Grande Impero bread is made exclusively using carefully selected flours, milled using stone mills, water and sea salt. These three ingredients are mixed together with the ten-year-old Starter Dough, an incredibly important ingredient in the crafting of a bread that is naturally leavened for over 30 hours before being baked.
The various shapes are hand-formed before being placed on a peel and inserted into high-tech stone-bottom ovens, the only ones that can enhance the ancient taste of such a simple and essential food. Indeed, all the various types of Grande Impero bread can be kept at home for days; they are fragrant on the outside, and hearty yet light on the inside. The products go well with all types of food and are healthy and free from animal fats, chemical preservatives and improvement agents. Grande Impero bread is natural and easy to digest, and is particularly suitable for those who are intolerant to leavening agents, as well as anyone who loves good flavours, authenticity and healthy eating.
It all starts with the Starter Dough which has been fermenting for over ten years and is lovingly cared for by Stefano, who feeds it in great secrecy as a member of the family. In fact, without the Starter Dough the combination of the water and flour would remain futile and would never create Grande Impero’s high-quality, healthy and authentic bread. However, flour, water and Starter Dough are not enough in themselves: it is here that the search begins up and down Italy and beyond for machines that, although featuring state-of-the-art technology, have that “human” touch that kneads it all together into a harmonious and consistent shape.
As such, with the same strength as bakers of yesteryear and the strong arms of ancient housewives, the dough is made elastic by sophisticated equipment and, together with the skilful controlling of humidity, temperature and rest time, a unique dough continues on the journey that will turn it into that good and fragrant bread with the stamp.
Craftsmanship, which characterises the unique nature of Grande Impero bread, can also been seen in the shaping process: although similar in appearance to its other “brothers”, each loaf has a unique shape as it is “shaped” by hand by the bakers. This is because no machine could ever replace the warmth of the bakers’ hands that helps make Grande Impero bread authentic and true.
At this point, the only thing missing is the fragrance the bread acquires through correct and slow cooking. Just like in the olden days, Grande Impero bread is inserted into stone-bottom ovens (the height of technology in the industry) on a peel and then left to bake and dry out slowly and unhurriedly for as long as it takes to achieve the colour, fragrance and taste that, if you close your eyes, transport you immediately to your grandmother’s kitchen, where authentic bread was the star of the show.
Just like in the olden days, Grande Impero bread is inserted into stone-bottom ovens (the height of technology in the industry) on a peel and then left to bake and dry out slowly and unhurriedly for as long as it takes to achieve the colour, fragrance and taste that, if you close your eyes, transport you immediately to your grandmother’s kitchen, where authentic bread was the star of the show.
The Starter Dough used to make Grande Impero bread is born out of the simplicity of ancient traditions. During its ten-year aging process, it has always only been Stefano, the sole keeper of the dough’s “secret”, who has looked after it: only he can access the special room in which it is scrupulously guarded, it is always only he who, merely by looking at it, touching it or sniffing it, can tell whether the starter dough is in perfect shape, or if it requires some special attention. So it is tirelessly and ceaselessly nurtured and fed with the utmost care and secrecy; at Christmas, at Easter, on New Year’s Eve, even on holidays when the bakery is closed and there is no work. Day after day, year after year, Stefano is there with his starter dough. He feeds it, “refreshes” it and almost pampers it, so that the process of fermentation never stops and the dough remains as alive as ever. He is able to make sure that the dough has the properties and fermentation necessary to ensure that it becomes a super high-quality bread with a sublime flavour.
The Starter Dough alone is enough to trigger the natural leavening process of the dough, made using just water and flour, a process that lasts for over 30 hours: once mixed, the dough actually rests inside the “mattera” (bread chest) in order to enable it to develop all the characteristics that will make it an authentic and healthy bread, one that is natural, good and wholesome.
Once it has risen enough, the bread is “shaped” by hand by the bakers and is ready to continue to rest before the long baking. Laid to rest in special wooden boxes that help to keep all the environmental factors unchanged, the dough takes its sweet time once again: it rises, matures, improves and rests in anticipation of being baked, the final yet super important step that will turn it into a loaf of Grande Impero bread.
In the beginning it was wheat, then came the flour and, only after, came the bread: for high-quality products, the only building blocks possible are excellent raw ingredients that come from a healthy and ethical production chain. Good grain certainly produces good flour; however, this alone might not result in the bread we imagine.
The most important thing is the extensive practical experience, even over the theoretical experience, that makes Stefano Fancello, Grande Impero’s technical brains and bread-making expert, the only person who can consistently select the best blend of grains for each individual type of bread.
Contrary to what you might think at first sight, flour is actually a “living” ingredient, that reveals a lot about itself: it speaks of the light breeze that caressed the ears of wheat and the warm sun that kissed the blonde grains, and smells like the water that quenched the plant’s thirst after so many days of muggy weather. Of course, there must be just the right balance and amount of all these different properties.
Only Stefano knows how to achieve this, something that can be seen in Grande Impero bread each and every day.