Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Working It

One of the secondary characters in the book I’m writing these days seems bent on sucking the tension out of his scenes. Since he’s not one of the primary players, I’ve been putting off dealing with it. However, thanks to some discussion with my writing group last night, I have a good notion as to why he’s behaving badly.

He’s dull as dishwater.

And no character is truly dull unless I haven’t properly gotten to know him yet. So I awoke thinking about him, and he was with me all morning. I needed some nice Zen time with him, though.
So I made bread.

012810 100 I’d fed the sourdough starter yesterday, so it was all burbly and ready to go. I mixed flour and warm water, salt and a smidge of vital wheat gluten with a nice glug of the starter and got to work. This is the only bread I make these days that requires actual, hands-on kneading. And it requires a lot of it.

For the next thirty minutes I worked the dough, seeking the “windowpane” stage where you can stretch the dough thin enough to see light through it without it breaking.

030911 004And while I sweated over that dough I asked my character questions. A lot of questions. Kneading is soothing. It’s a decent upper-body workout, especially if you do it for half an hour, and it smells good, too. Even better: For the first time my character was telling me who he is.

So the bread will rise slowly, slowly, for about ten hours, and then will bake up crispy-crackly on the outside and cream-crumby in the middle. And in a few moments I’ll be back at the page, working out character details from the toehold this morning’s bread-and-question session provided.

021211 067
Slowly, slowly, but surely.

Interested in making your own sourdough starter? My starter came to me from a baker friend over a year ago. It gets better with time, and is easier to put together than you might think. I’ve started a few over the years, one using grape skins and another by simply mixing flour and water and letting the yeasts in the air find it. If you already bake a lot that might work fine since the environmental yeasts will be already be abundant.

However a friend of mine used this method with great success and recommends it to others.



  1. Wow! My mouth is watering. I used to bake all my own bread the old fashioned way, kneading by hand and I loved it. Now, years later, I know I have celiac disease and can't have that kind of bread. so I vicariously enjoyed your bread. :) Thanks.

  2. Diana, I just happened on this gluten-free cheese bread recipe over at Mystery Lover's Kitchen. It looks really good!