I fearlessly offered to make some gluten free bread for a very kind, but wheat intolerant friend and colleague of mine recently.
I make a lot of my own bread & I was pretty confident that it wouldn’t be so hard to work with a different flour. Surely it couldn’t be a million miles away from what I was used to?
I had heard that gluten free flour was notoriously difficult to work with and that most people didn’t bother with it. It’s easier to buy gluten free bread and let the experts do it apparently.
Undeterred, I ploughed ahead, bought some gluten free flour, researched a nice simple recipe and dusted off my bread maker.
Ahem – let’s just say it didn’t go as well as expected!
Whilst I know how to get really good results with regular wheat flour, my first attempt at gluten free baking was nothing short of disastrous.
The result looked and felt like something picked up on the Mars mission. Like a savoury rock-cake, it was heavy, the dough was too thick and sticky for my bread maker’s dough paddles to deal with and it just didn’t work. It smelled OK to be fair, but it wasn’t right by any stretch of the imagination.
I was left with a large, yeasty rock, ready to go in the bin.
But am I going to give up? Nope. Not a chance.
It’s just a first attempt, and it took me a few tries to get the wheat flour bread just so. So I reckon it’s going to take a few goes to get this how I want it too. Working with a new recipe often takes time, effort and refining to get it perfect, or at least edible.
I’ll go back to basics and make the next one by hand (to hell with my tennis elbow), so I can feel and test the texture of the dough. That way I can make sure it takes on the correct consistency and feel, with my hands. I might try using spelt flour next time and see how that works for me.
I love the feel of bread dough on my hands. It’s very tactile, and the yeast makes it feel almost alive, like a living creature that you’re nurturing.
As I was considering my less-than-successful first attempt this morning, it occurred to me that my bread baking draws an interesting parallel to another area of my life.
A few years ago, the old me became discouraged when my business didn’t work first time, and failed to produce the results I wanted.
My bread making also suffered a similar false start.
I’d always wanted to bake and eat my own delicious, warm bread, so in my early twenties, I took the plunge.
I had a go, used a pretty rubbish recipe, got it a bit wrong and the result really didn’t taste any good. It failed to rise properly, and I felt like a loser.
I assumed I was a “failure” or maybe just not cut out to bake bread. It was clearly something other people could do, but I just wasn’t clever enough or maybe I didn’t have the bread making x-factor (whatever that’s supposed to mean!)
My mother never made fresh bread either while I was growing up, and always discouraged me from using yeast in recipes.
“Oh no dear, you won’t be able to do that. It’s too difficult!”
Similarly, my business failed to “rise” properly when I tried to launch Angel Wings Holistics the first time around in 2006.
Unfortunately, just like my first go at baking bread, it was a badly researched and poorly executed attempt at running a business. I didn’t really know what I was doing, and muddled through as best I could, only to give up in less than a year.
Greatly discouraged, I found myself back in full time employment.
I was frustrated but felt that perhaps it was just too difficult to work for myself doing what I loved.
In hindsight, I can see that I gave up on my business dream before I’d really started. Just like the bread.
A few years later, after doing some work on myself and my self esteem, I picked both ideas back up again, and decided that this time I would do better.
Although I’d given up before, something kept gnawing away at me, whispering in my ear, and I knew I wanted to try again. Why shouldn’t I be able to bake lovely bread or run a successful business? Other people could do it, so why not me? Surely it wasn’t rocket science?
I committed to myself that I would take the necessary steps to perfect my recipe, accept failure as many times as necessary on the way, and prove to myself and the rest of the world that I could really do this!
I read books, studied people who were already achieving the sort of results I wanted, got help and advice from knowledgeable mentors, and finally got the ingredients for lasting success (and delicious bread) ready to go.
These days, my business is growing and improving every day. I keep putting the work in to perfect my recipe, and one day it’ll be so good that other people will look at my business model in the same way as they look at my famous sun dried tomato ciabatta now, and say
“Wow Helen, how did you do that?! I’ve always wanted to do that. I tried once but I couldn’t do it!”
And just like when I talk about my bread, I’ll say;
“Well, it wasn’t that hard. Practise makes perfect. It took me quite a few attempts to get it right, so keep trying. The key is not to give up!”
Yes people, it’s true.
Failure is acceptable. It’s more than acceptable, in fact, it’s usually a necessary step on your way to success. Your failures will teach you a lot about yourself, and show you where you need to improve.
If you’re afraid to fail, then chances are you’ll never succeed either.
Just because it doesn’t work out the first time doesn’t mean that it won’t work at all. With a few tweaks, a little fine tuning, some extra flour and lots of love and effort you can get there.
The recipe for success really can be yours, but only if you keep on looking for it!