Cuban bread is used to make Cuban sandwiches
|Place of origin||United States|
|Region or state||Florida|
|Creator(s)||La Joven Francesca Bakery|
|Main ingredient(s)||Flour, water, lard or vegetable shortening|
Cuban bread is a fairly simple white bread, similar to French bread and Italian bread, but has a slightly different baking method and ingredient list (in particular, it generally includes a small amount of fat in the form of lard or vegetable shortening); it is usually made in long, baguette-like loaves. It is a staple of Cuban-American cuisine and is traditionally the bread of choice when making an authentic Cuban sandwich.
The origins of "real" Cuban bread are debated, with both Miami and Tampa, Florida claiming to be the home of the best. With regards to where it originated, the earliest U.S. bakery to produce Cuban bread was most likely La Joven Francesca bakery, which was established in 1896 by the Sicilian-born Francisco Ferlita, a Cuban-Spanish-Italian immigrant to the in Ybor City community in Tampa. This bakery sold bread for 3 to 5 cents a loaf, mainly to the Ybor City market.
The bakery was destroyed by fire in 1922, leaving only the brick bread oven standing. Francisco rebuilt the bakery even larger than before, adding a second oven, and it became a major supplier of bread for the Tampa/Ybor area. The bakery also became a place to congregate, drink a cup of Cuban coffee, and catch up on the local news.
In Ybor City, bread used to be delivered every morning like milk. Houses had a sturdy nail driven into the doorframe next to the door. The bread deliveryman would impale the fresh loaf of bread on the nail.
La Joven closed in 1973, but soon found new life when it was renovated and converted into the Ybor City State Museum, becoming the main part of the museum complex. The original ovens where the original Cuban bread was baked are still viewable inside.
La Segunda Bakery is currently the largest producer of Cuban bread in the Tampa area. It was founded by Juan Morè, who migrated to Tampa from Cuba and opened La Primera Bakery in 1915. The bakery (literally "The First" in Spanish) burned down decades ago, and when rebuilt, it was rechristened "La Segunda", literally "The Second".
It is not amiss to say that the Latins in Ybor City make a very fine bread, equal in all respects to the French article of that kind and unexcelled by the Vienna product. -Tampa Daily Journal, 1896 
A traditional loaf of Cuban bread is approximately three feet long and somewhat rectangular crossways (as compared to the rounder shape of Italian or French bread loaves). It has a hard, thin, almost papery toasted crust and a soft flaky middle. In the early days, the dough was stretched thin to make it last, creating the bread's distinctive air pockets and long shape. As they have for decades, La Segunda and other traditional Cuban bread makers lay a long, moist palm frond on top of the loaves before baking, creating a shallow trench in the upper crust, producing an effect similar to the slashing of a European-style loaf. (The frond is removed before eating.)
Cuban bread is the necessary base for a 'Cuban sandwich' (sometimes called a "sandwich mixto"). It can also be served as a simple breakfast, especially toasted and pressed with butter and served alongside (and perhaps dunked into) a hot mug of cafe con leche (strong dark-roasted Cuban coffee with scalded milk).
Cuban bread should be eaten soon after baking, as it tends to go stale quickly. (In Ybor City, it was said that after 24 hours, Cuban bread is only good for breading a deviled crab.) It can also be frozen.
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- Cuban Bread Recipe (uses the sponge method)
- commercial Cuban bread recipe from La Segunda Bakery in Tampa, Florida (uses the direct-yeast method)