan, writing, “I have stopped by Sari Sari Store five times in the last three days, and I’m not sure if I should be admitting this to you or to a therapist….  I’ve given up my fidget spinner. I have Sari Sari Store instead.”

One of the items Gold couldn’t get enough of was Manzke’s buko pie. Similar to one her sister makes at Wildflour, Manzke’s buko pie recipe, which is in her cookbook, layers coconut pastry cream, coconut jam, and coconut whipped cream into a pie shell for a shock of sweet tropical flavors that’s earned a cult following on two coasts. “My sister’s is more famous, though,” Manzke says, always giving credit where it’s due, “because CNN interviewed her about it.”

Manzke and de Ocampo share recipes frequently and compare notes weekly. Another recipe that came over to the States from Manila is de Ocampo’s salted caramel chocolate layer cake. It’s a massive hit at République, but it’s the one signature République pastry recipe that’s not in her new cookbook. “I know people are not going to like that, but really, it’s my sister’s recipe. You have to ask her for it,” Manzke says.

Brioche Dough

Brioche Dough

2 kg (4 pounds)

Ingredients

  • 440 grams (2 cups) high-fat European-style butter
  • 725 grams (5 3/4 cups plus rounded 1 tablespoon) all-purpose flour
  • 150 grams (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 9 eggs
  • 75 milliliters (1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon) whole milk
  • 10 grams (2 teaspoons) fine sea salt
  • 5 grams (2 teaspoons) instant yeast

The ingredients in brioche are straightforward: just eggs, milk, flour, salt, yeast, sugar, and butter. Brioche is truly easy to master, and once you do, you can make so much with the same dough. Make the brioche dough the day before shaping and baking because it rests overnight in the refrigerator. Once the dough is chilled, you can shape the dough and freeze it. Before baking, thaw the dough in the refrigerator overnight, shape, and then proof at room temperature (between 75° and 80°F) until doubled in size.

  1. Take the butter out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before you plan to use it so that it's pliable but still cool. Cut the butter into 1⁄2-inch cubes and set aside. Measure the flour and sugar separately and place in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the eggs and milk and mix on the lowest speed just to blend. Add the flour, salt, and yeast. Mix on the lowest speed for 2 minutes to incorporate the ingredients.
  3. Stop and scrape down the bowl. Increase the speed to high and mix for another 2 minutes.
  4. With the mixer still on high, rain in the granulated sugar slowly and evenly. Let the sugar become incorporated before adding more-this should take at least 5 minutes and up to 7 minutes. The dough will start to come off the hook at this point and get a little softer as the sugar is incorporated.
  5. Turn off the mixer. Add the butter all at once. Mix for 10 minutes on high speed to fully incorporate the butter. Stop and scrape down the bowl once or twice during the process. The dough will form a mass around the dough hook and pull away from the sides of the bowl with a slight thwacking sound. The dough is done when it is glossy and smooth and moist but not sticky.
  6. To confirm that the dough is properly mixed, perform the "windowpane" test: Take a small amount of dough, grasp it between your thumbs and forefingers, and carefully stretch it until it is thin and nearly transparent. It shouldn't break. If it does, return it to the mixer and mix for another 2 minutes and test again.
  7. Coat a large bowl or container with cooking spray. Place the dough in the bowl and roll it around to coat with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place (between 75° and 85°F) for 30 minutes.
  8. Lightly dust your work surface with flour, remove the dough from the bowl, and set it on the work surface. Gently fold the dough into rough thirds, as if you were folding a letter. Turn it 90 degrees and fold it the same way again. Return the dough to the bowl, cover, and let it rise for another 30 minutes until doubled in size.
  9. Transfer the dough to a large bowl coated with cooking spray. Place the dough in the bowl and roll it around to coat with the oil. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and set aside at room temperature. Transfer the bowl to the refrigerator to chill for 12 hours. After chilling, your brioche dough will be ready to use for recipes that call for it.

