Hidden behind a bike shop in a Florida Panhandle beach town, La Loba’s makes giant cinnamon rolls, great scones, whole-grain breads, gluten-free granola & more.
story & photos by Bakery Boy
“People find me,” says Gwynn Baker of her less-than-obvious location in Blue Mountain Beach, Florida. “I’ve had a lot of incarnations in the 25 years I’ve lived in this area, from baking in a rented corner of an old country store to working out of my house. People who like organic, whole grain, baked-daily goodies always find me.”
Her current venue for La Loba’s Bakery—a cramped nook behind Big Daddy’s Bike Shop and a health food, herbal supplements, and massage therapy joint called For the Health of It—has Gwynn thinking she’ll stay put for a while.
“I don’t mind that the place takes a little effort to find,” she says. “Besides, where else can a baker enjoy a great view of the Gulf of Mexico while baking and even while washing the dishes?”
WHAT THEY MAKE Cinnamon rolls weighing half a pound each—with optional organic-vanilla-bean icing and roasted pecans on top—rank high on my personal list of La Loba’s favorites. Cookies include wholesome oatmeal-raisin, chocolate chip, and pecan, but a standout variation dubbed “gluten-free chocolate puddles” are sticky, airy, brownie-
like marvels that resemble lumpy mud puddles. Scones made with fresh local blueberries or orange peal zest resemble thick, soft clouds and come with or without an almond-lemon or orange glaze. Layer cakes—including chocolate with chocolate butter-cream frosting, carrot with cream cheese frosting, and coconut—come whole or by the slice.
$15 LOAF! When I saw a single loaf of bread priced at $15, I just about freaked. But when hefty olive-mozzarella-asiago and spinach-feta-asiago loaves came hot from the oven, I realized they were worth it. They’re more like garden-fresh meals wrapped in whole grain or tasty pizzas rolled into loaf form. At $4.50 for a quarter portion, they make nice individual lunches on their own or go well with the beans-and-rice dishes La Loba’s sets out at midday.
SIGNATURE ITEM “I’d say it’s my Maple-Nut Granola,” Gwynn says, “because through mail orders that’s what I make and sell the most of. It’s my own blend of organic rolled oats, pure maple syrup, pecans, almonds, organic extra virgin coconut oil, pure vanilla, and sea salt. But if you ask customers, you’ll get different answers. Some come in specifically for the breads, others for cakes or cookies or scones or at lunch time for pizza.”
ABOUT THE NAME La Loba is Spanish for female wolf. “I was inspired by the book Women Who Run With the Wolvesby Clarissa Pinkola Estés, an American poet and mythologist of Mexican and Indian descent,” Gwen says. “She writes about female wolves being caring and nurturing but also wild and free, which describes me.”
SIMPLE START A Selma, Alabama, native who learned to cook by hanging around her grandmother’s kitchen, Gwynn earned a nutritionist degree at Auburn University, went to work in a hospital, and quickly got bored. “I heard about a baking guru in Petaluma, California, who specialized in building brick ovens and making naturally leavened whole grain breads, so I went out to study with him. I never got around to building a brick oven, but I loved the breads. I’ve been here in the Florida Panhandle for 25 years making good bread. Everything else just grew from that.”
LIKE FAMILY A handful of fellow bakers help with production. “We’re like a family, even if we aren’t all related,” Gwynn says. “What we have in common is an appreciation of natural ingredients. We use only real butter and sugar and eggs, fresh and local fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. We don’t use artificial colors or preservatives, hydrogenated fats, or high-fructose corn syrup. We share an enthusiasm for healthy food and try to keep a sense of humor while spreading the word about organic methods and sustainability.
WHY GLUTEN-FREE? Gwynn’s daughter Sarah created a wide range of gluten-free bakery recipes after learning than her son Dylan, now 5, has some serious food allergies. “Everyone around here who has food allergies knows about La Loba’s,” Gwynn says, “and even people without allergies seem to like our gluten-free muffins, cookies, granola, and cakes.”
LOCATION 2217 West County Hwy 30-A, Blue Mountain Beach, FL 32459. It’s on Scenic Highway 30-A, a brief and beautiful offshoot of U.S. 98 about midway between Fort Walton Beach and Panama City Beach in Florida’s northwestern panhandle.
HOURS Mon-Sat 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
INFO www.lalobasbakery.com or 850-267-0400