TAMPA, Florida -- "We have to play defense toward the weather outside," says Bryant Valdez, master baker oven man at La Segunda Bakery in Tampa, Florida
He talks Localish through the intricacies of baking Cuban bread and how they need to adjust the dough mixtures based on the weather outside each day. For example, if the air is humid, they add less water, and if the air is dry, they add more. This, paired with the temperature at which they mix the dough, makes the art of baking Cuban bread so different than other types.
La Segunda Bakery has been a family-owned business since 1915. Copeland More, who is the fourth-generation owner, explains that his great-grandfather, Juan More, brought the recipe for traditional Cuban bread to Ybor city after fighting in the Spanish-American War in Cuba.
Although originally from Spain, Juan More fell in love with the taste of authentic Cuban bread, and La Segunda Bakery stays loyal to the hand-baked process more than 100 years later.
There's no arguing that staying true to tradition makes a bottom-line difference: La Segunda provides Cuban bread to about 80% of the country. Baking fresh bread every day, however, is no small feat. With nearly 30 bakers, most of whom have been with the bakery for an average of 20 years, they produce about 18,000 loaves of bread a day. And to carry on the craft, they train new bakers right on site.
"For the most part, the ovens never stop turning," Copeland said.
Valdez, the master baker, is enthusiastic about his craft.
"I really get into it; I bring it from the heart," Valdez said. "That's what brought me here, was the joy and the fun of making Cuban bread."
You know it's authentic Cuban bread by the fresh palmetto leaf scored in the center of the loaf. This is their most significant time-honored custom, and La Segunda is one of the few bakeries that still upholds this labor-intensive tradition. The palmetto leaf is a critical part of the baking process to bring out the texture of the bread.
This unique combination of masterful bakers, high-quality ingredients, and a passionate adherence to heritage is why the bakery continues to create this sought-after Cuban bread.
"A lot of people come for the Cuban sandwich and then come back and try, you know, we have over a hundred different kinds of pastries and offerings," More says.
Staying true to Ybor City's cultural beginnings, the bakery has a variety of Italian cookies, German chocolate cake, flan, guava pastries, and other things their pastry chefs have added.
More is proud that their customers feel a sense of community when they come to the bakery.
"Ybor City is extremely important to us," More said. "We feel like we owe the community quality bread every day."