BAKERS ARE STRANGE ALCHEMISTS—half-scientists, half-artists—who transform simple staples like flour, sugar and butter into complex delights. Whatever you do to it, a chicken breast will still end up looking and tasting like chicken. Not so in baking, where what comes out of the oven bears almost no resemblance to what you began with. Bakers and pastry chefs mix, they fold, they knead, they stir, they whisk and then they bake, trusting to hard-earned skill, chemistry and a bit of magic that something wonderful will emerge.

This story is a tribute to our region’s wizards of wheat, the sorcerers of sugar, the gurus of gluten. To compile it, we visited dozens of places in Sarasota and Manatee counties. We ate our weight in bread, we daydreamed about yeast, we came home with powdered sugar in our pockets. And we brought home the dough—your guide to the upper crust of Southwest Florida bakeries.

In This Feature:

Sarasota's Best Bakeries

Your guide to the region’s best bakeries, plus pastry perfection, loaves we love—and more.

05/25/2017 By Cooper Levey-Baker

How to Grow Your Own Sourdough Starter

One writer's maniacal quest.

05/25/2017 By Cooper Levey-Baker

Tom Gumpel Dreams Up Great New Goodies for Panera

The Sarasota-based Gumpel is the directory of culinary innovation for the Panera Bread Company.

05/25/2017 By Pam Daniel

How The Great British Baking Show Can Save Your Sanity

In an era where all news seems to be bad news, this delightful British show offers a sweet escape from real life.

05/25/2017 By Megan McDonald

Our Five Favorite Loaves of Bread

From everyone's favorite sourdough to a German classic, here are our picks for the best loaves of bread in town.

05/25/2017 By Cooper Levey-Baker

These are Sarasota's Most Beautiful Pastries

They're too pretty to eat. Almost.

06/01/2017 By Cooper Levey-Baker