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Kitchen Warfare’s Cuban Bread (Tampa Style)

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Background

cubano7 I am addicted to Cuban bread. Blame that on the fact that I was born, raised and lived in Tampa, FL for 40 years. My grandfather’s house was in old Ybor City on 26th Ave, just down from Tampa’s premier Cuban bread producer, La Segunda Central Bakery and as a product of Latin heritage I was raised on a steady diet of Tampa style Cuban and Spanish food. But a few years back a professional opportunity took me from the Sunshine State to hill country. Now there is some real good chow here and I’ve learned a lot of new things but no Pan Cubano. There are a lot other things I miss, like empanadas, guava pastelitos, stuffed potatoes and a few other favorites. But with the accessibility of key ingredients from online Latin groceries I’ve gotten pretty good at making a lot of these foods right here at home. But Cuban Bread itself has been elusive.

The Challenge with Cuban Bread

In my opinion the problem with some of the baked goods like Cuban bread is that very few people made it at home so the bakery versions are what people consider ‘the standard’ and its what they are most familiar with. For example if we think of Apple Pie we may think of our grandmother’s pie as THE apple pie. Her recipe, her style of crust. But in Tampa when people think of Cuban Bread they think of what the bakeries in Tampa have been producing for over 100 years. The reason I’m guessing is that Cuban bread has always been made fresh daily and without preservatives. Its a locally produced bakery fresh product available in nearly every grocery store and its always been reasonably priced. A high quality product and a reasonable cost and easily accessible. It just doesn’t seem many people had reason to make it at home.

The result? Almost no recipes for Tampa style Cuban bread for the home baker.

Now there is no shortage of good Miami style Cuban bread and other stuff people call Cuban bread that clearly isn’t. The Miami style of bread is quite good but (and we need to be VERY clear on this) it’s different. Anyone who says it isn’t is either a tourist, a short timer (non-native) or has no sense of taste. Like any food which is ‘best’ is subjective. But they ARE DIFFERENT and getting the Tampa style right is what this article is about. Another point is that nearly every major metro area has someone selling either ‘Cuban Sandwiches’ or ‘Cuban Bread’. If you want to replicate something you’ve had outside Tampa or Miami your best bet is to pick up or make French bread.

segunda Another challenge is that even the traditional Tampa bakeries make their bread a little differently. My grandfather used to bring over La Segunda’s but my mother bought our weekly loaves at the grocery and those were made by Casino Bakery. There are other bakeries like Alessi’s and Faedo’s, all have been making Cuban bread for generations. All are a little different, and of course all are ‘authentic’.

One of the differences is that some bakeries (including La Segunda) don’t use (or maybe no longer) use lard. Some bakeries still do because its clearly marked on the label. In my efforts here I’ve found that I prefer the taste with lard, it seems to give the bread a slightly better taste, but it is a heavier texture. This is where I think your mileage will vary based on your particular favorite bakery version.

The Beginning

At first I tried a few of the bogus recipes easily found on the net with predictably poor results. Then a few years ago I found a version on Taste of Cuba (TOC) for Miami style bread. While Tampa and Miami bread are quite different to aficionados, most of the tourists can’t seem to tell a difference so there must be some similarities. After a little tinkering with the TOC recipe I had a loaf that was pretty close in taste to the Tampa style but still the form of the loaf and texture were off. I knew I was close but no (Hav-A-Tampa) cigar. On the other hand it’s a good recipe for Miami Cuban bread which is thicker and have a lot more rise to them. Tampa loaves are long, slender and have a more fluffy cottony interior than the Miami style.

Success!

For two years or so I’ve been getting my Cubano fix via my modified TOC recipe. Then recently two things happened that helped make great headway. First we just got back from a trip to Tampa and I brought back many loaves of bread from La Segunda to use as reference samples and secondly a user on TheFreshLoaf posted a link to a Google video that shows how the bakers at one of Tampa’s premier bakeries (Faedo’s) form their loaves. In short they flatten the dough, fold it in half, flatten it again and roll it up like cinnamon rolls to form the long slender loaf. Completely different from any recipe I had seen or method I had tried and it seems to make ALL the difference in the texture.

So here’s my latest effort. If you are not successful please do not give up because this recipe will yield very good results when you get it right. I have a loaf of La Segunda’s sitting here as I write this article and this recipe is VERY similar with a flaky crust and fluffy crumb. To be clear La Segunda’s does not contain lard (at least nowadays) and ours has the more traditional lard flavor still used in other Tampa bakeries. IF you want to mimic today’s La Segunda loaf try using Soybean oil instead of the lard because that’s what they use.

If you need help, make adjustments or have successes or failures please post a comment so we can move this recipe forward.

Kitchen Warfare’s Cuban Bread (Tampa Style)

(Note that this recipe uses a starter so to make bread tomorrow you need to start today)

Starter (enough for two batches)

3/4 tsp yeast

1/3 cup warm water

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

Dissolve the yeast in the water in a NON-metallic bowl and let foam for a few minutes. Then add the flour and mix into a paste. Cover with plastic wrap, put it in the refrigerator and let mature for 24 hours.

Make the Dough

2 cups ice water

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1 oz lard

1 oz yeast

½ of the starter

1 3/4+ lb AP flour

You’ll also need a few feet of string soaking in water (chances are if you’re having to make your Cubano you’re no where near palmetto plants).

