What Is the Origin of Cuban Bread

What Is the History of Cuban Bread? My mother brought two loaves of Cuban bread with her when she came to see me in August from Miami. Since I left home nearly fifteen years ago, every care package I’ve received has involved her meticulously cutting small pieces off a large, fluffy, narrow loaf, sometimes three feet long, to fit into a plastic bag, before pushing out all the air so the bread doesn’t become stale during its transport back to New York, Chicago, Madison, or wherever I was living without it. If my grandparents know I’ll be visiting, they’ll purchase extra bread and keep it on top of their fridge.

Cuban bread is accessible everywhere in Miami, from tiny, local bakeries to every location of our regional supermarket chains, Publix and Winn-Dixie. Growing up, it never occurred to me that Cuban bread would require explanation. It is made simply of wheat, water, lard, and salt. There is no one ingredient or special baking process in a New York slice or a Philly cheesesteak. However, its history and significance in the Sunshine State are all but culinary canon. “The’Cuban Bread Line’ (the Mason Dixon line of Cuban pastry) spans across the state just north of Tampa,” Glenn Lindgren quips on his website Three Guys From Miami.

The unusual, contrasting texture and spicy yet light flavour of Cuban bread distinguishes it from other kinds. It’s thin and crunchy on the exterior while staying soft and airy on the interior, making it the ideal bread to eat pressed—soft it’s on the inside yet crispy on the outside like a cracker. A tostada, or pressed and buttered Cuban bread, is one of the most popular breakfast items sold in ventanitas, or walk-up windows, which are ubiquitous at Cuban restaurants in Florida.

“Brushing the confetti of crumbs off your lap after eating a Cuban sandwich,” says Gabrielle Calise in the Tampa Bay Times, alluding to the way the crust fractures when you break off a piece, shattering almost like glass. When you get inside, though, taking apart Cuban bread feels like ripping off a piece of cotton candy. It’s not like a baguette or brioche, and it doesn’t taste like a cross between the two, but it inherits traits from both, such as the length, shape, and crispness of a baguette and the crumbly yet light inside of brioche.

Many accounts attribute Juan Moré’s introduction of Cuban bread to the United States. He was a soldier from Catalonia in Spain who was sent to battle in Cuba in 1875, finally arriving in Ybor City, a district immediately northwest of downtown Tampa, in 1895. In their book Tampa: The Treasure City, Gary R. Mormino and Tony Pizzo write, “In his pocket he carried a piece of paper that would establish the source of his destiny.” “Scribbled on that piece of paper was his own recipe for Cuban bread.”

Moré came in Ybor City before him, but Francisco Ferlita is credited as being the area’s first commercial baker of Cuban bread. Ferlita was Sicilian and moved to Ybor City in 1896, the same year he opened La Joven Francesca Bakery, which closed in 1973 and is now home to the Ybor City Museum State Park. Moré bought La Segunda Central Bakery in 1915 after joining a bakers’ cooperative at the onset of World War I. So, while many tales credit Moré as the first to introduce Cuban bread to the United States, it’s more probable that it arrived much earlier. “That’s just another urban legend,” Huse explains. “From around 1885 to 1910, Cubans outnumbered every other ethnic group in Ybor City.”


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