Grain, salt and water

Cohasset bakers make bread the old-fashioned way

Photo by Ken Smith

Food doesn’t get more handmade than the bread offered by Hearth and Stone Bakery. On a dirt road off of another dirt road in the wilds of Cohasset, Larry Jansen and his wife, Chris Greer-Jansen, make more than a dozen styles of bread in a fully outfitted bakery attached to their home, both of which they built from the ground up. They even designed and built the mill they use to grind organic whole grains into flour, as well as the wood-fired stone oven the bread is cooked in. They run a side business selling those items to bakeries and other buyers around the country. The Jansens bake about 300 loaves—as well as English muffins, pitas and the occasional pizza round—weekly, with the fresh bread delivered to Chico Natural Foods and S&S Organic Produce and Natural Foods every Friday, and the Chico Certified Farmers’ Market on Saturdays.

How did you get into baking?

Larry: I started baking bread when I was about 15. My mom was the bread baker in the family, and I took the job over from her. When I was 19, they said, “Well what do you want to do with yourself,” and I said, “Bake bread,” so it progressed from there. We owned a bakery back East [in Wilkesboro, N.C.], but it kind of limped along. It’s biscuits and cornbread country there … we didn’t really sell well in an old factory town.

How did you end up in Cohasset?

Larry: Chico had been our destination since 1992. We’d close down the bakery and take these big cross-country trips every other year, and we loved it here. We came out in 1998 so I could do that book [illustrate The Wildflowers of Table Mountain, A Naturalist’s Guide], and so Chris could teach art at Chico State, and then we started the bakery 12 years ago this summer. I think we chose Cohasset because of the pines, because it’s a bit greener than Chico. Chico is beautiful, but for Easterners, the valley gets a little gold in the summer.

What differentiates Hearth and Stone bread from that of other bakeries?

Chris: It’s made the way bread was made a long time ago. It’s naturally leavened using starters and long fermentation, with no commercial yeast, and contains only three ingredients—natural grains ground into flour, Celtic sea salt and well water. We couldn’t use city water to do this; the chlorination would kill the starter. It’s great for people who have issues with bread. The whole gluten-intolerance thing … I know some people actually have Celiac [disease], but a lot of that is just being used to sell people things. A lot of people wouldn’t have problems if they just ate whole foods.