Directions

In a mixer bowl (w/ dough hook) combine the ice water, salt, sugar, lard, yeast and half the starter.

Add the flour and knead in mixer with dough hook until very smooth, about 6 minutes. Add more flour as is necessary to pull the dough together and it no longer sticks to the bowl. Allow to rise at room temperature until doubled.

Punch down and knead again for a few minutes until smooth. Personally I just toss it back and knead with the hook for a few minutes. Cover and allow to rise again until doubled. This rise is usually quicker than the first but just let it go until doubled.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces.

To form the loaves -

This is THE crucial step (see pictures below). Flatten the piece of dough with a few slaps of your hand (do not roll it out or press it). Fold it in half and flatten it again. Then roll it up fairly tight like a cinnamon roll. The length of each loaf depends on the size of your flat pan/oven but the key is that it should only be about an 1.25-1.5 inches in diameter. Again this is a key step. If you do not get this part right you’ll end up with the bigger Miami style bread. It has a lot more rise and the texture and crumb is more like traditional bread.

Once the loaves are formed immediately place a doubled length of string along the top of each loaf and ever so gently push it down into the dough. Very gently. This is another very crucial step. Skip this step and you won’t get Cuban bread at all.

Once you have them on the pan with the string, let them rise a 3rd time for about 10-20 minutes. Meanwhile preheat your oven to 400F.

Bake loaves about 20-30 minutes until golden brown and tapping on the loaves gives a hollow sound.

Remove the string and enjoy!

Notes-

The 3rd rise is really crucial. If you let the formed loaves puff up you won’t get the tighter Tampa style. They rise quite a bit while baking so just let them rise slightly once you form the loaves and add the string.

Oven temp is also crucial. If they cook too slow you won’t get the crisp flaky crust. If they cook too fast then the interior will be doughy (not done). 400F degrees for about 20 minutes works for me but a bakery in Tampa told me their oven is 425F. If you’ve done everything else right and the crust is soft like a hoagie roll the oven is likely too cool.

Of course there are many variables in the flour and yeast used and humidity and temps where you live. You may have to adjust rise times esp if you see them puffing up bigger than you know Tampa bread should be. I expect it will take a few tries to get it the way you want it.

If when you taste it something seems ‘missing’ or different in the taste compared to the Cuban bread you’re used to its likely the lard. Some Tampa bakeries use it and some do not. This recipe uses a moderate amount. The lard will make the crumb heavier than some of the ‘versions’ you find in Tampa today, most notably La Segunda themselves who according to their label now use soybean oil. In addition to being heavier the lard gives the bread a distinctive taste and what you like is probably going to be what you’re used to.

And Finally . . .

Again PLEASE post comments or questions esp. if you don’t get good results. I don’t mean to come off too arrogant here but I’ve eaten Tampa style Cuban Bread for almost 50 years so I have a good idea of what it tastes like and the results I was trying to achieve. I’ve taste tested it right along side the traditional Tampa bakery versions and while its not exactly like any of them (and of course none of them are alike) it fits right in. I understand what its like to be a displaced Tampan and crave this bread so if there is anything I can do to help you get good results please let me know.

Pictures

Here are few pictures that show how we’re forming the loaves.

Start with 1/4 of the dough

step1.jpg

Pat it down

step2.jpg

Fold it over and pat it again

step3.jpg

Roll them up into a narrow tube (1.25-1.5″) and add the string and let them rise.

NOTE THESE HAVE ALREADY RISEN AND ARE READY FOR THE OVEN

step5.jpg

Here’s a picture that shows our bread compared to La Segunda’s. Ours is on the right. As you can see we’ve achieved the desired split flaky crust.

cubano4

Here’s a picture of a heel and center cut piece to show our crumb (on the right) as compared to La Segunda’s. Nice and fluffy without being doughy.

cubano5

Credits:

A lot of what we know came from reading everything I could find about TAMPA style Cuban Bread. This is challenging because 95% of the information we found is irrelevant to what we’re trying to achieve, and in fact is very misleading. Some is about Miami style bread (and doesn’t specifically say so) but the vast majority bears little resemblance to the real thing. Its a muddied water to be sure.

The core of the recipe is a basic version given out by La Segunda. Although not mentioned in this public version, La Segunda has said on other occasions that they use ‘a piece of yesterdays dough’, which is why we’re using a starter. They’ve also said they use a 425F oven and that the dough is worked several times. The video mentioned below is also key because it shows two very important things we didn’t know. How worked the dough is (very pliable) and how they form the loaves which was a key learning in achieving the right texture.

My brother for cursing my earlier efforts as ‘Miami’ style (it’s a friendly rivalry but a rivalry nonetheless). Go Gators!

The nice person at La Segunda who although wouldn’t give up the secrets did give me a huge tip with a wink and a smile. You know who you are, bless you citizen.

The good folks @ TheFreshLoaf.com (a great resource, check it out!) for providing a forum for discussion and especially cleo3 for posting a link to the Google video that shows how Faedo’s bakery forms their loaves (its right at the end of the video).

And to all my fellow displaced Tampans out there, as Manuel Biero and Andy Hardy used to say, ‘Salude and Happy Days’!

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78 Comments »

  • Kitchen Warfare Cuban Bread (Tampa Style) said:

    [...] article at chowhound delivered by [...]

  • oyunlar said:

    good loved it thanx.

