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.