With Rosh Hashana set to start at sundown on September 28th, you may be planning a trip to Agoura Hills and Stoneground Bakery, where Abby Franke bakes some of the best challah in the city or outside of it. But recalibrate your Mapquest, because the bakery has moved down the street and across the 101 freeway, into much fancier digs.
Franke relocated, shutting down his charming but cramped space last month and moving into a $2 million newly built location. There he's filled 6,000 square feet with not only the stuff he had at his old shop, but a wood burning brick pizza oven, 5 pastry showcases, gelato and pizza counters, an acual sitting area with 2 flatscreen televisions, an old wooden communal table, and shelf after shelf of bread. Hardwood floors. An outdoor patio with a view of the actual hills of Agoura Hills.
Expanding made sense, since Franke had long outgrown his previous location, where he made enough challah and cookies (by hand) to stock not only his shelves but those at Trader Joe's. Adding pizza made sense too. "We've always sold pizza dough," said the German-born baker. "So why don't we do pizza?" All Stoneground's pizzas are kosher dairy, as is everything else in the bakery. "If we didn't have the honey, we'd be vegan."
Franke brought over his enormous German-made MIWE deck oven and added two new double deck ovens. He also brought in pastry chef Andrew Sandevick to make the Linzer tortes and sacher tortes, the Paris opera tortes and tiny cheesecakes that fill all those pastry cases. Sandevick had previously worked for Roland Mesnier, the former White House pastry chef.
Not only does Stoneground make breads and pastries suitable for Jewish high holidays -- raspberry rugelach; six kinds of blissful challah -- but Franke, who despite owning and operating a kosher bakery is Lutheran, has plans for a life-size gingerbread house for Christmas. Between holidays and during them, much of the flour for the baked goods comes from the rebuilt 1931 stone flour mill from which the bakery gets its name, which now has a mill room you can see behind a glass wall. In the previous location, it had been crammed into a glorified closet. "The mill runs all day long," says Franke, who will soon start selling his flour as well. Stoneground flour, challah, pizza and a scoop of gelato: Franke's bakery is about as close to one-stop shopping as you're likely to get.
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Stoneground Bakery: 29105 Canwood Street, Agoura Hills; (818) 597-8774.