  • Beth said:

    Thank you so much for your recipe! I grew up and Tampa and sadly have been away for 10 years, and one of the biggest things about the city I’ve missed is the bread! Now that I have this recipe, maybe I can share a little bit of ‘home’ with my boyfriend who thinks there can’t be anything better than Maryland crab cakes!

  • Jeffrey Fox said:

    Great article…. I just wanted to add a little
    history to it… Early in the 20th century..
    Ybor City/Tampa was the center of the
    Cigar making world. The Cuban immigrants would
    work most of the daylight hours in the many
    factories sprinkled all around the Ybor City suburb.
    Most lived in small immigrant houses which sprang up
    around the area. To make their lunch for the next
    day.. the local bakeries would ‘post’ a bag with the
    next mornings cuban bread on the door.. they would
    come home… make their lunch for the next day using
    the bread left by the bakeries. As to this day,
    only a couple of these bakeries are still in
    operation. Well, I thought I’d throw my two cents in
    on this. Great article, my compliments.

  • Cruelty-free vegetarian store said:

    Thanks for the step-by-step procedure of bread making
    The pictures itself teaches well.Great Recipe!

  • Drew said:

    Ok Guys,

    I followed this recipe with a little variation to suit my personal tastes and the bread was wonderful! The only problem was fuzzies left from using soaked butcher’s twine to allow the top to bloom. What kind of string would you suggest using instead?

  • chowhound (author) said:

    Hey Drew-

    Most recently I’ve been using an shoe string but in the past I’ve just used regular twine. It helps to remove the string right away while the bread is still warm/soft.

    Care to share your variations? IMO this recipe is pretty close to what I’m after but the crumb is still too dense. It looks right (see pics) but its still just too heavy (by comparison to Tampa breads). I’ve tried experimenting with the last rise but I’m getting into areas beyond my expertise.

  • Irma Gámez said:

    This bread is good for sandwiches, soft and fresh. I like it for a toasted garlic bread too

  • Viewer Mail - Key West Mollete? It’s the Picadillo! said:

    [...] of pizza in Mexico (an oversimplification to be sure) but in Key West a mollete is a portion of Cuban bread stuffed with picadillo (traditional Cuban spicy ground beef hash) then breaded and deep [...]

  • Billie said:

    Wow! Thanks for sharing this recipe. I haven’t tried it yet, but will this weekend. Having been born and raised in Tampa, I spent 14 years in Alaska CRAVING a decent Cuban sandwich. My dear cousins would travel there from Tampa to visit and would bring the fresh loaves on the plane (driving everyone crazy with mouth-watering desire!) I’m in Virginia now — where they sell something called a Cuban sandwich, but it’s really some pork, ham and cheese on a French loaf. Eck! Not even close.

  • Lily said:

    Hi everyone,

    I own a Milano Oven-from Wildwood-& I just tried this recipe in my wood fired oven…OH MY GOODNESS! It is the absolute BEST tasting cuban bread I have ever had the pleasure of baking.

    I think it has to do with the extra wonderful flavor that the wood fire helps produce.

    Any other bread recipes-send them my way!

  • Theresa said:

    I found this website. it’s great on tip of how to best cook things. I thought anybody who loved the Cubans as much as much as I do myself would like to have this. I to am from fla . I miss being able to just run down to the market and get cuban bread. my mother lol! sends me the bread in the mail. I have some on the way for superbowl sunday. anyhow here is this website. I hope you all like it. I sure do!http://video.about.com/latinfood/Cuban-Sandwich.htm
    take care!
    Theresa

  • Bill in Tampa said:

    I’ve lived in Tampa for 53 years. This recipe and the comments about “Tampa” cuban bread are 100% correct. You can’t make a real cuban sandwich without it. I chuckle when I hear the Food Network suggest that you can use french bread instead. Blasphemy!

  • Lori said:

    I grew up in Key West and we got fresh Cuban bread from the local bakery. One of the distinctive features was a thin roll of dough baked along the top of the bread’s bloom or split. We kids used to tear off this “breadstick” and eat it first, just like eating the filling out of a cookie. I don’t know if this is a tradition particular to this bakery or if other Cuban bakeries also bake loaves this way. But, for me, it’s not Cuban bread without this bonus.

  • seymour said:

    Hey there really great site. We have a site with great seafood and Caribbean recipes along with the Epic Culinary Adventures of Seymour Recipe. We are adding a link to your site. Would you be willing to add ours as well?

  • Mayetta said:

    I came upon this by accident. Looking for the cuban crab cake. Thank goodness you have found how to make La Segunda Central cuban bread. I have tried so many breads that called themselves “Cuban” but, once you’ve had bread from Tampa, nothing else will do. Thanks for sticking to research and coming up with this. I can hardly wait to make it. Wahoo!!

  • chowhound (author) said:

    Good luck Mayetta! It can take a few tries to get it just right so let us know how it goes!

  • Glenda said:

    The one thing I remember most,is the smell of the bread.I have heard that La Segunda isn’t using the same lard anymore. The one thing that I cannot capture is the scent of fresh cuban bread.

  • Teresa said:

    I made the Cuban bread today and it turned out very good! One question: you list 1 oz. of yeast in the ingredients, is this active dry yeast, instant yeast, or cake yeast? When I measured 1 oz. of instant yeast I thought the amount was really too much and cut back. The bread rose just fine and was heavenly to smell while baking. I think I will enjoy this for all kinds of sandwiches. I only had kitchen twine on hand and doubled it, but it was really too thin to make much of an imprint. Whatever you use it needs to be cotton or linen as plastic will, of course, melt – not a good thing.

