Vlad Rainis @ Arún Bakery

Time travel. A master baker stands in his bakery  in Stonybatter, Dublin 7  plying his trade/ craft/ art/ profession/ calling/ passion. He tells how the first sourdough is thought to have been made on the banks of the river Nile in ancient Egypt and invites me to spend an evening watching his stewardship of the ancient process. We inspect the foaming starter sponge, surging over the rim of its container. We sniff the primordial aromas of fermentation. To one side, 25kg bags of wheat flour, rye and oatmeal are stacked high. By morning they’ll be empty. Over five hundred loaves and rolls will leave this small bakery tomorrow morning.  We’re in the Zone.

A tray of Vlaas, rolls made of 100% pure white flour in Arún Bakery, Stonybatter

Vlad Rainis begins his day’s work at 3 pm, six days a week. When the day’s order book is all ticked off, he’s finished.  It might be before midnight. On Thursday and Friday it’s 2 or 3 am.  After a quick cat-nap, he might walk the dogs, then he loads up the van to make his own deliveries when retail businesses and restaurants open.

“I love going to the shops and markets with my bread.  People are so happy and they tell me so.  They give me great feedback and great ideas for new things to try out.  You get a much better response when you have a relationship”

When writing a piece, the power, the action is in the verbs.

Vlad’s lexicon is compact, contemporary and to the point.

Loveverb, transitive

He loves his work, every aspect of it; loves the sourdough starter, made by him here in Stonybatter, fed and nourished every day; he owes it a duty of care and is proud of it.

Sourdough starter. ” You must nourish it and feed it”

He loves the dough, proving, rising, being knocked back, proving again, baking it into loaves of bread.

The dough. ” It’s a living thing”

Workverb, transitive

Lifting, hauling, kneading, shaping,  heaving trays of loaves into ovens and delivery vans.

Risen dough, ready for weighing and shaping. Try lifting that!

( -“Do you ever go to the gym, Vlad?”

He laughed   -“ I was there once and I asked myself ‘Why?’ I get a full body workout here every day” His lean frame moved quickly around the bakery.

“ And I eat everything I want”)

Workverb, intransitive

Fermentation of yeast, proving.

Sourdough loaves, proving in their flour- sprinkled baskets before being turned out onto baking trays

Learn

How to please customers, listen to them, hear their needs and collaborate with them to develop breads for their purposes. L Mulligan Grocer commissioned a walnut studded loaf which is sliced finely and served with their cheeseboard. Customers love it.

Walnuts, pickled in oil for a few days before being added to the sourdough

Chopped rosemary and crushed cranberry . ” I’ll make this one as long as we can get cranberries. It really works”

Satisfy

He strives to satisfy himself that he’s doing his best, and in so doing, to satisfy his customers. The work itself is hugely satisfying.

Men At Work. Casey Cardone from San Francisco, Vlad Rainis from the Czech Republic, Colm Walsh from Dublin shaping Vlaas

When we eat this bread, we too are satisfied.  B vitamins and micronutrients naturally occurring in sourdough bread are more bioavailable to  human digestion than those  in commercial bread. As the French say,  ‘c’est bon’ – the body knows when it has been properly fed.

Treat-

As in ‘how you treat the loaves’. He withdrew his supply from one outlet on discovering that they didn’t cover the loaves overnight.

“ The loaves need to be treated properly or they don’t do well”

Irish soda spelt loaves proving in their tins

Give-

“ If you want to be good at what you do, you must give something extra”

The Habsburg loaf- Arún Bakery’s biggest loaf. Lest we forget who’s really running Europe at present.

What he says is what he does.

Growing up in the Czech Republic, Vlad always wanted to work with food. Apart from one uncle who was a chef, there was no family background in the food industry.  He finished school at fifteen years of age and began a three year education to become a professional baker.  Of twenty five in his class, only five are professional bakers now.

-“ You work week on/ week off, one week in school, the other in the workplace, beginning at 10 pm and working through the night. Nobody complains about the night work. If you’re a baker, it’s what you do”.

