Miami needs a good bakery. In fact, Miami just needs good bread. Before you start naming an endless array of mediocre bakeries in the comments section of this post, I warn you: If you think there's already a good bakery in Miami, you clearly have never stood in line at a real-deal, award-winning bakery or savored the complex flavors packed in a hand-crafted, thick-crusted loaf.
At good bakeries, bread sells out quickly. For a good loaf, people will drive, walk, or sprint. I've rarely seen any of that happen in the Magic City.
I should also mention that cupcake shops don't count.
This is not to say there aren't exceptional pastry chefs in Miami. We are, after all, home to Hedy Goldsmith -- executive pastry chef of the Genuine Hospitality Group and reigning queen of popcorn ice cream, homemade pop tarts, and delectable sweets in general.
We just don't have award-winning bread or an award-winning bakery. Many chefs blame Miami's high humidity. Others just don't think there's a demand for it.
Inside peek at Acme Bakery & Coffee
Regardless of the cause, Acme Bakery & Coffee is hoping to finally fill that gap. Alejandro Ortiz, a partner for Acme and The Federal Food, Drink & Provisions, thinks that Miami is "conceptually hungry for good bread". He also thinks that the high humidity claim is just an excuse. Acme is claiming to have finally crafted a way to deliver good bread in Miami.
Their first step was accepting the legacy of traditional European baking. Then, Ortiz and the team at Acme proceeded by re-creating these traditional methods in a way that functions in South Florida.
Ortiz says, "We've created an American baking tradition that's native to Miami." The breads all have names in English. Baguettes are called flutes and brioche is now known as Sally Lunn, for example.
Ingredients are a big part of that. Acme will be using ingredients from Florida: eggs from Lake Meadows Naturals, dairy from Dakin Dairy Farms and a good share of local produce. But, then again, who isn't these days?
All other products will be carefully sourced too. The butter handed out to guests of the bakery will be the highly regarded churned cream from Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery. On a tour of the kitchen, I also spotted several pounds of Valrhona's dark caraibe chocolate stored on a shelf.
Oritz believes that this will make the breads and pastries taste better. He's also hoping people will taste the difference.
There's also the big matter of the pre-ferment -- dough that is fermented ahead of time, then added to another dough in a process that highlights the complex flavors developed from the wheat molecule. Pre-ferments (levain, starter, or whatever you prefer to call them) are one of the most important components in bread making.
Side view of a long table at Acme
Things get trickier when it comes to sourdough, or wild-yeast bread. In sourdough, lactic and acetic acids feed off from the enzyme-released sugars in dough. This develops that distinctive sour flavor. This is also where the bread gets a hit of local flavor. San Francisco sourdough has a particular type of bacteria that gives the bread a different quality than other wild-yeast doughs.
That is where Acme claims to dial in on the "native to Miami" bread factor. "We aren't imitating a San Francisco sourdough," Ortiz says. The breads at Acme all have names like Midtown sour dough or Miami country bread, because the pre-ferments or wild-yeast doughs were all developed here.
But still, Acme is not the first bakery to develop pre-ferments in Miami.
Ortiz furthers the distinction from other loaves stressing one other concept: the bread at Acme is "hand-crafted". He strays from the word "artisanal", mainly because it's been largely misused in marketing campaigns from Domino's Pizza to Tostitos.
To him, "hand-crafted" is a better word. Ortiz and the team at Acme monitor humidity levels, temperature (of the water, flour, etc) and take pride in their loaves. There are also no machines rolling out the doughs, or folding the croissants.
"The breads will have slight imperfections in their shape. Not every dough or loaf looks the same," he explains.
Pastries will feature American classics, like a Waldorf-Astoria Red Velvet cake, fruit tarts and a strong seasonal component. In October, they'll be selling a butternut and acorn squash pie. In December, Acme will offer hot apple cider to its patrons. No cupcakes will be served at the bakery.
Acme's Pickleberry Jellies, Jams & Pickles
The bakery will also have a line called Pickleberry, featuring housemade jellies, jams and pickles. Flavors include starfruit, pineapple and more.
"We have the intent to offer bread wholesale," Ortiz explains. The Federal will already be benefiting from a bread baked specifically for the restaurant. They are hoping other joints might request the same.
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Soft opening is slated for Friday, September 14. I'll be trying a loaf soon, and letting you know whether Miami should finally celebrate, or just keep waiting patiently for the next one.
Follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyCodik.