The Salty Roan Bakehouse brings to Abilene a mouthwatering myriad of made-from-scratch desserts, cakes and breads served alongside carefully curated coffees.
Chelsie Herje, Salty Roan’s owner and chief artisan, includes in each recipe special ingredients. Each selected and added in at the precise time, in the precise measure, for a precise result. Her sourdough alone requires 18 hours of fermentation, breaking down the gluten (making it gluten-free).
The environment of the shop is, like the bakehouse itself, cozy, calm and contagiously communal.
“We designed the Salty Roan Bakehouse to be more like the coastal coffeehouses,” Chelsie told us. “Unlike the traditional ‘American’ bakery with doughnuts or kolaches, everything here is about community, conversation and connection.”
Chelsie and her husband, Bart grew up hardy, wholesome and hands-on. Bart grew up on a horse (a “salty roan horse”) and Chelsie grew up milking cows – 400 of them, twice a day.
“On the weekends and during the summers, I’d get up around 1 AM and head to the barn to start milking,” Chelsie shared. “I’d usually finish up around 8 or 9 AM.”
“Then,” she added – as if it wasn’t unexpected, “do that all over again beginning around 2 in the afternoon till about 8PM. I tell everyone ‘I’ve been preparing for this job my whole life’,” Chelsie added with a laugh. “The hours are the same.”
Chelsie honed her craft at the San Francisco Baking Institute – the only school in the United States dedicated exclusively to Artisan baking.
The bakehouse’s name is a tribute to Bart’s former strawberry roan horse. Chelsie explained another meaning of ‘salty’ is “seasoned, well-trained, someone you can put your confidence in.” “Roan” describes a horse’s coat coloration (much like “brindle” describes a distinctive coat pattern on a dog).
Along with her longtime dream of running her own bakehouse, Chelsie has also managed to knead in another cherished dream: to bring up her 4 children with the same kind of hands-on work ethic she and Bart had. Noah (12), their oldest, is close to knowing his way completely around the kitchen. Kai (10), chipper and professional, is one of the first to welcome customers in and, of his own initiative, offered me “anything you like” as I waited for Chelsie to meet with me. Their two daughters, Aspen (8) and Selah (6) are already being grafted in and given responsibilities here and there.
Story and Photos By Andy Holmes