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What Is Cuban Bread?

By Rebecca Cartwright
Updated May 16, 2024
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Cuban bread is considered the daily bread of the Cuban community, particularly in the United States. It is the bread traditionally baked in the country of Cuba, yet it is only outside of Cuba that the name "Cuban bread" is used. A light bread, it is usually made with all white flour, and has a very thin crispy crust with a soft interior. Traditional recipes call for the use of lard, and many claim that this ingredient is crucial to creating the unique taste and texture of the bread. Although Cuban bread is found in many places where Cubans have settled, it is particularly well known in South Florida.

The ingredients in Cuban bread are few and making the bread is not complicated. Either bread flour, all-purpose flour, or a mixture of the two are typically used. The flour is combined with small amounts of salt and sugar, yeast, water, and melted lard. Some recipes substitute vegetable shortening for the lard.

Many versions use a sponge; a mixture of flour, yeast, and water mixed the night before the bread is baked. The sponge rises all night before additional ingredients are added to the mixture the next day, giving the loaf a richer flavor and better texture. In place of a sponge, some bakeries reserve some of the dough each day to add to the next day's ingredients.

A wide seam along the top of each loaf is typical of Cuban bread. This can be made simply by slashing the top of the risen loaf properly with a sharp knife. In Southern Florida, some bakeries place a palmetto leaf on the top of each loaf as a garnish.

The leaf splits the loaf as it rises in the oven and then chars during baking, giving the seam a characteristic look and color. All Cuban bread loaves are cylindrical in shape with pointed ends, but the width and length varies somewhat from place to place. They are usually about as long as a half-baguette of French bread.

Cuban bread is often eaten for a light breakfast or snack, especially with cafe con leche, or Cuban style coffee. It is also a key ingredient in Cuban sandwiches. The mellow taste and light texture of Cuban bread makes it ideal for these thin cooked sandwiches, traditionally filled with ham, cheese, and pickles. They are flattened during the cooking process using a special grilling press that works well with the density of this type of bread.

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