She has fed sourdough starters in Anchorage, Alaska, and milled wheat in rural England, but the magnetic draw of Miami pulled Naomi Harris back to her hometown to open her own bread shop and café. Madruga Bakery, located around the corner from Whole Foods in Coral Gables, is Harris’ ode to the proper bread-making techniques she’s picked up through her training and apprenticeships both far and near, including local stints with Zak the Baker, Café Curuba and Lyon + Lyon Catering. She’s in her bakeshop at 4:30 a.m., milling whole grains into flour and tending to the wild yeasts that leaven her breads.
Her bakery has become a hit with in-the-know office workers from the area, who stop in at breakfast or lunch for fresh-brewed Counter Culture coffee and a slice of banana bread or an egg sandwich. Even the health-conscious crowds from neighboring Metropolis Fitness and Greenmonkey Yoga are regulars.
“We’ve also gotten a lot of support from the Pinecrest area and those communities,” Harris said. “Some people come just for the bread — our whole-grain loaf has become very popular. Classics like croissants and chocolate-chip cookies do well, too.” (Pro tip: Don’t miss Harris’ exceptional challah, a Friday-only treat available in limited quantities.)
While breads play a starring role at Madruga, a changing menu of sandwiches, salads and soups makes it a smart place to meet for lunch or get some work done. The savory side of the menu is overseen by Persefoni Vordokas, who helped Harris come up with the sandwich that is the current object of our desire: Roasted Sweet Potato with Spiced Cashew Aioli, Arugula and Pesto on Whole-Wheat Bread.
“We wanted to have a really great vegan item on the menu,” Harris said. “So we started playing with different roasted vegetables, and then Perse wanted to add the pesto, and everything came together really well,” Harris said.
“It’s vegan, but you’re not missing anything when you eat it. The potato has that natural sweetness, the arugula provides a little spicy balance, and then the bread is just a good carrier for all of that and the sauces.”
Madruga Bakery, 1430 South Dixie Highway (at Madruga Court), Suite 117, Coral Gables; 305-262-6130; madrugabakery.com.
Q & A with Naomi Harris
How old are you? 28.
Where did you grow up? I’m from Miami. I went to Miami Palmetto Senior High.
Where did you study/train? I graduated from Northwestern University, then I moved to Alaska and worked at Fire Island Rustic Bake Shop. That’s where I totally fell in love with baking. I apprenticed at Tracebridge Sourdough in England. I was going to move to North Carolina, but I heard Zak (Stern) was making bread in Miami, and I was really excited because that wasn’t happening here before. So I worked for Zak for a little bit, as well as with the pastry chef at Lyon + Lyon and at Café Curuba in Coral Gables.
Warm climate or cold? Warm.
Butter or jam on toast? Butter.
Why do you bake? I like the troubleshooting aspect of it. You have to be aware of everything from variations in grain and the weather to temperature and hydration levels, and always be responding to it. I love that it’s a constantly changing process and not a rote thing.
What’s the best part of running a business? Customers. Being able to interact with people, and give them a product that brings them joy, it feels really great to contribute to that.
Roasted Sweet Potato Sandwich
Makes 3 sandwiches
1 large sweet potato
1 yellow onion
6 slices sourdough whole-wheat bread
1 cup fresh arugula
Cashew aioli (see recipe)
Pesto (see recipe)
Salt and pepper
1 3/4 cups raw cashews
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
- Make cashew aioli: A day ahead, place cashews in a bowl, cover with water and refrigerate overnight. Combine soaked cashews with remaining aioli ingredients in a blender, adding water while blending until aioli is smooth.
- Make pesto: Combine basil, pine nuts, garlic, salt and pepper in food processor and blend until combined. Drizzle in olive oil and pulse until the pesto comes together.
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. Scrub the potato clean, then cut in half lengthwise. Place each half cut-side down on a cutting board, and slice into 1/4-inch planks. Lightly oil a baking sheet, place potato slices on sheet, then brush the tops of the potato with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake 20-25 minutes, until potato is soft.
- While the potato bakes, cut the onion into thin slices. Set a heavy-duty skillet over medium heat, then coat with olive oil and add the sliced onion. Cook the onion, stirring occasionally, until the slices turn a deep caramel color, 20-30 minutes. Season with salt.
- Spread about a tablespoon of pesto on one side of one slice of bread, then cover it with 4-5 slices of sweet potato. Top sweet potato with caramelized onion, then a layer of arugula. Drizzle olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper on the arugula. Spread about a tablespoon of cashew aioli on one side of another slice of bread, and close the sandwich. Repeat with remaining sandwiches.