Sourdough bread baked at Newhall Refinery uses unique process

A Stack of freshly baked bread at Newhall Refinery on Main Street in Newhall. Cory Rubin/ The Signal
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Dustin Boole originally started baking commercial breads as a hobby, but years later, it became a lifestyle. The Newhall Refinery chef and fellow baker Emily Costello make 15 loaves of bread a day for hungry guests, and put a unique spin on each one.

The sourdough starter origin

To make the refinery’s popular sourdough, the bread artisans had to use a sourdough starter, known as a “levain,” in their first recipe.

The levain starter is a microbiological substitute for yeast that maintains a consistent flavor to the sourdough, and each baker has one, Boole said. The levain is a unique mixture of water and flour that is added to bread doughs to raise it, in place of using store-bought commercial yeast.

“There are some commercial breads we were able to get, but we wanted better,” Boole said. “The levain is 100 percent natural. It feeds on itself. You add that to bread rather than the powder yeast you find in the store, and it makes the bread rise better and taste better.”

That leavening agent, a bacteria that’s used in every new loaf of bread, needs to be “fed’ with more water and flour once half is used, Boole said. This translates into flavor and rise for the homemade bread once it’s fully baked, and the Newhall Refinery bread is extra sour because of where its levain was born.

“Our starter was born in the Pulchella Winery, across the street,” Boole said. “The reason it started there, was there was a lot of natural lactic acid from grapes fermenting in the barrel room, and in the peak of our starter’s rise, you can almost taste wine in the bread that we bake with it.”

The starter now lives at Newhall Refinery, and Costello comes in every day from 3:30 to 5:30 a.m. to bake with it.


Costello uses her culinary background to depart from only baking country white sourdough — she has experimented with breads, such as combining rosemary and cherry, blueberry and oats and olive and black garlic breads.

The black garlic loaf with whole wheat is one of the restaurant’s signature bestsellers, Boole said.

They also have done variations on Asian-inspired dishes.

For Sunday brunch, the refinery makes avocado toast, with a soy sauce, wasabi butter and cured tuna on a black garlic loaf.

Their bone marrow entree is on a black garlic sesame whole wheat loaf with bone marrow cooked on the slice, with strawberry gochujang chili and garnishes like daikon and spring onions.

Boole has been with Newhall Refinery for four years, and said he is always experimenting for new ideas.

“Santa Clarita is a big melting pot,” he said. “So I try to put things on the menu that everyone could eat. That goes for bread. Like with anything, if you do it every day, you’ll get better at it. We started by making one loaf a day and that turned into 15 loaves a day, and we’ve come a long way.”


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