The same woman who helped revolutionize the local food movement by growing lettuce in her backyard for Alice Waters and Wolfgang Puck is now baking bread for Santa Monica tables.
In fact, Andrea Crawford isn’t just baking the bread. She’s growing the wheat herself on Kenter Canyon Farms, milling the flour and then baking incredibly fresh sourdough loaves in downtown Fillmore for Santa Monica’s Wednesday downtown farmers market and a few local Whole Foods locations.
Unlike the box-shaped, pre-sliced and packaged loaves at the grocery store containing dozens of ingredients, Roan Mills loaves are made the old-fashioned way with just flour, salt, and water.
Traditionalists argue mass manufactured bread and traditional sourdough have little in common.
Despite humanity’s long history with bread dating back more than five thousand years, wheat (and specifically) gluten have come under increased scrutiny over the past decade.
“Not everybody eats bread these days because you can’t really get good bread,” said Crawford’s son Charlie Dedlow, on a recent rainy Wednesday, “but when people try our bread they always end up dropping all of their opinions.”
Crawford’s grain program launched in 2012 with fifty acres of Sonora, Glenn, and Red Fife wheat varieties. The original crop was irrigated with only seasonal winter rains. The wheat thrived – producing 80,0000 pounds of grain about seven months later. The wheat is milled to order to retain as much nutrition as possible.
“While a wheat berry can last for centuries in viable conditions, once it’s milled into flour the oxidation processes begin to erode the overall quality and within six months the flour will have lost some of its vitality,” according to the Roan Mills website. “We mill flour every day and all the flavor, vitality and freshness is captured in every loaf we bake.”
“When you’re milling fresh flour you can really taste the difference in the bread,” Dedlow said. “That’s part of the reason people love our bread so much. It’s milled right away and holds more nutritional content.”
Once the flour makes it to the baker, each loaf takes about 48 hours to bake from start to finish. The flour, salt, and water are mixed with a sourdough starter and allowed to set. Before the sun comes up, bakers shape the dough into individual loaves and then place them into rotating ovens. The bakers start their shifts at midnight and work until four in the morning. A few hours later it’s in the hands of the very first customers.
Roan Mills has expanded into nine local Whole Foods stores. Wednesday is the only Santa Monica farmers market you can find the bread. Fans know to get to the market early before they sell out.
Their most popular bread is the $8 Sonora Country Blonde, a 100 percent whole grain sourdough bread. At the market, a sandwich loaf and a baguette cost $6.
Santa Monica has four weekly farmers markets including the Wednesday Downtown market on Arizona Avenue between 4th and Ocean from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., the Saturday Downtown market on Arizona Avenue between 4th and 2nd Streets from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., the Saturday Virginia Ave. Park market at 2200 Virginia Avenue from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., and the Sunday Main Street market at 2640 Main Street from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.