Orlando Baking Co.

Features - Cover Story

Kneading tradition with innovation

March 25, 2014

In 1904, members of the Orlando family emigrated from Italy to bring their family’s Old World ways of baking to the New World. It was just the first of what would be a succession of traditionally innovative ways of artisan baking, a focus that continues today. Through the years, Orlando Baking Company has found success in the kneading of tradition with innovation, from its use of artisan recipes that date back to the 1800s, importing of equipment for authentic Old World baking, and hand knotting of its dinner rolls—to its introduction of ciabatta to the U.S., pioneering of healthy-certified probiotic bread, and use of state-of-the-art production lines, proactive BRC auditing, and progressive sustainability practices.

Orlando Baking originated in Castel di Sangro, Italy, in 1872. Today, the Orlando Baking Company is into its fifth generation of Orlandos, with 20 to 30 family members working in the plant at any one time. (See The Family Line, below, for the Orlando story from fifth-generation John Orlando, Jr.)

Innovative Food Safety.

But you don’t have to be an Orlando to be considered family. “If you grow within the business, you’re part of the family,” said Quality Assurance Manager Paul Storsin. The bakery’s innovation is apparent even in its hiring of Storsin for its food safety program, as his 28 years in food processing are in poultry, most recently at Case Farms. (See our Cover Story, Case Farms: Setting the Standard at Gold, January/February 2008.)

Storsin’s mission was to enhance Orlando’s food quality and safety focus. It may not seem that poultry and bread have a lot in common—and Storsin will be one of the first to list all the differences—but the underlying concepts of pathogen detection and prevention, sanitation, and employee awareness and commitment are the same. And with the strictness of USDA onsite oversight during all poultry processing, Storsin’s 28 years in chicken plants has enabled him to bring a depth of food safety experience that is not generally a standard in baking.

One area of similarity is the industry trend toward GFSI certification through benchmarked schemes, such as SQF, IFS, and BRC. Regardless of the product being processed, Storsin said, “It’s the same audit. You just have to learn the process.”

As such, one of the first things that Storsin did was help Orlando get an A on its BRC audit, which the plant achieved in 2013, its second year of BRC certification. “I was hired in December 2012, we had our annual audit in May.” That was an announced audit, but the goal is to meet the voluntary unannounced food safety audit standards of the scheme. Orlando is very invested in quality and safety, Storsin said. “The Orlandos want the production supervisor and employees to know that, at any time, someone can walk in the door and do an audit—and that we would pass with 100%,” Storsin said.

orlando breadThe Family Line

by John Orlando, Jr, as told to Lisa Lupo

When the Orlando brothers first brought the family business to Cleveland, Ohio, they produced everything from pasta and pastry to bread—using old family recipes and making everything by hand. Although the family has since focused its production to breads and rolls, the bakery continues to follow family recipes and many of the old ways. As an artisan bakery, our speeds are much lower, producing 2,000 loaves per hour rather than the tens of thousands some plants produce.

One of the other things that sets us apart is that we bake some of our breads on the hearth, right on the oven belt, giving them more of the European-crusty texture. Our newest line mimics baking on a stone.

My great, great grandfather came over in 1904 and set up the first bakery. He soon needed assistance, so called back to his brother in Italy, who sent over his son Nicola. To accommodate our continued growth, we have moved four times—all within a 10-mile radius in Cleveland. In 1976, we moved to our current location, which we are now expanding. There is still the original bakery in the village of Castel di Sangro, about two hours outside of Rome.

In the mid-1980s, my father and his brothers went to a bakery show in Italy and met Italians who were making ciabatta bread. Deciding to introduce the bread to America, they brought the baker back with them to ensure it was made in the traditional way, making a biga dough with flour, water, yeast, and time. Once mixed, the biga is left to ferment for 18 to 24 hours, giving it the unique qualities and flavor of ciabatta. A special machine is then used to gently knead the dough, leaving the open pockets typical of the bread.

We also were the first in the country to make probiotic bread. This was not previously possible because the probiotic cultures could not withstand the heat needed to bake breads. So we worked with Ganeden Biotech to formulate a probiotic that can withstand high heat, freezing, mechanical stress, high pressure, and long-term storage. We are also the first, that I know of, to develop a purple wheat and raisin bread. The purple flour is so high in antioxidants, it is like eating blueberries. We also make a honey wheat Omega 3 bread, all of these are approved by the Cleveland Clinic as healthy for you.

As we move into the future, our plans are to continue to innovate. We attend shows and stay updated on consumer and industry trends. We always strive to educate ourselves on what’s new in the industry—and what is being done in Europe.


In preparation, the bakery is continuing to undergo pre-announced audits, and Storsin conducts internal GMP audits, involving a supervisor each time. The purpose is both to train the managers on the process and to enhance understanding, as it is then their responsibility to ensure that any needed corrective actions take place.

In his first year at Orlando, Storsin has also been working to build quality and safety through the development of a team of eight quality assurance technicians—providing for three QA persons per shift (including Storsin). Because it is important that everyone understand the “why” of “what” they do, the technicians are being trained to train. “They will be training the employees on the floor, and educating them on the why,” he said.

Such training and knowledge is critical to the final product of any plant, but is perhaps even more essential and bought into at Orlando where, as Plant Manager Mike Reese said, “The secret behind the quality of Orlando? It’s the people; the people caring.”

Additional food safety and quality initiatives that have been integrated into the bakery’s processes are putting all the belts on a timed cleaning system to assure regular cleaning and adding a washing machine system for the baskets on which the breads are shipped to its customers.