Ingredients

  • Pastry Cream
  • 480 milliliters (2 cups) whole milk
  • 115 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod, split lengthwise and seeds removed
  • 30 grams (3 tablespoons) cornstarch
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 55 grams (1/4 cup) cold unsalted butter
  • Tarts
  • 840 grams (1 pound, 13 ounces) brioche dough
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 5 milliliters (1 teaspoon) whole milk
  • pinch of fine sea salt
  • 240 grams (one cup) pastry cream
  • 4 peaches, pitted and sliced
  • 8 plums, pitted and sliced
  • 170 grams (6 ounces) raspberries or blackberries, or a mix of both
  • 40 grams (3 tablespoons) turbinado sugar

These tarts can be made with other fruit, but peaches and brioche are my favorite combination. The not-too-sweet brioche (recipe here) really highlights the fruit. With every bite, you get a yummy combination of brioche, pastry cream, and fresh peaches. The peaches look especially beautiful because they hold their shape well. When baked, the peaches come out even more beautiful than the raw fruit, and the flavor becomes more concentrated. Berries are delicious but can collapse, shrivel,

or release too much water. The shaped brioche dough looks really flat, like a pizza, when you put it in the oven. You might think it looks too flat, but as it bakes, the edges rise up and form a nice rim of rich, buttery bread. I tend to want to overfill these tarts with pastry cream—because I love pastry cream—but it’s important not to, so that the filling doesn’t spill over the sides during baking.

    pastry cream

  1. Put 11⁄2 cups of the milk and 3 Tbsp plus 1 tsp of the granulated sugar in a saucepan over high heat. Add the vanilla seeds to the pot and drop in the pod. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  2. Put the cornstarch, remaining 1⁄3 cup sugar, and the egg yolks in a bowl and whisk until well incorporated. If there are still any clumps, strain through a ne-mesh sieve.
  3. As soon as the milk comes to a boil, drizzle a little of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. This will temper the egg mixture so that it doesn’t curdle the eggs. Remove and discard the vanilla pod.
  4. Pour the egg mixture into the saucepan and continue to cook, whisking continuously until the mixture returns to a boil and thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Cook for 1 additional minute so that the starch cooks out.
  5. Turn off the heat. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and, using a handheld mixer, mix on low speed until cooled, about 15 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, prepare an ice water bath in a large stainless-steel bowl in which you can nest another wider bowl.
  7. Transfer the pastry cream to a wide bowl and cover with plastic wrap, laying it directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Let the pastry cream cool to room temperature in the ice water bath. Refrigerate until ready to use, or for up to 3 days.

Tarts

  1. Form the dough into 15 2-oz balls for the tarts. (At this point, you can freeze the balls, along with any remaining dough, reserved for another use; thaw in the refrigerator overnight and then proceed with the recipe.)
  2. Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Place the balls of dough on the prepared baking sheet and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Put the baking sheet in a warm place to proof until doubled in size, 1 1⁄2 to 2 hours.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  4. To make the egg wash: Combine the egg, egg yolk, milk, and salt in a small bowl and whisk. Brush each dough ball with the egg wash.
  5. Using your fingers, flatten the whole surface until it looks like a pizza, leaving a bit of a raised border.
  6. Put 1 Tbsp of the pastry cream in the center of each brioche and spread it out, leaving a rim of dough at the edges. Divide the peach and plum slices among the tarts. Add a few berries to the tarts, if desired. Sprinkle the turbinado sugar over the fruit and sides of the brioche tarts.
  7. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the brioche is golden brown. These are best eaten the day they are baked.
Sticky Bombs

Sticky Bombs

12 bomboloni

Ingredients

  • Pastry Cream
  • 480 milliliters (2 cups) whole milk
  • 115 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod, split lengthwise and seeds removed
  • 30 grams (3 tablespoons) cornstarch
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 55 grams (1/4 cup) cold unsalted butter
  • Sticky Bombs
  • 340 grams (12 ounces) brioche dough
  • 220 grams (1 cup) unsalted butter
  • 450 grams (packed 2 1/2 cups) light brown sugar
  • 105 milliliters (1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons) heavy cream
  • 105 milliliters (1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons) water
  • 120 milliliters (1/2 cup) honey
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • peanut or canola oil, for frying
  • 200 grams (7 ounces) thick-cut bacon slices, chopped
  • 240 grams (1 cup) pastry cream
  • 120 grams (1 cup) chopped toasted pecans

Walter named this pastry (he went through a phase when he wanted to name everything “bomb”). These are our bomboloni—Italian doughnuts—made with our brioche dough, filled with vanilla pastry cream and heated in the oven until just warm. Then they’re drizzled with a honey–brown sugar-cream-bacon-pecan sauce and served sitting in the sauce that pools around them.