  • Javier said:

    Dear Chowhound, I am very grateful for your recipe and have been doing the legwork in my kitchen to come up with something that even remotely compares to my childhood memories of the stuff from the corner bakery in Miami. I am full Cuban 1st generation here in the US and grew up on this cuisine. I go to Miami at least once a year to relish the tastes and textures – there is no bread liek this in NC. Question: how can I get the inside to be more light and “cottony”? Should I use something else besides the lard? Should I back off on the rise times before baking? I am trying to stay true to your recipe but haven’t quite gotten “there” yet. Also, do you refrigerate the starter for the 24hr maturation? I will keep trying. THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!!

  • sgreer13 said:

    I made bread according to your recipe and its beautiful and delicious, I’ve always loved the Cuban sandwich but have never been happy with french bread. Now my Cuban is authentic and tasty.PS I found that my oven took closer to forty minutes to properly cook bread, took a loaf out at thirty and it was a little moist. Great stuff. Keep it up

  • Zombie said:

    I am sure you think Tampa has the REAL Cuban bread, but Miami has a heck of a lot more Cubans than Tampa does. It would only make sense that Miami has the bestest and realest Cuban bread out there. -.-

  • willie said:

    can you send this recipe in spanish?

  • chowhound (author) said:

    And next you’ll be trying to tell us that the Cuban sandwich was ‘invented’ in Miami :)

  • CheChe said:

    Great Stuff, chowhound!
    Took me a few tries to get it right, like the way “Segunda” used to make it. I’ve recently tried segunda’s new bread w/out the lard..and has lost a layer of flavor –can’t taste the pork flavor that gave the traditional loaf a unique taste.
    Their new bread not much different than the french bread in the flavor department.

  • Schatzie said:

    I’ve never had the real thing (being that I live in Iowa) but I love this bread. My only problem is that the kitchen twine is leaving fuzz all over the top of my bread. What kind of twine are we supposed to use? Mine is obviously NOT the right kind.

  • Jeffrey Fox said:

    Schatzie: Normally the twine is a substitute for a palmetto frond. A leaf strip is laid on the top, which makes a ‘wiggly’ indention on the top. The leaf shrivels away while baking. Many say it gives it a unique flavor, I’ve ate both types all my life… can’t tell a difference.

    I do use the indention to tell if a baker is making the bread traditionally bread.

    Try different types of twine.. look for a twine with thick threading.. it might work better.

  • Michael B. said:

    I made the bread earlier today. It got rave reviews from everyone who tried it! I’ll definitely be making it again. This batch, I topped half with string and half with strips of banana leaf. The string left fuzz, but banana leaf worked great. Next time, all banana leaf.

    Also, I found an interview of one of the owners of La Segunda Central. It’s a three-part series on YouTube; here is the link to the first one (links to the other two are on the right side of the page):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0oh8eHnTROM

  • Frank said:

    This guy is on Crack if he thinks Tampa Cuban bread is in any way better than Miami’s. I had to laugh out loud when he says “Tampa’s cuban bread has a fluffier middle than Miami’s”. Well you obviously have not been to Miami or one of the hundreds of bakeries that make them. Get a clue dude!

  • Frank said:

    After reading this article again I see where he thinks that Tampa cuban bread is better than Miami’s. IT’S BECAUSE HE DIDN’T ACTUALLY GO DOWN AND HAVE CUBAN BREAD IN MIAMI!! HE MADE WHAT HE THOUGHT WAS MIAMI CUBAN BREAD AND THEN DECLARES IT’S NOT AS GOOD AS HIS TAMPA BREAD!! MIAMI=AUTHENTIC CUBAN, MADE BY THE BEST CUBAN CHEF’S THERE ARE. TAMPA=SECOND RATED CUBAN EVERYTHING MADE POPULAR BY THE IMMIGRANTS THAT COULD NOT MAKE IT IN CUBA BEFORE CASTRO TOOK OVER. IT’S LIKE YOU SAYING THAT THE LOBSTER AT RED LOBSTER IS BETTER THAN LOBSTER AT A HIGH END RESTAURANT. SO YOU SEE, THIS IS NOT REALLY CUBAN BREAD HERE. YOU MAY LIKE IT AND THINK IT IS, BUT IT’S MORE LIKE A FRENCH BREAD HERE, AND THAT MY FRIENDS, IS NOT AUTHENTIC CUBAN BREAD. LOL HE SAYS TAMPA CUBAN BREAD IS FLUFFIER IN THE MIDDLE THAN MIAMI CUBAN BREAD. I LITERALLY ALMOST FELL OUT OF MY SEAT BECAUSE WE COULD NOT FIND ANY CUBAN BREAD IN TAMPA THAT IS WORTH WHILE. AND ON TOP OF THAT, MOST PLACES HERE THAT MAKE CUBAN SANDWICHES DON’T MAKE THEIR OWN FRESH BREAD. DO REAL RESEARCH BEFORE YOU GO WRITING AN ARTICLE ABOUT STUFF YOU THINK YOU KNOW ABOUT, BUT DON’T.

  • Frank said:

    “On the other hand it’s a good recipe for Miami Cuban bread which is thicker and have a lot more rise to them. Tampa loaves are long, slender and have a more fluffy cottony interior than the Miami style.”

