Selfmade Expert: Ava Celik on the Perfect (Glutenfree) Sourdough Bread

Ava Celik is creating gluten-free sourdough bread and, with her project “badhunterstories,” is a pioneer in the field

I came upon Ava Celik when an acquaintance posted her progress attempting to develop the perfect (gluten-free) sourdough bread on Facebook. Now, after a year of testing, she has launched her own, self-programmed (hats off!) website and shared her self-taught knowledge on the subject with us:

I’ve always tried different things and had a lot of interests, but for the past ten years, I have made my living through acting. If you are constantly delivering but you actually want to create and produce something, then you have a problem.

In 2014, I was diagnosed with celiac disease (a gluten intolerance) and since then I have had to change my diet completely. That means: no wheat, spelt, whole grains, barley, etc. Instead: dry, gluten-free food and rubbery bread. That’s why I started to bake. The project first emerged out of pure self-interest.

It’s actually quite simple: perfect bread just needs to taste really good. Sourdough bread is free of artificial acidifíers and has a unique flavor. It needs to have a hard crust but still be soft and fluffy inside. That is very difficult without gluten because the adhesive protein is missing and the bread remains tight and hard.

I first started with recipes from the internet. But most were very similar and all equally unsatisfactory. I had to forget them all and start from scratch. I’m not into biochemistry, but I knew I needed to learn if I wanted to do more than just experiment. I read studies, studied the components of wheat flour, and tried to recreate it with my own ingredients.

I had absolutely no idea if it would work. I still haven’t seen gluten-free sourdough bread with large holes, neither on the internet nor in real life. But I was sure that if we can send missiles to Mars, we should also be able to get a few holes in gluten-free bread. I withdrew for months and worked from morning till night, testing hundreds of possible flour combinations and documenting and sorting them.

Tips I would give myself were I to create something new again:           

  • Take on something that only has a 50:50 percent chance of success. The feeling of happiness once you’ve achieved it is priceless.
  • Put double the time and energy into things you actually don’t want to do. No one wants to do the work, but doing it brings progress.                                                                                                                 
  • “Kill your darlings!” question your methods and only incorporate what is really useful into your work.
  • I had almost lost hope until one day I cut into one of my loaves of bread: it was perfect – fluffy, with large holes, light acidity, and a hard crust.
  • The feeling of having worked hard, completely independently, to create something is indescribable.
  • Through the internet and Instagram, I have found people who are just as crazy about sourdough bread. The demand for good, gluten-free bread is extremely high and I want to finally be able to share what I’ve been working on. My biggest motivation is to finally be able to give people affected by celiac disease and people who have opted for a gluten-free diet the ability to make their own good sourdough bread.    

Therefore, my next step is to make my own flour and ship it worldwide. I could also imagine a Food Lab in the future, where you can create new things. Anything is possible. Getting started is the most important thing!

And here some tips to try it at home:

Glutenfree flours work different than other flours. You’re aiming for a very sticky dough! The process usually looks like this: You prepare a levain (pre-dough) the night before and in the morning you mix that with flour, water and salt. Every half hour for the next 3-4 hours you stretch and fold the dough until you let it rise for a couple of hours. Bake in a dutch oven with 260°C the first 25 minutes and then 30 minutes with 230°C without a lid!

For those of you who live in Berlin: You can test Ava’s creations at the Brotzeit event on Sunday from 10 am – 5 pm at Markthalle Neun.   

Website: badhunterstories.com
Instagram: @badhunterstories
Facebook: @badhunterstories

Julia co-founded one of the first fashion blogs in Germany in 2007 and became a freelance consultant for digital strategies after publishing her first book in 2010. After an eventful four years with Condé Nast working mainly in the digital department of Vogue Germany, she decided to launch her own online magazine with her dream partner, Veronika Heilbrunner. She is based in Berlin and loves to read books.