Sourdough loaves of all shapes and sizes sit neatly on a rack behind the counter of the Little Red Hen Bakery in Salida. The local bakery offers a variety of breads and pastries made from scratch every morning.
Steve and La Sal Miller opened Little Red Hen nearly five years ago, but the smell of fresh bread hasn’t always wafted from the same location. Roughly a year-and-a-half ago, Little Red Hen outgrew its original store. Even in a town with just over 5,000 people, a small bakery wouldn’t suffice. Delicious baking attracted too many locals and tourists for the shop to support, so Little Red Hen moved down the block to a new, and current, location.
Little Red Hen isn’t the only bakery in town, but Steve knows his bakery has one thing that distinguishes it from the rest of the bread-kneading, dough-rolling pack: his wood fired oven. According to Steve, the loaves that finish in the specialty oven resemble old sourdough loaves that bakers made in 19th Century Europe.
“We make a sourdough in here. It’s delicious, but wood fired oven breads are something special,” Steve said.
While the peculiar oven is certainly a draw, Steve’s dedication to providing only the best baked goods for his customers is more likely the reason people can’t get enough Little Red Hen. He starts baking every morning at 3:30, and doesn’t break until everyone walks away with a delicious morsel in their stomachs.
“We’ll make in here about 140 to 150 rolls, different shapes and sizes. It’s all from scratch,” Steve said. “There’s no cheating the process. It’s good, honest work.”
A sample of the Monday specials include cranberry orange braided bread and shortbread cookies. Steve greets every customer with a smile, a sample and a conversation. While he said Little Red Hen is committed to the community, he does not discriminate against the tourists who followed the smell to try a freshly baked scone.
In some small towns, people rise at the crack of dawn to a rooster’s crow.
In Salida, people rise refreshed to the welcoming aroma of Steve’s baked goods at Little Red Hen.