Monday, 26 September 2011

White Cottage Loaf

Recipe Number Ninety Three:  Page 285.

For the last few weeks I have been gorging on very rich cakes and bakes. I have to admit that, for the last few days, I have felt even more sluggish than usual! I felt I had to take action and bake something savoury and sin free. My answer was bread! As it takes a while to make, we decided to have it for tea with some of Neil's VERY spicy parsnip soup. I ended up feeling very glad that I had chosen to bake bread as my little boy had a stinking cold. I'd been up with him the night before and was not in the mood for anything too challenging.

While the little man caught up on his sleep, I made a start on the loaf. I have never made a cottage style loaf before, so was looking forward to seeing how my attempt should fare! I dug out my largest mixing bowl and put into it a lot of strong white flour followed by the yeast and salt. I melted the butter in the microwave. I think I left it too long as I heard frantic bubbling and, when I anxiously opened the door, I saw butter had splattered everywhere! Whoops, out came the scrubbing cloth! As the butter was so hot, I thought it wise to leave it to cool down a little before adding it to the flour and yeast. In the meantime, I measured some warm water into a measuring jug and then poured it into the mixing bowl. Looking at the water swimming on top of the flour, it seemed an awful lot of liquid and I can't say that I was looking forward to putting my hands into it! I of course nearly forgot to add the melted butter, but thankfully remembered just in time. By now it had cooled to a more acceptable temperature! Next, it was time to get mucky and mix everything together. Rather amazingly it wasn't that messy at all, the dough easily came together and I didn't require a ridiculous amount of flour on the worktop. Mary says it should be a sticky dough. Of course this made me panic! I kneaded the dough for the suggested five minutes; I was so tired I went into auto pilot. I think I could have easily spent the rest of the afternoon kneading the dough! I placed the soft dough into an oiled bowl and covered it with cling film. I had some jacket potatoes cooking in the oven for lunch, so I left the bowl near the oven and hoped that the dough would double in size.

It ended up being left a little longer to rise than it should have been. Isaac's little nose was too bunged up to let him sleep for long, so I brought him back downstairs for cuddles and games. By the time I remembered the dough it was almost escaping from the bowl! The next part didn't take long; I had to knock the dough back. I love the sound and feel of the tiny air bubbles popping as you knead! I had to shape the dough into the traditional cottage loaf shape. I pulled off a quarter of the dough and shaped it into a ball, I then did the same with the larger piece. I placed the large ball onto a lined baking sheet and put the smaller ball on top. I had forgotten that a cottage loaf has a hole in the middle, so I was a little surprised that I had to shove the handle of a wooden spoon through the middle of my loaf. Fortunately, I managed to pull the spoon handle out of the dough without causing any damage! I left it to rise once more for around half an hour and then used beaten egg as a glaze. I felt quite pleased with my loaf and hoped I didn't burn it in the oven and ruin it!

The smell coming from the oven was of course glorious! The loaf needed the suggested 25 minutes and, by the time it came out, it was a lovely golden colour. I remembered to place the bread onto a wire rack to cool, thus avoiding a soggy bottom! I couldn't resist trying a piece before it was completely cold. Isaac appeared at this moment, and I thought I would see what he thought of it. What a lovely smile he gave me. I think we both agreed that this bread was good! It had a lovely crust with a light textured crumb, delicious warm with lots of butter, yum! Neil and I enjoyed the rest of the loaf with the soup that evening. Once our gums had stopped tingling from the spicy soup and we were able to speak, we both agreed that I would have to make this loaf again. Homemade bread just can't be beaten and it certainly never lasts long!
My wonky cottage loaf! 

Pass the butter!

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