Cuban bread is noted for its split or bloom down the middle of its crust. This long, crusty loaf features a tender, but not chewy, interior. The MorÈ family is credited with bringing the formula into the United States, according to iCuban.com™. Juan MorÈ migrated to Tampa, Fla., and opened La Primera (The First) Bakery in 1915. The original bakery burned down and was replaced by La Segunda (The Second) Central Bakery. Today, thirdgeneration bakers Raymond and Tony MorÈ operate the bakery, which produces 5,000, 36-in. loaves a day, and sell them for $1.25 a loaf.
To make this special bread, combine all the ingredients, and mix with a dough hook for two minutes in first speed. Stop the mixer, and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Shift to third speed, and mix for another five minutes until the dough is developed. After mixing, the dough temperature should be 76°F (25°C). Allow the dough to bulk ferment for one hour. Cover the dough to prevent the surface from drying out. Fold over the dough, and punch it down gently. This releases the gases and supplies the yeast with new food. Bench rest the dough for another hour.
Divide the dough into 30, 20-oz. (575-g) pieces. Round the dough pieces, and allow them to bench rest for 15 minutes at room temperature. Keep the dough covered at all times. You have several options to make the bread unique by forming the loaves into different shapes or sizes, such as baguettes, submarine buns or rolls. The most common shape is 12- to 36-in. oblong loaves. Place the shaped loaves into prepared linen (couche), seam down.
Use palmetto fronds
For an authentic loaf, use palmetto fronds to create the bloom. Cuban bread is most often characterized by a strip of wet palmetto leaf applied to the top of the bread instead of a knife cut to allow the bread to split open during baking. If palmetto leaves are available, sanitize them and soak them before using. Apply the wet fronds down the length of the loaf, pressing them into the loaf surface.
If palmetto leaves are unavailable, use strips of very stiff dough. Wet the strips thoroughly before placing them on the loaf, this helps the split occur along the dough strip. Another option is to use rope. Place 3/8-in. thick rope into boiling water. Remove the water from the heat, and let the rope soak for at least one hour. Cut the rope to the desired length, and place it on the loaf tops. Or, you can cut the loaf lightly with a knife or razor after proofing.
Proof the dough at low humidity and 88°F to 95°F (30° to 35°C), palmetto frond down, for about one hour, or until doubled in size. Do not allow the dough to over proof. Flip the loaves over so the palmetto leaves are up, and bake at 450°F (232°C) with closed damper and one second of steam. Reduce the temperature to 350°F (180°C). Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, opening the damper during the last ten minutes of baking. Opening the damper allows the moisture retained in the loaves to evaporate, creating a crisp crust.
Bread with beautiful bloom
During baking, the moisture in the palmetto fronds causes the crust to split and the bread to bloom beautifully down the middle. For non-Latin customers, brush away the brown and dried out fronds before packaging, but Latin customers prefer to have them left on, as a sign of the authentic craftsmanship. Allow the loaves to cool completely on a cooling rack before packaging.
Use this bread to create added sales for both lunch and breakfast. Cuban bread provides a good base for Cuban sandwiches. Butter slices of the bread, and grill them on each side. Then, pile the bread high with cured ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, yellow mustard, mayonnaise and sour pickles. Cuban bread also is a wonderful treat when served with rich, creamy butter and a cup of hot Cuban coffee in the morning for customers' breakfasts.
|Bread flour||5 kg||11||50|
|High gluten flour||5 kg||11||50|
|Compressed yeast||100 g||3.5||1|
|Sea salt||220 g||7.75||2.2|
|Dough conditioner, optional||300 g||10.5||3|
|Dry malt||100 g||3.5||1|
|Total appr. wt.||17.26 kg||31||1||172.6|
|Instructions: Prepare according to article. Bake at 450°F (232°C) with closed damper and one second of steam. Reduce the temperature to 350°F (180°C), and continue baking for 35 to 40 minutes, opening the damper for the last ten minutes.|
Klaus Tenbergen is a certified master baker and baking instructor at Kendall College-"The school of culinary arts" in Evanston, Ill., and Modern Baking's Workbench editor. He began his baking career in 1977 and came to the United States in 1994. He also is the co-author of On Baking.