Tag Archives: food

Manifesting A Bakery

My article for District Fray magazine

Rick Cook and his wife have been in the restaurant industry for decades: he as a cook and his wife Tyes as a front-of-house manager. Before the pandemic, while Rick was working first at Etto and then at 2Amys, he began experimenting with baking at home and applying some of the techniques he saw at work. (He used some of the leftover flour from work, too.)

He sold a couple dozen loaves at a weekly wine tasting at Weygandt Wines in Cleveland Park. Back then, he was making two loaves at a time in his home oven, long-fermenting the sourdough in the fridge and using lidded cast iron pots for the bake. Between the rise and the baking, he needed a full day to produce a bread loaf.

Then the pandemic hit, and Rick found himself with a lot more time as restaurants shuttered their doors.

So, the Cooks started a monthly bread subscription service — a grain to gate, if you will (sorry, I love alliteration). Business was brisk and ballooned thanks to a fortuitous article in DCist (and a painting-worthy loaf picture).

“Overnight, I had 50 emails from people waiting to get on the delivery list,” he says. “We would post the menu on Instagram in the morning, and it would sell out in minutes.”

With this good problem on his hands, Rick upgraded his kitchen oven and got a mill to grind the flour. Much like the ever-multiplying yeast, the Cooks moved from making 12 to 200 loaves. They also started selling cookies and other baked goods.

The Cooks’ lifelong dream of opening their own restaurant manifested itself in the burgeoning bakery operation.

“We just had a kid, and I really started thinking seriously about building something for our family [that] I could pass down in a sustainable way,” Rick says. “A bunch of people from the restaurant industry moved into real estate and switched careers, but I realized the baker’s schedule of 4 a.m. – 5 p.m. is actually not a bad way to raise a family. My wife and I were so used to working 12 hours, and we saw this as something different. I have been cooking for 20 years and wanted to stay with the craft. This was perfect.”

About a year ago, the Cooks signed a lease to found Manifest Bread, their very own bakery dedicated to quality handmade products, in Riverdale, Maryland.

“[Even though] we signed the lease a year ago, we are opening in September. This gives you an idea of how much preparation goes into equipping and designing the space.”

Riverdale is close to Cottage City, home to the Cooks’ OG cottage food home bakery. They also ran a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign which overshot its goal in just 20 days. With the funds, they bought a stone mill, oven and mixer.

Milling the flour right before it is used is critical for the flavor profile (as any bread connoisseur will tell you), but it also makes for a beautiful bread biome of nutrients, oils and pre- and probiotics. Rick also sources local spelt, wheat and rye from Maryland and Pennsylvania.

“It is going to be a bit strange being in a commercial space,” Rick laughs. “Right now, our dining room doubles as the baking space. We have about 1,000 pounds of grain under my son’s bed.”

Rick describes himself as “the bread boy,” while Tyes wields “the binder and the bullhorn.” And much like baking, the Cooks’ dream of a space to call their own manifested itself organically.

“There is this huge underground community of home bakers across the country that feels very much like a family. We share tips and puzzle over techniques — the yeast is wild and has a life of its own. The rise seems to come out of nowhere and has its own kind of energy and pull.”

Manifest Bread: 6208 Rhode Island Ave. Riverdale Park, MD; manifestbread.com // @manifest_bread

Give your carb knowledge a boost with these essential terms.

Alveoli: The holes created in the crumb of the bread. Many artisan breads boast an uneven structure with translucent strands of gluten.

Crumb: The interior of a loaf of bread. Often described as either open crumb (lots of irregular holes) or closed crumb (fine-textured).

First rise: The first fermentation after the dough is mixed but before the loaf is shaped. Also known as bulk fermentation.

Gluten: The proteins that allow dough to stretch out and maintain its shape. When combined with water, it gives structure to baked goods.

Maillard reaction: The reaction that occurs when a mix of protein, starch and water is heated above 250 degrees. It contributes to the browning of the bread crust and caramelized flavor.

Proofing: The final rise of dough after it is shaped. Also known as the second rise.

Sourdough: A culture of wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria that ferments cereal grains. Also known as sourdough starter or levain.

Gluten-free? Go with sourdough.

Bread that does not rely on commercial yeast strains for a quick rise is easier to digest — especially for those who have trouble with gluten, a protein that breaks down almost fully before the bread is baked.

When you mill your own flour — as we would have in days past — the result is a more rustic bread with a significantly richer array of nutrients, much higher fiber and a far lower GI. The fiber of whole grains contains many prebiotic fibers that fuel the good bacteria in the gut, promoting their growth.