    Pastry Cream

  1. Put 11⁄2 cups of the milk and 3 Tbsp plus 1 tsp of the granulated sugar in a saucepan over high heat. Add the vanilla seeds to the pot and drop in the pod. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  2. Put the cornstarch, remaining 1⁄3 cup sugar, and the egg yolks in a bowl and whisk until well incorporated. If there are still any clumps, strain through a fine-mesh sieve.
  3. As soon as the milk comes to a boil, drizzle a little of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. This will temper the egg mixture so that it doesn’t curdle the eggs. Remove and discard the vanilla pod.
  4. Pour the egg mixture into the saucepan and continue to cook, whisking continuously until the mixture returns to a boil and thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Cook for 1 additional minute so that the starch cooks out.
  5. Turn off the heat. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and, using a handheld mixer, mix on low speed until cooled, about 15 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, prepare an ice water bath in a large stainless-steel bowl in which you can nest another wider bowl.
  7. Transfer the pastry cream to a wide bowl and cover with plastic wrap, laying it directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Let the pastry cream cool to room temperature in the ice water bath. Refrigerate until ready to use, or for up to 3 days.

Sticky Bombs

  1. Divide the brioche dough into 12 1-oz portions and shape into balls. (At this point, you can freeze the balls, along with any remaining dough reserved for another use; thaw in the refrigerator overnight and then proceed with the recipe.)
  2. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Transfer the balls to the baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Place the baking sheet in a warm place (no warmer than 90°F) to proof until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
  3. To make the sticky bomb topping: Put the butter and brown sugar in a bowl and set aside.
  4. Bring the cream, water, honey, and salt to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour the cream mixture over the brown sugar and butter. Blend, using a handheld blender. Set aside. (You can make the topping up to 2 weeks in advance and store it in the refrigerator.)
  5. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. To fry the bomboloni, fill an 8-quart Dutch oven no more than halfway with oil. Attach a candy or frying thermometer to the side of the pot. Heat the oil over medium heat until it reaches 350°F.
  6. Fry the bomboloni 5 or 6 at a time. When you first put the bomboloni in the hot oil, you'll see blisters on the surface of the dough. Flip the bomboloni right away; this prevents big air bubbles from forming. Constantly turn and baste the bomboloni with the hot oil to ensure even cooking. They should be dark golden brown when done, 3 to 4 minutes.
  7. Transfer the bomboloni to the prepared baking sheet to drain the excess oil. Let cool completely.
  8. Line a plate with paper towels. Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until the fat renders out and the strips get slightly crispy on the edges. Transfer the bacon to the plate to drain. Let cool.
  9. Poke a small hole on the side of the bomboloni with a paring knife or kitchen scissors (wiggle it around a little to create a pocket for the pastry cream). Spoon the pastry cream into a pastry bag fitted with a 1⁄4-inch round tip. Pipe about 1 Tbsp of the pastry cream into the hole, making sure not to over- or under-fill them. (You have to pipe and inspect as you go, until you know how much each one weighs in your hand when properly filled.) Transfer to a serving plate and set aside.
  10. Warm the topping over medium heat. Add the bacon and pecans and stir to coat evenly. Spoon the mixture over the bomboloni, letting the goo drip down the sides. Serve immediately.

Daniela Galarza

Daniela Galarza is a writer and reporter who covers food, restaurants, cooking, and culture. She used to be a pastry chef. These days she puts her culinary degree to use by making birthday cakes for friends. She lives in New York with her dog Frito.

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