Such systemized washing of returned trays is not a standard in bakeries, Storsin said, but it has become the standard at Orlando, where the baskets are not only steamed and cleaned in the machine but are swabbed on a weekly basis to validate the cleaning.

Storsin also has introduced bi-annual food safety training and weekly meetings, part of which are simply to increase awareness of general good manufacturing practices, such as picking up loose items on the floor and addressing or reporting sanitation or safety issues.

Through the incorporation of programs that were standard in the more food safety-strict poultry segment, Orlando is not only enhancing its food quality and safety, it is staying a step ahead of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). In the past, the FDA regulations were fairly lenient to bakeries, Storsin said. But, like GFSI, FSMA is upping the standards for everyone in the food chain. “It’s what you are doing a step above that FDA is changing,” he said.


Orlando’s Innovative Variety

The morning we visited Orlando Bakery, we saw production of ciabatta, hand-knotted dinner rolls, pretzel rolls, garlic bread, panned and unpanned breads, and bread crumbs. Following are the innovative stories of these breads.


Ciabatta. In 1987, Orlando introduced ciabatta bread to the U.S., bringing equipment—and a baker—from Italy to ensure its authenticity. Making a quality ciabatta requires two days of preparation and specialty equipment. With its 75 to 80 percent absorption rate, ciabatta is a “soupy dough,” said Line 9 Supervisor Billy Orlando. Because of this, most standard lines can’t handle it. To make an authentic ciabatta, Orlando mixes flour, water, and yeast, into a starter dough, or sponge, then lets that ferment for 18 to 24 hours. After baking, the ciabatta, like all of Orlando’s breads, takes a ride on a spiral cooler, circling up to 18 feet with as many spirals, before being packaged.

Knotted Egg Rolls. “There is no automatic way to tie the knot,” said Quality Assurance Manager Paul Storsin of Orlando’s knotted egg rolls. So to make these, the bakery hires additional help—up to 20 at a time three to four days every week, to hand tie each dinner roll. The crews have been known to knot up to 500 rolls per minute, although the average is 450 per minute—which is as fast as the machine can produce the dough for tying.

Pretzel Buns. “How does a pretzel roll become a pretzel roll? It goes through a pretzel bath of sodium hydroxide,” said Line 8 Supervisor Ron Orlando. As wonderful as the line smells, the tendency to move closer is quickly squelched, as he explains that the same bath that makes the pretzels what they are is a caustic waterfall averaging 12 1/2 pH that would immediately sear the skin. Once through the bath, though, manual work again is employed with workers scoring the buns by hand. A similar process is used for the hot cross buns the bakery produces for a national fast food chain.

Garlic Bread. In addition to its fresh-baked breads, Orlando also produces frozen products such as its garlic bread and knots which are both Orlando-labeled and co-packed. About 35 percent of the bakery’s production is frozen products.

Panned and Unpanned Loaves. Side-by-side lines at Orlando can be producing completely different products, including panned, unpanned, and hearth-baked items.

Sustaining “Oops.” And the ciabatta, probiotics, knotted rolls, and pretzel buns that are not exactly in spec? Nothing goes to waste. From Oops to bread crumbs to feed, “We don’t waste anything in food,” Storsin said. Orlando conforms precisely to all specifications. So if for any reason, something is safe but, oops, out of spec—the weight is slightly under, the run is slightly over, the knot is not perfect – that package, roll, or extra bread becomes “Oops” bread, sold to “value-conscious” consumers through the local Marc’s grocery stores. And beyond that, he said, “Everything that doesn’t go to Oops or bread crumbs goes to animal feed.”

Probiotic. In 2011, Orlando pioneered probiotic bread in the United States; then in 2012, it reformulated its Seed‘licious 100% whole wheat probiotic bread and became the first to be certified to the Cleveland Clinic’s “Go! Foods“ guidelines for healthy eating. To meet the standards, Seed‘licious has a blend of fiber, whole grains, and probiotic cultures, and meets the guidelines of minimal saturated fat, no trans fat, minimal added sugars and syrups, 100% whole grain, and minimal sodium.


Innovative Quality.

“Anything that’s new and innovative out there, we’re going to attempt to do,” Storsin said.

Maintaining quality during bakery production can be uniquely challenging because it is not an exact science, but must be continually monitored and adjusted to account for the effects of variables such as weather and humidity on the product, said Ronnie Orlando. “We’re working with something that is alive.”

As any home baker knows, proofing a dough (letting it rise) is an essential step in the process, impacting the flavor as well as the form. “If you overproof something, it will open up the cell structure,” he said, leaving it with excessive holes. You have to proof a product to the exact time and exact temperature for the exact product. This challenge is multiplied by the bakery’s production of more than 250 “one-of-a-kind, custom-baked goods” in its six and seven day/week operations.

General categories of these products include Italian, French, rye, and wheat breads; sub, hoagie, kaiser, and hamburger buns; a large variety of dinner rolls; ciabatta and stone-baked artisan breads; an extensive line of sandwich breads and rolls; hundreds of specialty items for retailers and foodservice outlets; handmade artisan breads for restaurants; bread crumbs from hearth-baked breads; garlic and sesame breadsticks; and anise and vanilla pizzelles.

With its six ovens, nine lines, and three shifts, it is not uncommon for the plant to produce 150 different products in a single day, Storsin said. (See Orlando’s Innovative Variety, above)

But of all of Orlando’s traditional innovation, it is probably best represented by its newly renovated Old Italy facade.

Developed to coincide with the opening of the rerouted state highway to which it holds a front-row seat, the innovative tradition of Orlando Baking Company’s exterior will now represent its internal process of pioneering leading practices while preserving the best of the Old World in the New.


The author is Editor of QA magazine. She can be reached at llupo@gie.net.