“Naturally. My pastry shop for everyone” collects the ingredients and procedures for preparing sweets, fried and leavened

Antonella Silvestri
June 6, 2024 at 08:06

In “Of course. My pastry shop for everyone” (published by Mondadori Electa) Damiano Carrara has been able to combine the tradition of Italian pastry making with contemporary needs, paying particular attention to the theme of “gluten free”. The pages of the book offer a variety of desserts, fried and leavened products that not only satisfy the most demanding palates but also the needs of those who must follow a gluten-free diet. Inside the recipe book, readers will find clear and detailed instructions, along with valuable advice on alternative flours, starches, thickeners and yeasts allowed for those who must avoid gluten. This approach allows anyone to get their hands on things, whether to celebrate special occasions or enjoy a culinary experience that evokes memories or inspires culinary journeys to distant lands.

Damiano Carrara, born in 1985 in Lucca, began his professional career in the Tuscan city, before moving to California in 2008.

Here, together with his brother Massimiliano, he opened the Carrara Pastries pastry shops, building a solid confectionery empire. His talent and dedication led him to create an import-export company to bring the best products from Italy for his pastry shops and a centralized kitchen to guarantee the quality of his creations. His television career began in the United States, but it was in Italy that Damiano found widespread notoriety, becoming a judge on Bake Off Italia on Real Time in 2017. Since then, he has hosted various programs such as “Cake Star. Pastry shops in challenge”, “Recipes of a dreamer”, “Fuori Menù” and “Tarabaralla. As long as there is sweet there is hope” on Food Network Italia. Since 2023 he has been part of the cast of the show “È semper mezza” broadcast on Rai Uno and in 2024 he will participate in the adventure game “Pechino Express” on Sky Uno.

In 2021, Damiano made a dream come true by opening a pastry shop in Lucca, the Atelier Damiano Carrara, which he manages together with his wife Chiara. The atelier offers a range of completely gluten-free products, demonstrating the couple’s commitment to making pastry making accessible to all, without compromising on quality.

Damiano, what inspired you to write a modern pastry recipe book that is accessible to everyone, including those who must follow a gluten-free diet?
«For starters, it’s a pastry book and is accessible to everyone.

The peculiarity is that it is all gluten-free. Let’s say that it reflects a bit the pastry making philosophy that I have been pursuing for almost three years since opening the atelier. I wanted it to be a book where everyone could make desserts and everyone could eat it, so an inclusive book in all respects, right?”.

How did you select the ingredients and substitutes for the gluten free recipes?
«It’s been years of studies because practically being able to replace gluten, therefore flour or cereals inside that contain flour, is always difficult, so we always try to have a mix of gluten-free cereal flours such as oats, wheat flour rice, brown rice flour, millet flour, all gluten-free flours therefore inside, then mixed with a percentage of starch, a starch which can be corn, tapioca, or a starch. In any case we always try to make a mixture of this type”

Were there any particular challenges in maintaining traditional flavors and textures?
«The part of the leavened products was very complex, especially as regards the part of the croissants and croissants because it does not contain gluten, not having this bond that is formed naturally thanks to the protein that is inside the wheat and which would give product elasticity.

In our case, working with gluten-free, we work with starches. Starches obviously try to replicate what gluten does, not in the same way because they gel and, by gelling, capture a small part of the air. But then when they double, they never manage to triple and tend to always deflate. this is why you need to make fairly soft dough and try to work it inside a container as far as leavened products are concerned. For some products such as shortcrust pastry, cakes, sponge cakes, whipped masses, some fried products it was very simple because I simply replaced 70 percent with rice flour and 30 percent with corn starch and it’s not even visible. the difference…”.

Among the recipes in the book, is there one that you are particularly fond of or that best represents your pastry making philosophy?
«I have no doubts: the recipes in the last chapter are all linked to my pastry making. They are the cakes that represent me, modern desserts and also some classics, which are the ones that I present to my customers every day. For those approaching pastry making for the first time, it’s fun because there are so many different preparations.”

What advice would you give to those approaching gluten-free pastry making for the first time?
«My suggestion is to start with some basics, that is, understand what gluten is and what gluten-free is and, above all, why certain choices are made.

My book is certainly useful because it allows you to study the whole part of starches, including the part of replacement flours compared to those with gluten. I recommend studying a little and testing with a recipe always at hand. And, in this, my book can really help a lot.”

What are the common mistakes to avoid?
«Those of replacing the flour with another gluten-free flour, for example if you try to take a 00 flour in a leavened product and try to simply replace it with a rice flour which is gluten-free obviously does not bind and therefore would never the same thing. In my book there are indications and suggestions in this sense.”

Where do you get inspiration for new flavor combinations and techniques?
«A little everywhere, sometimes in the evening before going to bed, sometimes from nature itself… When I walk down a hill and find some lemon balm leaves it makes you think of picking them up and combining them with something.

For example, the other day I made lemon balm liqueur to experiment with a new dessert. Our herbs, all seasonal products are the ones that give me the most inspiration. I like working on seasonal products and combining them together. I believe that we take inspiration from everything, from what we do during the day, from the places we visit in our lives and, as far as processing techniques are concerned, we always try to renew them by committing ourselves to reorganizing the work system, to have attention on the times, to improve and strengthen them”.

How do you think gluten free pastry making is influencing traditional pastry making?
«In my opinion it shouldn’t influence it, I simply say that you can make gluten-free pastry and not realize that it is gluten-free. You can’t think: “I make pastries for everyone and the same “processed” dessert is eaten by anyone…”.

What inspired you to dedicate yourself to this niche?
«We were in quarantine during the Covid period and I was thinking of opening the place.

My dream was the atelier and to open it together with my wife who, among other things, is celiac. Indeed, the inspiration and the opportunity arrived precisely for this reason. When we found ourselves out to eat, it often happened that in the restaurant we were all satisfied while she was always left empty-handed. She had to settle, every time, for a salad or a packaged product. So I thought I wanted to create something that was good for everyone: a gluten-free and also lactose-free pastry…

Have you received particularly useful feedback from those who have already tried your recipes?
«The people are all very happy. Most are trying recipes. They send me photos of cakes made, very, very beautiful. The book is having a good response, it means that we have done a good job.”

After this book, do you have other projects in mind related to gluten free pastry making or pastry making in general?
«I am working in the world of pastry making in general, whether with gluten or gluten-free, committing myself to removing sugars where possible in order to create an increasingly lighter product.

In our pastry shop the tiramisu doesn’t even reach 180 calories and this means that the sugars are very low. The principle is to create a product that is gluten-free but at the same time is also as healthy as possible. Today people want balanced desserts and the palate has also become refined for many people. You have to create a good product that doesn’t make you feel guilty in the end, invent yourself and experiment with new combinations. Among my projects is the opening of other venues around Italy and I don’t rule out other places in the world too. We are working with dedication to bring our project abroad and continue the expansion of the atelier.”