Czech people never lost their appreciation of good bread, even when things were scarce. In the old days, people would queue through the night for bread. Now, Czech people living in Dublin come and collect their order direct from the bakery. One man arrives to collect a weekly order- trays of warm loaves for his family, friends and neighbours in Finglas.

Circumstances brought Vlad to Ireland ten years ago.  At first, he had lots of jobs he didn’t like, as he spoke no English. As he learned the language his options improved.

-“ In your twenties you discover what really satisfies you and you begin to work harder to make a success of it”

Premises in the Spade Enterprise Centre became available in 2011. He began baking here on 14th December 2011 and was fully operational by 5th January 2012.

Plain sourdough has 80% white bread flour, 10% white spelt flour, 10% extra coarse flour, sea salt, water and sourdough starter.

The Mixer takes up to 50kg of dough , mixes and kneads it for ten to fifteen minutes

Casey lifts dough from the mixer

Dough being weighed, divided and shaped for loaves. Weighing ensures uniform size

Yeast, like all fungi, thrives in dark, damp, warm conditions. Trays of loaves are wheeled into the dark room so that Saccharomyces cerevisiae can do its work.

Working at speed. Trays into the ovens,water sprayed to create crust,  timers set, timers ring, trays out, loaves are checked with a temperature probe

The order book is consulted all the time and is the night’s chief taskmaster.  All the time there’s checking, checking, checking.

” You have to check the taste of the dough” says Vlad. “With so much going on it would be easy to add salt twice or not at all”.

Baguettes

Focaccia

Trays of Vlaas- white bread rolls made of 100% plain white flour

The Vlaa is a white roll, first made for L Mulligan Grocer, WJ Kavanagh and Honest2Goodness Market. Vlad’s partner Peter hails from Waterford and got the recipe for the Waterford Blaa from his mother.  A mini-Vlaa is planned to go with soup at lunchtime.

Plain white sourdough, unmoulded from their proving baskets, slashed with a V, ready for the oven

These three men are passionate about the making of bread.  Colm Walsh lost his job courtesy of the recession, and has found his calling learning from Vlad. He moves around silently, going from one task to another, with an occasional few words between them to check that they’re on track. Casey Cardone came from San Francisco where sourdough bread has a large following.  He calls me over to listen to the bread cooling, minutes after it leaves the oven.

Walnut bread. ” This is my favourite part- can you hear them crackling as they cool?” Yes I can. A different music.

The Bohemian Loaf. Bring one of these if you’re going to a friend’s house to watch the Heineken Cup or the UEFA World Cup. You’ll be welcomed with open arms.

I emerge into the night,  leaving behind me a world that is pre-modern and can’t be fast-forwarded. Its only variables are the rate of human work and external factors such as ambient temperature and humidity.

Fermentation has always had its own pace and always will.  Although highly evolved, we humans haven’t changed much faster over the past few millenia.  Good, nutritious bread remains the staff of life.

What stroke of luck brought Vlad Rainis to our inner city Dublin neighbourhood to make great bread?  It doesn’t matter.  Now that his customers know the difference, there’s no going  back.

Advertisements

About haysparks

Viewing the world, the human condition, our history, evolution and health through the prism of food.
This entry was posted in Irish food, Nutritious food and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Vlad Rainis @ Arún Bakery

  1. jozeemac says:

    great stuff, Catherine, love good bread and am a sucker for any of those ‘how do they do it’ progs or articles, especially when it comes to bread,

  2. Conor Bofin says:

    Brilliant post indeed. We have some fantastic food culture (no pun intended) going on here in Dublin. We are generally very bad at letting the world know about it. Lovely pictures too.
    Best,
    Conor

    • haysparks says:

      Thanks Conor. Bord Bia do a brilliant job of marketing our foodstuffs abroad. On the home front, we all need to evangelize family and friends to support our best food producers…and it’s no hardship. Tastes a lot better, nourishes us more.
      My photos are a steep learning curve..enjoying every step of the way.

      Catherine

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s