    So according to this guy, Miami’s Cuban bread is thicker and rises more. LOL but then he goes on to say in the very next sentence that Tampa’s bread is thinner, but it has a more fluffy cottony interior???? This guy makes no sense what so ever. He even says that all the Tampa bakeries make their cuban bread different. So then how is he making an argument for Tampa cuban bread. Which really then should be an article about “HIS” favorite cuban bakery for bread in Tampa.

    And yes I might be taking this too serious but I have lived in Tampa for 5 years now and the “cuban bread” here is in no way better than the bread in Miami. I have searched all over this place and it is more like hard french bread. That is not Cuban bread people. People go to Miami specifically for this. It is known worldwide. Outside of Tampa, when is that last time you heard anyone coming here for anything Cuban aside from the Cigars??? That’s all you got! And that has even faded.

  • chowhound (author) said:

    Actually I’ve had a lot of Miami cuban bread having lived in FL over 50 years.

    I don’t claim either is better, just different. Fluffier I suppose is a subjective term that is hard to quantify but as I point out Miami loaves have a lot more rise to them and are big poofy loaves compared to the original U.S cuban bread first produced in Tampa which have a more cottony crumb (interior).

    For non-Floridians you can find pictures via google of loaves from San Lago (a Miami bakery) among others and its easy to see the difference between them and the tighter fluffier Tampa loaves. The Miami bread’s crumb is much more like traditional yeast breads. Its not a knock, again both are very good, just different.

    Which bread is ‘better’ pretty much depends on where you come from. That said of course we have to look to Tampa loaves as the gold standard since both the domestic version of Cuban bread and the Cuban sandwich are originally from the Cigar City (yea I know, fightin’ words!)

    As for the on crack comment, that’s kind of funny coming from Miami :)

  • Miss Chef said:

    You’re forgetting that U.S. cuban bread was originally from Tampa so even tho you may not prefer it that is the original bread.

  • Miss Chef said:

    From wiki on cuban bread-

    There is some debate about the true source of “real” Cuban bread, with both Miami and Tampa, Florida claiming to be the home of the best. However, it’s true that the first bakery to bake Cuban bread in the U.S. was most likely La Joven Francesca Bakery in Ybor City, the Latin Quarter of Tampa. In 1896, La Joven was established by Sicilian baker, Francisco Ferlita. This bakery sold bread for 3 to 5 cents a loaf, mainly to the Ybor City market.[1]

  • mindstein said:

    Hi,
    I am a Cuban American and native Floridian living in the mountains in California.
    I grew up in Naples Florida and also fell in love with both Miami and Tampa Cuban style bread.
    I’ll keep which is my favorite to myself. I love them both.
    I have been trying to reproduce the true Tampa Cuban bread also for years with no success.
    Thank you for your article. I have not had the chance to try the recipe but I will try it this week.
    While I was looking for articles on Cuban bread I found 3 great videos on YouTube that are in interview with the owner of La Segunda Central Bakery. It is a different video than the link you posted.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0oh8eHnTROM&feature=channel
    He talks all about the Cuban bread that they make.
    In a post above you said:
    IMO this recipe is pretty close to what I’m after but the crumb is still too dense. It looks right (see pics) but its still just too heavy (by comparison to Tampa breads). I’ve tried experimenting with the last rise but I’m getting into areas beyond my expertise.
    After I read this and watched the videos something popped out at me in the 3rd video that I had not heard any other site mention and I thought it might be the missing piece to getting your crust just right
    About 1min and 30 sec or so into video #3 he mentions something that might get you to the crust that you seek. He said that after the last rise and before they toss it into the oven they set the loaves out in front of the ovens with the fans on.
    This caused the outside of the dough to dry (they even show fans blowing on the proofed dough)
    He said this gives the dough like a little skin on the outside and that becomes like an eggshell when it is cooked and gives it that paper thin outer crust that is the mark of great Cuban bread.
    This tip from the owner is in contrast to all of the recipes I have ever seen that said to keep the dough moist and covered with a moist towel. This might be the missing tip. I will try this week and let you know how well I do with both your recipe and this tip gleaned from the YouTube video. If you beat me to the punch please let me if this tip is of help.

  • chowhound (author) said:

    Excellent comment mindstein. Michael B posted a link to these videos but I only watched a few minutes of the first one, I thought it was just about the history. D’oh!

    You are absolutely right, this is in contrast to everything I have read too. Plus as you point out it sounds as if it addresses the issue we’re having getting this bread EXACTLY right.

    I’m going to watch the video and see if I can get a sense of how to emulate what they’re doing in a home kitchen. Its hard to find time to do much baking during the summer but this is pretty motivating. Think I’ll get a starter going right now so I can give this a go over the weekend too. :)

    If you give this a go please post your findings, as will I. With everyone’s help we’re getting closer to getting this recipe right.

    Thanks again for the excellent insight.

