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Beautiful bread from start to finish.

Field Trip: Roan Mills Bakery

On a sleepy Saturday morning in early October, I drove to Fillmore, CA to meet up with a gaggle of sourdough bread bakers. Our gathering place: Roan Mills Bakery. Why? To get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of making bread from start to finish–from heritage grain to Caprese sandwich.

Roan Mills Bakery
Roan Mills is the first farmer/miller/baker/pasta maker in California.

The Bakery

Roan Mills is run by Andrea Crawford of Kenter Canyon Farms (and LABB member). She and her team control ever stage, from growing identity-preserved wheat including Sonora, Red Fife, and Glenn, to milling those grains in-house, and creating delicious whole-grain breads and sandwiches.

Roan Mills Bakery1
By 8 a.m. half the baguettes were gone already, but there were beautiful loves and scones to choose from.

The Mill

Once we’d grabbed a scone or two to nibble on, Andrea took us on a tour of the Mill. Through the glass we could see the mill, but we longed to see it in action. 55 gallon bins stood on wheels, waiting to accept freshly milled flour for the morning batch of loaves.

Roan Mills Mill Room
The Mill cranks away in the corner. The giant bag hangs from a shoot that catches milled flour. Flour is blown up the metal shoot (a piece of paper is clipped to the shoot), across the room, then down into the awaiting bag.
Roan Mills Mill Room
Andrea checks the flour for fineness. She and an employee adjust the mill’s stones.

A 50-pound bag of Sonora white wheat turned into a fine powder for scones in minutes. We yelled above the din asking questions. Next, we moved to the shaping room.

The Process

Roan Mills Shaping Room
They use plastic tubs to store the dough while it rises. Each blob of dough will become 12 or so loaves of bread. See the array of breads, pastas, and flours they offer here.

Then we entered the proofing rooms–walk-in refrigerators that hold racks of dough, each tucked neatly into a banneton basket.

Roan Mills Proofing Room
They use both plastic and wicker bannetons for the task. The fridge holds several of these racks at a time.
Roan Mills Proofing Room1
More banneton baskets for proofing.

“Extraction” refers to the “amount of flour that is extracted from a given amount of wheat”, according to Grist and Toll, another popular mill in Los Angeles. So, 100% extraction flour is 100% whole grain. No germ or bran has been sifted out.

All purpose white flour, on the other hand, is 70% extraction. The means all the germ and bran have been removed. Roan Mills bakes scones with 100% extraction Sonora wheat. You would never know it because it is milled so fine it has the texture of all purpose flour.


Roan Mills Oven
Andrea showed us how each section of the oven opens independently.

We stood, dwarfed by the massive oven, marveling at its capacity. A conveyor belt (overhead just out of frame) moves racks of loaves into the oven at one time. They use an equally massive paddle to remove and adjust the loaves.

Roan Mill sandwich bread
Small baguettes become the base for all Roan Mill sandwiches.

Yours truly waited patiently for the Caprese sandwiches to be ready (there’s nothing wrong with eating a sandwich at 9 a.m., right?). To kill time, we played with two Japanese hand mills in the bakery.

Roan Mill Japanese mills
Hand-cranking Mitsuka stone mills.

We took turns milling the grain, with a few false starts. The first pass merely cracked the grain, barely resembling flour. We asked Andrea what was wrong with the mill. She said, “Nothing. You have to pass it through 9-10 times.” We all appreciated our electric flour mills at that point.

If you live near Fillmore or want to make a field trip, you can pre-order your bread, pasta and grains ahead of time for pickup. For more details about Roan Mills / Kenter Canyon Farms and their process read the FAQs.

Special thanks to Andrea Crawford for granting Los Angeles Bread Bakers a look behind the curtain.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Rodger March

    I forgot to include our address.
    40 Camino Alto #12208
    Mill Valley, CA 94941

    Cheers, Rodger

  2. Rodger March

    I just spoke to Joe, asking about your bakery. Your websites on the bakery and the gardening are terrific. I am impressed.
    Would it be possible to send Ruth and I a sample of your product? I am curious.

    Cheers, Rodger

  3. Dana

    Marvelous! So glad you were there to document this field trip!

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