How to Bake a Heart

1. Proof yeast
Proofing medium should be neither too hot nor too cold, as extremes are hostile to hearts. Do not think "tepid" unless desired outcome is lackluster, average, or half-baked. Blood temperature is an excellent yardstick. Prick your finger and test; if a drop of you should fall into the mixture, so much the better.

2. Measure flour
Understand the importance of choice: rye and white will yield different, but equally delicious, results. When scooping, be attentive to innate texture and moisture content, maintaining flexibility. No recipe should dictate the exact quantity necessary for perfection.

3. Knead gently
Use tips of fingers and heels of hands. Knuckles. Put your back into it, but don’t overdo. At this point, the dough has begun to assume a life of its own. Respect this.

4. Let rest in a warm place
Find a loving, quiet corner. Strike a balance between abandonment and micromanagement. Hearts rise best in temperate environments without too much fussing. Important: if left too long on its own, dough will appear inflated, but will soon collapse and sour from neglect.

5. Shape
Mold in your own image, permitting a natural form to develop, and resist the temptation to start from scratch. Surface flaws will not affect inherent quality.

6. Bake
At the right time, relinquish your heart to finish on its own. Do not open oven door; do not poke or prod with fingers and toothpicks. Trust yourself and your heart. You’ll know when it’s ready.

Christina Dalcher is a writer from the American South with work appearing or forthcoming in After the Pause, Bartleby Snopes, Zetetic, and others. www.christinadalcher.com | @CVDalcher