  • Rob said:

    Hi
    I’ve just read your website (http://www.oo.com/kitchen-warfares-cuban-bread-tampa-style/) and am very grateful for your site and help. That said I need Help Big Time Please. My bread sucks. I followed the directions but my bread is too coarse/heavy/mealy. It has no crispness or flake to it. It gets hard on outside and sounds hollow BUT it is terrible. I don’t have a mixer so I kneed by hand, could this be the problem? I DO use the string but may I ask very friendly (and ignorantly) what does it do or what is it for? I am very serious about trying to make great Cuban bread as it should be but having no luck whatsoever. Please, can anyone help? Any ideas what things I am doing wrong. In the video it looks like they slap the dough around a lot, maybe mine is not tight/stretchy enough. I think that may be the case. How do I get it that way? One side note, I am in Las Vegas for awhile and the air here is very dry. Could that have anything to do with it? If so I can turn on a humidifier but need advice please. Hope we can return the favor for your help.
    No Bread in Vegas LOL.
    Thanks.
    Rob

  • Rob said:

    Hi again. Sorry I forgot to include my email address: mrrlq@aol.com
    Thanks so very much for any help or insight you may be able to share with my Cuban Bread.
    Rob

  • chowhound (author) said:

    Someone named Roberto contacted me about the recipe but did not leave his complete email address in the contact form so I’ll answer him here. Its better to share our information anyway so together we can advance the recipe.

    >>You use ice water for the recipe instead or warm water?

    Correct. Slowing the rising process helps the bread develop flavor through a longer fermentation process. This is called ‘dough retarding’. To that end for certain types of bread professional bakeries often use a refrigerated box called a dough retarder but they are very big and very expensive. Home bakers can use a variety of methods to retard (slow down) the fermentation process such putting the dough in the refrigerator or in this case using ice water. The refrigerator is really too cool, ideally I believe the temperature of professional retarders is in the 45-50F range (experts please comment) and of course the home refrigerator is colder than that.

    I find that retarding the dough makes more of a difference in taste when using lard which I guess comes as no surprise.

    It should also be pointed out that a good quality yeast makes a huge difference esp. when doing cold rises. In my experience there is a night and day difference between common grocery store yeast like say Fleischmann’s and a top shelf yeast like SAF Red (rise times are amazing). Not only is SAF Red a better product it’s also cheaper. A one lb bag can be had for around $6 online ($3.99 at our local bakery/bake shop) and it equals 4 jars of grocery store yeast. It can also be found in some grocery stores esp those that tend to stock unique items or have a lot of home bakers in the area who would want bulk yeast. Store it in the freezer in an air tight container and it will last as long as a year (although it never makes it that long around here!).

    >>>If you do not roll the dough how are you going to get it thin enough to come up with a diameter of about 1.25 to 1.50 inch?

    There are pictures in the article above that show the steps but the best thing is to watch the Faedo video (link in article) because they show the process exactly. To answer your question specfically each loaf just doesn’t have that much dough and its easy to get them that ‘small’. If you watch the video you’ll see how each piece of dough is ‘elongated’ into loaves.

    >>>When I was in Cuba I remember the bakeries did not use a wet sting but a banana tree leave. There are not many banana trees where I live so I have been using a clean wet palmeto tree leave and it works.

    Palmetto leaves are exactly what have been traditionally used in Tampa (as most Tampans know bakery bread often still has pieces of palmetto on the loaf) but most people trying to bake their own Cuban bread are displaced Floridians and don’t have access to palmetto leaves so as the article says we suggest string as substitute. Ultimately the split in the top is what we’re looking for and string does a passable job when palmettos are not available.

  • mara said:

    Yo do not mention whether or not the starter has to be refrigerated? Also, should purified or distilled water be used if you live where water is very hard?

  • tom said:

    I was raised in Tampa and moved away about 25 years ago. The Cuban food and especially the bread have been missed greatly. Whenever I and my family went home to visit a trip to the bakery was always the last stop before leaving Tampa to get some fresh Cuban bread to take back home with us. Foeget chips and such for the two hour trip: the fresh Cuban bread was my kids favorite! On one trip, the bread(from Faedos) was literally right out of the oven. In fact the inside of the bread was still too doughy to eat. After it cooled a few minutes, it was perfect. Could it be that one must be very careful not to overbake Cuban bread when trying to make it in your own kitchen? I can`t wait to try your receipe. Hopefully, I won`t have to drive 100 miles every time I want some Cuban bread!

  • Rob said:

    Hi Everyone. I need help.
    Could someone be so kind as to relist the recipe and/or the link to it. As posted above I have tried to make this without much success and would appreciate any help/tips anyone can share with me. BTW I am now living in lake Worth FL 33462. Does anyone know where to buy Cuban bread?
    Thanks.
    Rob

  • WantRealBread said:

    Dear,

    Your instructions for dread did not work: yeast did not foam, etc.

    I have no problem following instructions.

    You need to follow your own instructions before publishing.

    M.

  • WantRealBread said:

    To: Bob’s response on 12.11.09: We live in N. Georgia. We had to have someone ship bread to us. It is worth it!

    M.

    P.S. I do not see ‘chowhound’ responding…very disappointing.

  • Anonymous said:

    Of course the ‘instructions’ work, you can see pictures of the bread.

  • Sonia Sanchez said:

    My husband and I are both native Floridian. He grew up in Tampa and goes crazy when he can’t get his Cuban sandwich or toast. For years I’ve tried to make Cuban bread, but have been unsuccessful. I’m going to try your recipe, but I’ll go out in the yard and get some palmetto leaves instead of the string. Thanks so much for the recipe!!!!

  • Renae said:

    It is making my mouth water just reading all the comments! I can’t wait to try this recipe. I love Cuban bread and I am totally excited to think I can actually make it myself now! Thank you for sharing!

