It’s about 4:30 a.m. and Naomi Harris is already up and working.
She’s preparing the bread that will be on sale in just a few hours at Madruga Bakery, which she opened at the end of January this year. Most of their bread takes 18 to 20 hours, start to finish.
At Madruga, they’re working on a few different varieties of bread, but the focus is on naturally leavened bread, made from a natural starter. A starter usually consists of a mixture of wheat flour, water, and a leavening agent, which at Madruga is a sourdough culture. (That doesn’t mean all the bread is sour, though.)
“Everyday we’re keeping that starter alive, we’re feeding it three times a day to make the bread. That’s the rising power,” Naomi said. “It’s what makes it alive.”
The dough for the bread is made with the starter and just three other ingredients: flour, water, and salt. If you’re buying a packaged loaf of bread at a store, it’s often mostly white flour, so it’s stripped of all the nutrients, and lots of additives are put in to extend the shelf life, Naomi explained.
That’s why the flour is so important – it’s almost the only thing in Madruga’s bread. Naomi takes extra care to source quality ingredients. The bakery is one of the few, if only, in Miami that’s grinding grains and seeds and milling it into flour in-house.
“I really believe you can taste the difference when you’re using a quality product and just putting that into everything that we’re doing,” she says.
Here’s how it works. The day before, they mix the dough. It rises for a few hours in bulk to develop strength and tension. Then it gets divided into loaves. Each loaf is placed in a basket and rises overnight. In the morning, when it’s ready, the bread gets baked.
The bread bakes at almost 500 degrees Fahrenheit in a deck oven that was imported from Italy. It holds the heat well, preventing the crust from forming too early and allowing the bread to expand.
And while yes, the bakery is about the bread (and the croissants, and the scones, and the monkey bread), it’s about more than that. Inspired by Fire Island Rustic Bake Shop in Anchorage, Alaska, which is where Naomi fell in love with baking, she hopes Madruga becomes a place for community.
Similar to Fire Island, Madruga is “an open bakery so we’re just really showcasing all the work and putting it on display,” she said.
While this is Naomi’s first food venture, she’s no stranger to the industry. Her father, Larry, and his brother, Stuart, founded Pollo Tropical, which they’ve since sold.
Naomi grew up in Miami and attended Palmetto High School before going away to college at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. After college she signed up with World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms and WWOOFed on two farms. Later she worked with Zak the Baker here in Miami, in addition to Lyon + Lyon and Cafe Curuba.
“By the time I was ready to open a bakery, it only felt right to do it in a community I know and the community I grew up in, and really offer something back,” she says.
It’s also why she’s located in the Gables.
“A lot of stuff goes Wynwood and the Beach, but I think it’s nice to bring something to this area, because there is a really strong community down here,” she explains. “It’s not just a business and trying to make money and putting out a product, but you can really create something that creates community that people respond to and you’re actually making a positive impact.”