When the words “pastry” and “Miami” come together, the first thought that usually comes to mind for locals and tourists, alike, is Cuban pastry – those little geometric shapes of crispy, lardy, flakiness most famously filled with guava paste and/or cream cheese. Cuban culture and cuisine have come to be almost synonymous with Miami culture, and apart from the plethora of Cuban bakeries on almost every corner in western Miami, practically every supermarket in South Florida carries pastelitos and croqueticas. However, after having moved to North Miami Beach and then bouncing around different neighborhoods in the northeastern part of Dade County, I discovered that Cuban pastries are not as prevalent in this part of the Magic City as they might be in Hialeah, Little Havana, Kendall, or Coral Gables. Whereas Español might be the language of choice in those neighborhoods, Kreyòl is the lingua franca in places like North Miami, North Miami Beach, Miami Shores, and Little Haiti where it’s easier to find a place to grab a box of griot (spicy fried pork chunks) and a Choucoune (champagne cola) than it is to find a Cuban sandwich and a cafecito. Haitian culture is very prominent in northeastern Miami, which means that Spanglish phrases widely accepted in other parts of the city are usually met with blank stares (I learned this the hard way), and the chances of finding a fresh guava and cheese pastry can be slim to none.
Discovering Haitian cuisine is a gastronomic revelation for any true foodie. While the cuisine is unpretentious and simple, the flavors are bold and spicy, oftentimes quite unique, and demonstrate a very African culinary aesthetic paired with a very French sophistication. One area in which this cross-cultural fusion of techniques and palates can be experienced almost perfectly is in a Haitian patty, which is an anglicization of the Creole word “pate” (pronounced pah-tey) derived from the French word “patisserie”, which simply means pastry. In form, it more closely resembles a Cuban pastelito than a Jamaican patty. Like Cuban pastries, Haitian patties consist of delicate, flakey puff pastry surrounding some sort of filling, but the similarities end there. The main difference between the two pastries is that while Cuban pastries are best known for their sweet fillings, Haitian patties are almost exclusively savory, and even when comparing savory pastries from both cuisines, Haitian patties are noticeably spicier and have bolder flavors. The most typical fillings are ground beef, ground chicken, salted cod (bacalao), smoked herring, and ground turkey. There is also a difference in the crusts between Cuban pastries and Haitian patties. While Cuban pastries place value on crispiness and have more brittle crusts that are glazed to complement the usually sweet fillings, Haitian patties go unglazed and place emphasis on producing as many impossibly delicate layers as possible. Like most pastries, Haitian patties are best when they are fresh out of the oven in the morning, making them an ideal choice for a breakfast on the go, especially if you’re one who prefers something savory for breakfast over something sweet. There are two main shapes to take into account with Haitian patties that usually denote the two most popular fillings: beef patties (and sometimes chicken) are square while cod patties (and sometimes herring) are triangular.
New Florida Bakery in Little Haiti is perhaps the golden standard when it comes to Haitian baked goods and has been a community institution for decades and a necessary stop for families on Sundays after church. Their patties are like balloons of puff pastry that fit into the palm of your hand and collapse the moment they touch your lips. The layers of pastry surrounding the spicy fillings are so delicate that if you breathe too heavily while eating a patty from New Florida bakery, you’ll be inundated with hundreds of minuscule flakes of pastry and will probably spend a good couple of minutes brushing them off your clothes or the console of your car. The beef and chicken fillings are pounded to form a smooth paste that is seasoned with garlic, thyme, a pinch of cloves, and a tingle of heat from just the right amount of piman bouk (scotch bonnet peppers). My personal favorites are the cod patties (ask for morue), which are filled with finely flaked salted cod that has been rehydrated and seasoned with spices and scotch bonnet peppers, and they know how to perfectly bring out the intensity of the cod without making the pastry overwhelmingly fishy. The Bakery almost always seems to be making fresh patties of one variety or the other, and it is not uncommon for people to wait for a fresh batch of their favorites to come out of the oven. Besides patties, New Florida also bakes fresh Creole bread regularly, which is softer and denser than its Cuban cousin and made with milk. It is the perfect dunking bread and makes excellent French toast, although it’s pretty irresistible on its own when it’s fresh out of the oven. There is also a selection almond-flavored layer cakes that are pre-cut into wedges but can sometimes be a little dry depending on the time of day, as well as a wide selection of the quintessential Haitian candy, tablette, which are similar to the pralines of New Orleans but come spiked with ginger and are studded with peanuts or more tropical ingredients like cashews and chunks of fresh coconut. The main draw to New Florida Bakery, however, will always be their light-as-air savory/spicy patties.
New Florida Bakery
275 NE 18th St #1208 Miami, FL 33132
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