Portofino Bakery produces a large variety of breads and buns requiring different dough methods depending on the product being made.
Straight Dough Method
For a very small number of our products we use the straight dough method. This consists of mixing all dough ingredients together at one time, preparing for a single fermentation process. The fermentation time will vary but usually takes about an hour, after which time the products are formed, proofed and baked off. The time between the start of this process and the finished product coming out of the oven is relatively short… from beginning to end approximately 4 hours.
Sponge and Dough Method
This is the method used for most of our bread and bun products. In this dough method, also called a pre-ferment, part of a formula’s ingredients consists of a so-called sponge (approximately 25% of total dough weight). The sponge itself consists of flour, water, fresh yeast and salt and, after mixing, is stored in large plastic containers to slowly ferment for 24 hours at 4°C in our cooler. This slow fermentation process creates different enzymes needed to leaven the bread. It also improves the flavour, shelf life (higher moisture retention) and the texture of the bread. The sponge is pulled out of the cooler and incorporated, as part of the recipe, into a new dough. Although this method is far more involved and time consuming, it results in a superior product. All the sponge is used up and new batches are made daily.
Sourdough Starter Dough Method
We use this method for our Artisan products. A sourdough starter (sometimes referred to as a Levain or Biga) is very similar to a sponge, the differences being that it is started with wild yeast (present in the flour and air) as opposed to fresh yeast, and that it’s never entirely used up in new mixes rather, part of the sourdough starter is kept aside and “refreshed” with the addition of flour and water to replace the amount of starter used up in the production). Sourdough starters are maintained over long periods of time and consequently develop very complex microbiological structures. This method, which is the oldest way of making bread and goes back thousands of years, produces nutritious, chewy breads rich in earthy flavors.
After the dough has been mixed, using part starter, part new ingredients, it sits aside at room temperature for up to 6 hours. Loaves are then shaped and put on baking sheets. These are stored in bread racks which, after being draped with a plastic cover, sit in our cooler overnight (approximately 16 - 18 hours). After being removed from the cooler the next morning, they are proofed and scored (marks that identify the type of product) and finally baked off.
Regardless of the method, the long fermentation, and the use of the very best ingredients, we believe that the care we give to the making of our breads and buns is our main “contributing factor” resulting in healthy and delicious products.