“For me writing has always felt like praying, even when I wasn’t writing prayers, as I was often enough. You feel that you are with someone. I feel I am with you now, whatever that can mean.” I met the person who wrote these words (from Gilead) today, Marilynne Robinson, my literary hero. We had lunch in Iowa City. I took this picture of her on the sly. To my delight, she is a giggler. Her mirth rises her prose like pockets of air leaven a loaf. Her sentences are stuffed with wonder. Reading her books, for me, has always felt like praying. So too, now, does baking.
The H is a lovely letter isn’t it? That seems a very Sesame Street thing to say. On this loaf, I discovered how to do a simple bread stamp—it gets much more complicated and intricate, but this is bread stamping level one.
Wheat and Rye Bread
Adapted from The Village Baker
Poolish (the sponge)
1 package yeast (one cup sourdough starter)
1 ½ cups water
1 cup rye flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup warm water
The poolish (previous step)
3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 ¾ tsp salt
Make the sponge and set aside overnight for 15 to 24 hours. Then, make the dough, careful to add the salt toward the end of adding the flour handful by handful. Knead for 3 minutes or so. The dough will be a little sticky, and then set it in an oiled bowl to rise for 2 hours. When it has doubled, take the dough and form it into a boule and set it on a peel lined with parchment paper and allow it to rise, covered, for 1 ½ hours.
Then comes the fun of marking the loaf. Draw out an initial, or whatever design you would like, I did a stylized “H” on a piece of paper and cut it out. Place the piece of paper on the round right before you put it in the oven. Sprinkle flour over the paper, then peel back the paper to expose the imprinted dough. Marvel. Place the loaf in the oven at 425 degrees and bake for 40 minutes.
Marilynne Robinson said she has a whole stack of what she has classified as “dog-walking books”—books you don’t really want to read every word of, but are nice to bring along with the leash and doo baggies. I told her that my dog on a walk is a two-hand job. If I tried to read a book while walking Izzy, I would skin my armpit on the sidewalk.