Tongued-Thaid: My First Foray Into Food Blogging For BYT

My very first food column for Brightest Young Things:

So, if you are vegetarian, chances are Thai eggplant or some permutation of tofu and vegetable stir fry is your usual meal of choice when going out for Thai. Surprisingly enough, Thai eggplant is a dish of relatively minimal effort to make at home, yet it is so thoroughly impressive that it is sure to leave your guests tongue-thaid as they marvel at your culinary prowess [my puns get better, I promise].

As you set out on the seemingly very daunting task of making Thai food at home, you are probably imagining it will be something very akin to this experience and, even worse, *gasp* require a trip to that mythical yet thoroughly dreaded place known as the suburbs to procure exotic ingredients you will only use once. Fret not–I would be far too remiss in my role as “pragmatic food blogger” if I recommended you purchase anything that cannot be used in a variety of dishes. For example, did you know that you could use fish sauce essentially as salt in mac and cheese? No, seriously. The cool part about any Asian cooking, especially Indian or Thai, is that there is a roster of staple spices/flavorings that will show up in some combination in most dishes. So any time you purchase ingredients, you can reuse them and, hopefully, that will encourage you to keep trying different things beyond that one time when you were trying to impress that one girl but stumbled ’cause your idea of cooking Indian was sprinkling curry powder on everything. The other part about making that “dreaded trip to the burbs” is that you are not just going to a store to buy “weird stuff.” You are getting an edumacation. Sure, you could get Japanese eggplants in Giant or Whole Bucks, but how predictable and DC centric is that!? Why not check out an H Mart, where you can at the very least procure things you had no idea could be shrimp-flavored!

OK, on to the recipe. As any self-respecting foodie, I first try to consult some venerated source of cooking lore, examine their recipe, and then completely ignore it [whatever, Martha!]. No…more like I look at the general technique and then adapt it/overhaul it/pragmatize it/what have you. So, for this one, I consulted Simply Thai Cooking. While their recipe appeared “legit,” it required a whooping cup of vegetable oil and deep-frying the eggplants. I don’t know about you, but my stomach would murder me if I tried to pull that stunt on it. BYT readers don’t stay in yoga shape by guzzling oil, thank you.

So, I modified and came up with adjustments, including my invention of *steaming* the eggplant [hey, coming up with all this takes a lot of hard work and a lot of eating of semi-messed-up things…I grew up during communism so we do not believe in throwing away food, comrade!]. It also called for far too little red pepper and making a sauce using sugar and cornstarch. While that is all fine and great, in my modification, you don’t even have to use cornstarch and do any sauce thickening. Although if you do not want to do that, that too is not terribly difficult.

Before you get started, get yourself properly amped with some Thai hip hop.


  • 1/2 onion
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-3 red chillies (including seeds), depending on how spicy you like it or 2 T sambal oelek chili sauce which adds a depth of flavor
  • 2 Japanese eggplants [chopped into slices about an inch thick]
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2-3 Tbsp. oil
  • roughly 15 fresh basil leaves
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. fish sauce [for vegans, omit the fish sauce altogether]


  1. Heat a wok or a large frying pan with *no oil* in it to the point where when you drop a drop of water in it, it sizzles. Then add about 1-2T of oil with a high smoking point [regular vegetable oil or grape seed but no olive oil] and add the chopped eggplant. Btw, here’s a little tutorial on the key to frying anything in a wok, including the very simple but often botched principle of cooking everything according to its cooking time, i.e. do not put something that cooks in a second first! Newbie move right there. No one likes broccoli mush, I assure. Not even cafeteria ladies!
  2. Stir fry the eggplant for about 1-2 mins. until it is browned. Then add 1/4C water to the wok/pan and cover it with a tight-fitting lid. This is the cool part I told you about earlier, where you avoid deep frying and instead *steam* the eggplant.
  3. Visually determine when the eggplant is cooked through–it will be soft. Remove from the pan and set it aside on a plate.
  4. Add a little oil to the still hot pan and stir-fry the onions first. At this high heat, it should only take about a couple of minutes. Then add the red pepper strips and stir fry those. Finally add the garlic cloves and stir fry that [burned garlic is an acquired taste for some people so do not let it burn].
  5. Add the soy sauce and fish sauce, stir-frying for a couple of more minutes. This is also a good part to add the sambal oelek sauce, which can be either store-bought or home-made. Note that if you are using both chillies and sambal, you may want to monitor the heatage level 🙂 I prefer using a mix of chillies and sambal as sambal, due to having lemongrass/ginger/lime in it adds a unique flavor.
  6. Add the cooked eggplant to the pan and half the basil leaves. Cook until the mixture is all heated through/incorporated.
    Do not overcook–should be less than a minute.
  7. Slide onto a serving plate and sprinkle the rest of the basil over top. Serve with brown rice.

Listen to some Onra while consuming said meal. Enjoy 🙂