Baking Bread : making a Cottage Loaf

Today has been a strange day weather wise, brilliant sunshine one moment and pouring rain the next.  It's the sort of day that makes you unsure of what to do with yourself, so, I decided to bake some bread!

Ordinarily, I bake our bread in the bread machine. It's not as good as doing it by hand but you don't have to commit half a day to one loaf. It's easy, it's tasty and the house is filled with the wonderful aroma of fresh bread with hardly any effort. Technically, it's home made.....
I know what you are thinking,  'That's cheating!'  I agree with you and that's why I rolled up my sleeves and got busy making a Cottage Loaf. 
 Traditionally, this bread is shaped in the form of a large bun with a smaller knob on top, like the photo.  I 've never managed to get a loaf to look like that.  The topknot always goes south, or west, or whatever direction and it just looks wrong!  Fortunately, you can shape this dough any way you like and it will taste good.  I've made it into a round boule shape, baked it in a loaf pan and made it into rolls, too. (Baps if you are British)  If you are ready to give it a try... here's the recipe:

3 cups flour, you can use strong bread flour or plain flour
1 teaspoon sugar or honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package quick-rising yeast (1/4 ounce)
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 Tablespoon butter

In a large mixing bowl, combine the following ingredients; 2 cups of the flour, salt, yeast  and sugar (if you are using the honey instead of sugar, add it to the wet ingredients).

In a small saucepan, combine the milk, butter, and water. Cook over a low flame until the butter melts and the liquid is very warm.  Pour the warm liquid mixture into the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until you have a course dough. Turn the dough out on a well floured surface and knead by hand for about 8 minutes.  Add as much flour as you need to make a smooth, elastic dough. 

When you have finished kneading the dough, oil the inside of the mixing bowl and place the dough inside.  Turn the dough around the oiled bowl to coat it on all sides.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave the dough to rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes.

Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and knead it for about 2 minutes.  Return the dough to the bowl and let it rise for another 30 minutes or until doubled in size.  This second rise gives the bread a lovely texture when baked.

Are you still with me?  Don't give up we are nearly ready to bake! 

Your dough has doubled in size, now we are ready make it into a loaf of bread or eight rolls.  Butter a baking sheet and preheat the oven to 200degreesC/400degreesF.  If  you are brave and want to try the authentic Cottage Loaf shape here is how to do it:

Break off one quarter of the dough and shape it into a small ball, set aside.  Shape the remaining dough into a large ball and place it on the buttered baking sheet.  Place the small ball of dough on top of the large ball of dough .Insert forefinger down through the centre of both balls until your finger touches the baking sheet.  Let rise for 30 minutes.  Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom. Cooking time will vary with the size of the loaf you've made.

If you want to make rolls instead of a loaf, cut the dough into eight equal pieces.   Roll each piece in your hands to make a nice round shape.  Place on a buttered baking sheet and bake for about 15 - 20 minutes or until golden brown. 

That's it!  The house smells wonderful, the hot oven has made the kitchen all toasty and the rain has stopped!  Best of all, I have fresh, homemade bread for supper!