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Manresa ww levain

So I got a tip-off about the Manresa Bread Project.

My feeling for the restaurant is mixed: Mind-blowing the first … 3 years, then pretentious and grossly overpriced after they became famous and started the partnership with Love Apple. But I haven’t been back since they picked up their 2 Michelins so I fully admit that my opinion is based on outdated data, therefore irrelevant.

When asked “How does it compare to Tartine?”, my wheat-loving young friend was surprisingly hesitant: “erh ….. preeetty close”.

That’s enough to peak my interest.

Manresa bread menuThey currently sell at Campbell Farmers Market on Sundays. Me and Emily got there shortly after 8:30am and we found no baker nor mob. 15 minutes later however, we came around to the same spot and a dozen people magically appeared and were patiently watching the Manresa team setting up.

Within 10 minutes, the line was at least 30 people deep and this was all before any loaf was sold.

On the menu, there are the usual crowd pleasers of herby, nutty, olivey stuff. I want no distraction so I go for Levain ($12), Whole Wheat Sourdough ($12) and Brioche ($8).

For what you get, they are pricier than Tartine. But then, I never expect anything cheap from Manresa.

I am not sure why they want to mix the terminology of “levain” and “sourdough”. One would think that David Kinch should prefer sticking with the French term. Levain IS the yeasty starter (or “sourdough”) saved from the previous batch. Characteristics of breads made this way are much better crust and flavors because of the long proofing time levain requires.

You don’t get the tasteless, cottony effect of the fast-acting commercial yeast.

Both the chocolate brioche and the regular brioche are excellent – dense, moist and buttery. Long live the classics.

Manresa brioche

The Levain is the one most comparable to Tartine’s Country Loaf. It has a golden scaly crust. Thinner than Tartine’s, less charred (therefore less bitterness) but also less flavorful. It has a relatively tight crumb. Probably as flavorful as Tartine’s but not as … pretty. I swoon over Tartine’s moist, long laciness every time. Manresa’s levain is also a little more sour than I prefer, but that could be the batch variation. Overproofness has been known to happen even at Tartine’s. I later ate it with some cheese and salami, and its sourness was not intrusive by all means.

Manresa Levain

Levain

The true pleasure was probably the whole wheat sourdough. It has a charming, Poilâne Miche-like appearance. Flavorful and chewy crust. I am glad that they are not going all Miche and try their hands on 100% whole wheat. IMHO, most 100% whole wheat breads taste awful. People should just accept it that only at Poilâne’s it is allowed.

Manresa’s whole wheat sourdough has just enough whole wheat to give it a pleasant and balanced earthiness.

Manresa ww levain interior

Whole Wheat Levain

Overall, very good bread.

Without a side-by-side comparison like I did in Bread: A Love Letter for Tartine and Acme however, my very biased opinion is … No, it’s not Tartine.

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