One thing that you still don’t know about me – which will probably quite surprise you – is that I’m gluten intolerant.
Luckily it’s not Celiac disease however and just an intolerance. In fact, there’s a slight but important difference between the two conditions, with people having Celiac disease being much more prone to cross-contamination of foods.
I’ve always loved eating and drinking – so much so that I work in the Food&Beverage sector – and as a big eater, people tended to worry about how I would face my intolerance when I discovered it. People also still wonder how I handle it now.
How I discovered that I’m gluten intolerant
There’s actually another secret about my past: I almost became a famous basketball player, and this is somehow connected to my gluten intolerance.
I used to play basketball for Virtus Bologna, with the magnificent Marco Belinelli. We would always have pizza together over the weekend, usually every Friday night after the end of the last training session. Those moments of pure lightheartedness soon became nightmares for me: every single pizza dinner would be followed by sleepless nights due to abdominal cramps.
I was young and didn’t really care about being sick for half a day or so. Pizza night with my teammates was invaluable to me, but I was still living with my parents, and my mum especially was particularly concerned about my health.
Before getting in touch with the Italian Health Ministry (or the Pope himself!) as any good, anxious Italian mum would do, we found the best allergist in the area. After seeing me, asking me a couple of questions, and giving me some tests to do, he told me something cryptic that I will never forget: “You are more gluten intolerant than an average gluten intolerant, but less intolerant than a person suffering from a celiac disease”. My fate was sealed.
My life as a GI (‘Gluten Intolerant’) human
At the point of the diagnosis, I just wanted to know what I was supposed to do with my gluten intolerance and if I could go on eating my damn beloved pizza every Friday night – or my grandma’s tortellini, or the Mortadella sandwich I used to have after school… the list of prohibited food was long and scary.
The answer was NO. I couldn’t eat like that anymore.
From that moment on, I had to meet the disgusting world of gluten-free products. Being gluten intolerant meant spending much more money than before to buy pasta, pizza, or bread that I would never have chosen to eat before in my life.
This happened 15 years ago and thankfully now, gluten-free products evolved a lot, so much so that it is way easier to live with a gluten intolerance without puking at every single bite.
I have to say that I also learned a lot, in particular how to knead a good dough for bread and pizza, even if it’s made with gluten-free flour.
However, I’ve only recently developed the perfect recipe for gluten-free focaccia and I want to share it with all the foodies out there like me who have to be careful with what they eat.
PIEROTTO’S RECIPE FOR A GOOD GLUTEN-FREE FOCACCIA
- 350g flour (50g rice flour + 250g gluten free flour)
- 250g room temperature water
- 10g brewer’s yeast
- 20g extra-virgin olive oil
- 15g fine salt
- 5g white sugar
- a 35×25 baking tray
- a stand mixer
Before starting: the last ingredient is the most important one! I gave up making gluten-free bread or focaccia without using a stand mixer… unfortunately, the strength of our hands just isn’t enough!
If you have a stand mixer, everything will be extremely fast and easy: you just have to put all the ingredients, except the water, in the bowl of the stand mixer. Then, you will slowly add the liquid to the dry ingredients while running the stand mixer at low speed. You will see that the dough is ready when it forms a homogeneous ball. At that point, leave it in the bowl and cover it with cling film. Let it rest for about two hours.
After that, stretch out the dough on a baking tray (well oiled in advance!). Using the tips of your fingers, press them into the dough straight up and down to “dimple” the focaccia, giving it the traditional shape. Bake it at the highest temperature your oven can reach for about 15 minutes.
I like it plain so that I can really enjoy its taste without covering it with other ingredients, you could add any flavors or toppings that you want! You can add the toppings to it (tomatoes, rosemary, olives) after you dimple it and before putting it into the oven.