  • REAL Cuban bread - Tampa Bay - Florida (FL) - Tampa - St. Petersburg - Clearwater - Page 2 - City-Data Forum said:

    [...] Originally Posted by TB Fla Your Miami pals must not spend a lot of time in Tampa. I almost never see Cuban bread look like the second pic around here unless its some kind of chain resturant. When I order a cuban in Tampa, the first pic is what I usually get. For sure ^^ – when I lived in Tampa, I got nice Cuban bread like the first pic at a lot of places. When I was growing up, I lived in old West Tampa, and we would wait at the bakeries to get it fresh and hot. I won't eat that stuff that looks like a skinny loaf. I'm sure that like a lot of things, times have changed and maybe the quality of Cuban bread in Tampa has gone down some or is harder to find, but there must be places that still serve what I believe to be "real" Cuban bread. Hey, I just did a search on Google and came up with this interesting blog about Tampa Cuban bread, which includes recipes for making your own! http://www.oo.com/kitchen-warfares-c…d-tampa-style/ [...]

  • Lejing said:

    “You’ll also need a few feet of string soaking in water (chances are if you’re having to make your Cubano you’re no where near palmetto plants).”

    What is function for sting or palmetto plants?

    Thanks,
    Lejing

  • Maegan said:

    As a displaced Tampan, I am thrilled to see this. Not only do they not have Cuban bread 26 miles from the Canadian border, I can’t even find mojo seasoning! My mom sends me stuff from FL, or I can find it online…but the bread has eluded me…haven’t tried the recipe yet, but I can’t wait.

    P.S. Cuban sandwiches were actually invented *in* Tampa…so I think anyone not making them the “Tampa way” isn’t actually making a real cuban. ;)

  • pj said:

    instead of lard try 1 oz pig fat. its a secret of the great breads

  • Miss Chef said:

    Lard is pig fat

  • Royall said:

    Question about size of loaf. I’m about as far a way from Florida and Cuba as possible so I only know this bread from the Food Channel. When I see a “Cuban Sandwich” being made it looks a whole lot bigger than what is being described here. Is the bigger loaf something “new” and not traditional? I did try making Cuban bread not to long ago (a different recipe) and thought it was a lot like a fine crumb French bread but was very tender inside. I was amazed how the string trick worked! You could even do the same thing with a sharp lame if you didn’t have any string.

    Aloha,

    Royall

  • high5apparatus said:

    This is the most comprehensive Cuban bread recipe I’ve found. The recipe I developed is very similar. I use vegetable shortening which I find gives it that velvety smoothness without having to use the lard. I also preheat the oven to 400 for an hour then lower it to 350 when I put the bread in, and bake for 30 min. The next time I make some I’ll try the higher heat you suggest.

    I made some mojo roasted pork yesterday, so I made my Cuban bread as well to make sandwiches, but I used your techniques such as letting the dough hook do the kneading, punching it down twice, and the way you describe forming the loafs is similar to a YouTube video I saw of a Tampa bakery making Cuban bread where they used a forearm smash to flatten before rolling.

    My bread turned out awesome and the Cuban Sandwiches were very good. Not bad for a guy in St. Louis.

  • David said:

    Haven’t tried this yet, but ice water seems unusual, could you explain?

  • chowhound (author) said:

    Sure. Ice water retards the rising process which is in part what gives Cuban bread its flavor. It’s a common technique for similar breads like Biga. Professional bakers use a piece of equipment called a retarder which essentially is a temperature controlled rising cabinet. Most of us don’t have a retarder at home but we can slow down the rise by using ice water and letting the dough rise at room or even cool temperatures.

  • SASFL said:

    Thought I’d pass along the following link. The article claims that the secret to making authentic cuban bread is a cold oven and a pan of boiling water below the bread. Allowing the bread to rise in the cold oven a few minutes before turning on the oven. This is suppose to create the thin-crisp crust. Haven’t tried it but it sounds like it is a similar concept to your “3rd rise”.

    http://www.post-gazette.com/food/20000730suzbread4a.asp

    ¡buen provecho

  • Dusty Miller said:

    You made me home sick for Tampa, I live in Georgia now and just can not find cuban bread any where. When I was young I worked with a old cuban guy he would run to the bakery every morning and get us cuban coffe and bread with butter so good and a great way to start off ur day.

  • chowhound (author) said:

    Sorry I missed this comment. Where are you seeing problems and I’ll take a look

  • Global Table Adventure » Recipe: Cuban Bread (Pan Cubano) said:

    [...] lot. Great recipe — just make sure you start it a day ahead of when you need it! Special thanks to Kitchen Warfare for a wonderful post on how to make this wonderful Cuban bread. Without their help, I would have [...]

  • Renea said:

    I am a well advanced cook and baker (especially bread), although I had never made Cuban Bread I decided to (made last night) and it was very good! I used Palmetto leaves (instead of string) being that I live in the Tampa Bay area and they worked beautifully. I also baked it at 425 for 20 minutes on my stone. I am making more with the starter I have left tonight, but will increase temp to 450. I bake bread pretty much daily and find the higher temps work much better on bread that is supposed to be crusty and it will get done on the inside and not burn! As far as the texture, personally I had the same problem back when I started making bread and found that not only the rise but the kneading is crucial to an airy, fluffy inside. I have a mixer w/dough hook that I mis everything in, but always knead by hand after mixing and my results have paid off. Hope this helps you and everyone else. Happy baking!! :)

  • Joyce Head said:

    I don’t want to sound like an idiot, but your measurements for the flour has me baffled. How many cups is that? My husband is from Key West & his mom worked at the Sugar Loaf Inn……they made cuban bread all the time….my mother-in-law passed away 10 years ago…I didn’t get her recipe. My husband is wanting it badly. Thanks for your work on this.

