This New Cookbook Reveals the Baking Secrets of Wild Flour's Award Winning Pastry Chef
Since Wild Flour Café + Bakery opened seven years ago, I have fantasized daily about a world where I could eat anything and everything from its magical and captivating pastry case without conscience or consequence; and I am certain that I am not alone in my confectionary wishes and carb loaded dreams.
Regarded with the same religious fervor usually reserved for institutions that have been in business for decades, the selection of freshly baked bread, delicious savories, cookies, cakes, and bars at Wild Flour is legendary. Whether you decide to indulge with a sweet treat after your meal, or box up some goodies to go, a trip to the counter (with or without the IG story) completes every Wild Flour experience.
While chef Walter Manzke sits at the culinary helm of the Wild Flour empire—one that includes the acclaimed Republique Restaurant and Sari Sari at the Grand Central Market in Los Angeles, 5 Wild Flour Bakery + Café Restaurants in Manila, two Little Flour Restaurants (an offshoot of Wild Flour with a more localized menu), Farmacy Ice Cream and Soda Fountain, the Philippine franchise for Pink’s Hot Dogs, and the soon-to-open Wild Flour Italian—it is his wife, Manila native Margarita Lorenzana Manzke, who leads bakeries on both sides of the Pacific.
A graduate of London’s Le Cordon Bleu and the Culinary Institute of America in New York, Margarita had very little formal training in pastry but is now recognized as one of the best pastry chefs in America and is a five-time semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation’s award in the Outstanding Pastry Chef category.
Yes, it is Margarita, with the help of her sister Ana Lorenzana-de Ocampo, who is to blame for your addiction to the perfectly crunchy baguettes that arrive at your Wild Flour table begging to be slathered with butter and for the flaky, layered croissants, salted chocolate cake, toasted pocket pies, cream, chocolate, and jam-filled bombolini, cannelé, cronuts, and the coconut pie of your dreams that stare at you from the marble counters that ground every Wild Flour space.
With all the happiness that Margarita and her team of bakers generate every day they put on their aprons and head into the pastry kitchen, and judging from the queue that forms each morning outside Republique (where Margarita holds court) to snag a one of her delicious breakfast items, it certainly comes as no surprise that she has also been named Los Angeles Best Pastry Chef by L.A. Weekly.
Her delectable creations also caught the attention of an editor at Ten Speed Press, a publishing house under the Penguin Random House Crown Publishing Group. Through a book agent, Ten Speed Press offered her a book deal that she gladly accepted. Together with writer Betty Hallock, the result is the newly minted book, Baking at République, which offers master techniques and recipes for both home bakers and serious pastry chefs alike. Inside the 263-page tome are 100 recipes and 125 inspiring photographs that illustrate Margarita’s recipes for dough and batter, cookies and cakes, pies and scones. She also takes us back to her childhood with Filipino heirloom recipes for her favorite bibingka, ginataan, halo-halo, and leche flan.
Filled with anecdotes, tales, and tips, the book is where Margarita shares how she made extra money as a high school student selling walnut-date bars popularly known as Food for the Gods to her friends and family. Her advice for making the best chewy version of these luscious bars? Don’t over cream the butter and sugar or your bars will be cakey rather than chewy. And the more dates and walnuts you put in the batter, the chewier the bars will be. A stickler for precision, she says that “attention to detail makes the baker." She also believes that everything should begin with the freshest ingredients of the highest quality.
For the rudimentary baker that I am, the recipes for the condensed milk pound cake, almond-carrot cake, and alfajores beckon, and I’ll be happy to give the banana chocolate streusel muffins and the fig-hazelnut scones a good go.
Perhaps one day, with the help of lessons learned from Baking at Republique, I’ll earn my stripes and venture into pâte sucrée and pâte à choux territory because who can resist a fruit-filled tart or cream puff? But for now I’ll leave the bread making in the hands of the capable bakers behind Wild Flour and Republique windows because more than cookies on my kitchen counter, we all need some magic every now and then.
Baking at Republique by Margarita Manzke with Betty Hallock is available at National Book Store and Fully Booked branches.