For my beloved Brother who introduced me to the art of cooking, who taught me how to taste and truly love food. Without him I'd never be able to be where I am today.

October 7, 2013

The Result of Determination

There was one thing I promised to myself I'd do before the end of my very productive and inspirational internship at restaurant Chef & Sommelier. It felt like I had a mission, it was something I simply had to succeed with. Usually, if I seriously set my mind on doing something, I'll go through ice to reach my goal. As you might have read from my last post, I've been doing a lot of baking with sourdough during my internship. It's somewhat ironic that the task was handed to me since I'm the only one who can't eat the bread I bake. Gluten is my worst enemy. Regardless of this minor issue, I've thoroughly enjoyed baking and learning the very basics of how sourdough works.

It didn't take me long to ask my chef the crucial question "And what about gluten-free sourdough?". I assumed he'd tired it since his wife is also gluten intolerant. I started doing some research on it and found myself in a cyberspace maze of tips and hints, each trickier than the other. Frustration hit me. It all seemed too complicated and I thought, how fucking hard can it be!? So I did what I always do – I try everything, at least once.

My first trial didn't take me far or bare any significant results. Or so I thought at first. But actually it's the mistakes and the unsuccessful trials that take you furthest. That's how it works for me at least. I tried to make a starter with buckwheat and hemp flour and I asked my coworkers which one of them had the dirtiest hands. My chef had just been harvesting 45 kilos of celeriac, his hands would be perfect. Turned out buckwheat and hemp don't marry well. My chef had his doubts and expressed to me openly, but I had to try it for myself.

My second trial worked better. I used a mix synthetic gluten-free flour (potato starch, rice flour and what have you) and corn flour. The starter started bubbling slightly, but the water and the flour separated after five days. This time though, as the smell was correct (acidic notes of soured yoghurt and bananas) I didn't discard it. I added water, flour and heaps of determination. I also made another batch using buckwheat. I still had faith in it. I understood though that buckwheat is very dense and "heavy" so I only used 1/3 of it and 2/3 of synthetic gluten-free flour. I also added some organic honey this time.

A week later both starter were semi active, but I kept having trouble with some of the flour lumping on the bottom of the starter jar. My chef kept telling me that I need to be patient and give it time, but I was worried and wanted to boost the process. I added a bit of honey to both starter and did what I often do – forget things half way through the process because I see no results. This time though, it was exactly what the starters needed.

Last week, I think it was on Thursday, a Swedish lady Jessica Frej known for gluten-free baking came to the restaurant. I couldn't help but feel a bit disappointed. It would've been so cool to show her my bubbly and active sourdough and feed her some freshly baked gluten-free sourdough bread. Half an hour before service I decided to take a look at the starters. Maybe, just maybe a miracle had happened.

There is a sourdough God after all! A miracle had happened. Both starters were extremely active and smelled perfect. No time to bake, but after getting permission from the sommelier, I showed Jessica my starters. She was as thrilled as I was.

After service at 2.00 AM I prepared the dough and let it rest over night. The next morning I came to work to a very nicely grown dough. I folded it into three cute little buns and heated up the oven. What followed is best left unwritten since words can't describe the joy I felt. I'll let this video speak for itself.

One word: Determination.

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