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Seven years ago, Hannah Page received a Dutch oven as a wedding gift; she didn’t know then that the present would become the medium for one of her greatest passions.
By day a history teacher at Raleigh Charter, Page runs the Instagram account @blondieandrye, devoted to her sourdough baking creations. Her posts feature colorful bread loaves decorated with zoodles, tomatoes, onions and spinach, to classic loaves with intricate carvings, all created in Page’s home kitchen in Raleigh. With 188,000 followers on the platform, Page’s page reaches quite the audience.
A year after she received the oven, Page tested out a handwritten recipe for a no-knead bread that came with the gift. She never looked back.
“It happened by chance,” Page says of her hobby.
At first, Page created two sourdough starters: blondie, made with white flour, and rye, made with rye flour. Her best friend, Mary, prompted Page to start an Instagram account documenting her journey and @blondieandrye was born.
Page says she finds baking meditative as well as creative, a way for her to decompress after a long day of teaching. She says she has fun playing around with scoring loaves with a lame—a sharp tool for crafting designs on bread—and that she’ll sometimes practice scoring motions in a notebook, doodling whatever comes to mind.
But typically, she says, she designs as she goes along.
“There was some latent artistic sensibility within me, but until I discovered sourdough, I hadn’t found the right medium to express it,” Page says. She compares baking to a creative outlet she enjoyed growing up: acting.
“I see baking as theatrical,” Page says. “The loaf is something you produce and enjoy for a few hours or days and then it’s gone forever, just like a play that’s been performed. But there’s always another play and there’s always another loaf.”
While Page has had plenty of success stories as her Instagram shows, not every creation turns out as she hopes. She recalls a time when she placed a tub of dough in the oven to ferment it more quickly.
“I do this often,” she says, “but the key is to turn the oven off once it’s warmed. I didn’t do that this time.”
Page was in the middle of teaching her class when she realized there was a plastic tub at home in the oven, cooking.
“I raced home and, amazingly, it didn’t even smell that bad,” she says. “I definitely ruined my baking stone, though.”
For Page, it’s the combination of art and science between starter and sourdough that most intrigues her.
“While [baking] can be frustrating, I love the mystery and challenge of coming up with new designs and seeing where each creation takes me,” she says. “Baking bread is fundamentally nourishing.”
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