Despite being home to many James Beard Award-winning and nominated chefs, Miami continues to lack a first-class bakery. I'm not talking about those obscure places offering bland baguettes and lackluster pastries, and I definitely don't mean those cupcake shops that keep popping up just about everywhere. I'm talking about award-winning bread that is baked in real time, out of a burning oven, from scratch and with real, artisan flavors.
Lee Klein has already pointed out that upscale hotels are the best bet for good bread, since these are the locales that can afford a great chef to bake for the entire property. This quality hasn't come easy and Andrew Carmellini, the James Beard Award-winning chef of The Dutch at the W South Beach, has actually found it challenging to produce great bread in Miami. "Bread is tough here. I wasn't happy with anything we tried and our experiments in house didn't yield great results." His theory? High humidity levels make it difficult to create the flavorful, crisp crust required of a good loaf. Instead of battling it out, Carmellini serves up a delicious option that is not at the mercy of the weather, "We serve our cornbread [at The Dutch], which doesn't have to be crunchy or leavened."
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Jordi Panisello, executive pastry chef of the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, also admits that it isn't easy baking in Miami. "Baking here is much different than baking in Arizona or Colorado. Here, you can make croissants or crusty breads in the morning and because of the weather, they can begin to wilt in a few hours." To combat the issue of humidity, Panisello bakes breads and pastries as close to service time as possible. He also maintains all baking studios with strict temperature controls and goes as far as to supply the chocolate room with a humidifier.
Great chefs like Carmellini and Panisello are figuring out ways to work around the weather and they are already producing quality baked goods. Whether by offering only certain types of bread, baking close to service time or maintaining strict environmental controls, a great loaf can definitely be baked in our sunny, humid city. Now all Miami needs is a chef who is willing to brave the tropical weather and open up the local bakery that we are all waiting for. Until then, I guess my cravings for a great bakery will have to be satisfied by upscale hotels, or maybe I will just have to start eating a hell of a lot of cupcakes.