  • chowhound (author) said:

    The flour is by weight, its a 1 3/4 lb or 28oz, the + means you may need to add a bit more. As with most breads this is just a starting point, its up to the baker to be sure the dough is the right consistency. You may find it takes a little more or a little less depending on factors like the flour you are using and the humidity where you live. If it helps I used King Arthur AP flour when putting together this recipe.

  • Tracy said:

    Thank you so much for this! I have been away from Tampa for 20 years and I really really miss the cuban bread! I get angry when I see a cuban sandwich on a menu (which is becoming more frequent) b/c I know it just won’t be the same!! We were just in Tampa this week and had cubans from Castellano & Pizzo…it’s an italian market but the cubans are awesome! My 14 year old son told me I needed to learn how to make them. I googled cuban bread and found your recipe. Can’t wait to try it! Also, Go Gators!

  • Marisa said:

    Hi! Is this Norm who publishes comments on The Fresh Loaf? If you are I’ve been reading all of your comments and getting quite a bit of insight. My husband and I are home bakers and we love a good challenge. We made some Cuban Bread yesterday and they are quite good. We are anxious to try your recipe to find out if it is the same. El Segundo made a video and they put a fan on their bread after it blossoms and before it is baked. They said that’s how they get that distinctive crust. We are going to try that and see how it comes out. There is so much to learn and so much baking to do. Now we are buying our flour in 50# bags. Sir Lancelot is not cheap and it’s hard to find in our area so we ordered it in bulk.

  • Marisa said:

    Sorry to mistake you for Norm – you’re Hector. I’ve been reading so much from the both of you. Thanks for all the tips.

  • - Moms Gone GlobalMoms Gone Global said:

    [...] If you do not live near a Cuban bakery, you and your little ones can try your hands at baking your own authentic Tampa Style loaf. [...]

  • MimiCooks said:

    I purchased a Bosch Universal Plus Mixer just before hosting a reunion of friends from Tampa. They came from Minnesota, South Carolina, North Florida and Tampa to our home in Alabama. So at least 4 out of 5 of us don’t have easy access to Cuban bread. I found your recipe and tried it out and served it with a Cuban Feast Dinner. Raving reviews!!!! Every one of us thought it was as good as any Cuban bread we have bought in Tampa. My only regret….that I didn’t have my Tampa friend bring palm fronds! I will be using this recipe for many years to come.

  • Robert said:

    I too used to go to La Segunda to purchase bread when I worked in Tampa. Now I live on the coast and it is to far to go to get bread. I am trying to make it at home and I have a question. You say 1 oz of yeast, I believe you mean fresh yeast which is hard to find..so I need to know how much active dry yeast is the equivalent and wouldnt the ice water retard the active dry yeast?

  • RocketCity said:

    Great Article: Just brought back La Segunda on plane – as usual excellent! My girl told me that they just use off the shelf Moho for thier pork aka roast it & started laughing when I asked about a complicated recipe of lime orange juice and etc… and it was a very good sandwhich. What Moho do they sell in the store down there in Tampa? Which brand is most used in these neighborhoods? I eat all over and typically people tried to make thing far too complicated. Anyone have a good idea?

  • David said:

    Feels good to hear from another Tampa-Ybor native. Got bread there every morning. Now, making it myself
    David from 22nd ave

  • Ed said:

    I too am an old Tampa native as was my father (Ybor City). We would go to the old Alessi bakery on Howard Ave after mass on Sunday. My father kenw some of the bakers. We’d go in the back door and get bread right out of the oven..eat half a loaf on the way home…

    We too load the freezer whenever we visit in Tampa. Now live in N.E. Mississippi where everything is deep fried (yuck). Never baked bread but I gotta try. Just made the starter…can’t wait for tomorrow.

  • Ed said:

    Well…strike one…I think the yeast I bought must have been old..no rise. The bread is very dense and didn’t fill out. Oh well..I’ll give it another go soon. should I use “fast acting” yeast?

  • Gary Haskins said:

    I lived in Tampa for almost 20 years and recently relocated to Tucson, AZ. My office in Tampa was originally in Ybor City and i drove by La Segunda daily. This recipe is my next baking project. We will also have to make our own Cuban Roast Pork for our Cuban Sandwiches.
    Thanks for this recipe!
    Gary

  • John Gatewood said:

    I made this recipe twice now. It looks a lot like Cuban bread but is a lot denser and crumbs on cut surface. Its not wispy like real Cuban bread and is difficult to use the press on sandwiches. I used lard and the starter as directed. When we grew up in Tampa.the bread we used was from Casino bakery. It had a wax paperwhich was white with red lettering down the middle. It had a shiny crust and very chewy and malleable. You.
    Could tie it in a knot. The bread the Columbia now uses is very good but is different. The crust is not shiny and is not malleable but it presses well. Its great with butter. I would like to make a lighter loaf that is malleable. Perhaps more gluten is needed. Do you have any suggestions that could help. I have made a lot of bread through the years but indeed making bread like the kind we had as kids is quite a challenge.

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