Breaking Bread

On a sleepy side street off South Dixie Highway, Naomi Harris mills organic whole-grain flour inside an unassuming kitchen. Out front, wicker baskets brim with crisp baguettes next to a large clear case stocked with multigrain sourdough challah. This quiet Coral Gables bakery, named Madruga, brings artisanal bread to life.

“As a baker, milling bread is a way to get deep into the craft,” says Harris, who opened Madruga in early 2017. “Milling it yourself gives you so many options, too. There’re so many different varieties you can play with. We’re just getting started.” 

Harris, who attended Miami Palmetto Senior High School, started baking as a teen. After college at Northwestern University, Harris joined the educational exchange program World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms and worked on two farms. After that, she pursued baking opportunities in Alaska and England. But when she heard about Zak Stern’s bread operation in Miami, now known as Zak the Baker in Wynwood, she decided it was time to return home. After a few stints at local spots, including Café Caruba and Lyon & Lyon, Harris was ready to venture out on her own.

“I’m really happy to have opened in the place where it all started,” she says. “It’s nice to have the community around me. My elementary and high school teachers come by a lot, and so does my family.”

A year and a half later, Harris has developed a toothsome menu of breakfast, brunch and lunch items as well as a robust selection of breads and pastries.

When the shop opens at 7 a.m., Harris’ team slings yolky egg sandwiches layered with Niman Ranch bacon, herb aioli, sautéed greens and cheddar, along with savory focaccia squares topped with potatoes, caramelized onion and cheddar. There are also thick slices of Harris’ Madruga-milled Sonora Loaf bread smeared with almond butter and jam, house ricotta with berry or tomato jam, or cultured butter and honey.

Then comes lunch, where breads such as ciabatta, whole wheat, baguettes, poppy rolls and Sonora are stuffed with chicken salad, roasted sweet potato, yellowfin tuna, roast beef or eggplant and mozzarella. Popular sides include fennel herb or grain salad, and chicken soup.

“We have a ton of regulars,” Harris says. “People who always come in for breakfast and lunch. The business has been really well received.”

The highlight of any visit is seeing the bakery’s clear cases filled with sweet breads and pastries. You’ll find chocolate babka bread pudding, guava and cheese Danishes, cakes such as lemon polenta and German chocolate, almond croissants, whole wheat and rye cinnamon rolls and chocolate chip cookies. That’s just a peek—more than a dozen types of pastries are baked daily.

“We’re still in the phase of bringing this place to life and getting to know our customers,” she says. “But it’s been a great experience to conquer all of this … baking, milling, running the café.”

Right now, Madruga mills two wheats: White Sonora from Arizona, and Turkey Red from Kansas. Harris looks forward to experimenting with other varieties.

“It’s definitely been a learning process,” she says. “I never milled my own flour before. We’re really dialing into the wheats we have now and perfecting the craft. But down the line, I want to try out other things.”

For now, Harris, who lives in Coconut Grove, is focused on Madruga’s retail shop and café; she wants to keep the business in-store rather than wholesaling to restaurants.

“We’ve made a really good foundation, so now we have a base to start experimenting,” she says. “It’s about staying creative and expanding our own product line.”

If you’re lucky, you can catch Harris in action, milling wheats behind a glass window in the back of the bakery.

“It only feels right to have Madruga in my hometown,” she says. “We have so much support. You can feel it and it makes a difference.”

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