Tuesday, February 7, 2012

On Making Bread + Cottage Loaf

Do you ever feel like wanting to escape to a quiet place where you can be at peace with yourself and your surroundings? I’m sure we all do. There are times when I just need to hear myself think and do a Q and A with myself out loud, when no one is around me, of course. A long time ago, I used to wake up early (like 6:00 early), on Saturday mornings, to make bread. There’s something about making bread that appeases me. Mixing the dough and kneading it by hand allows me to expend a little bit of energy to awaken me. Waiting for the dough to rise hones my patience. The final rolling and shaping of the dough, egg washing, dusting, and slashing the top or sides, invigorates me. By the time it’s ready to be baked, butterflies in my stomach start to flutter and I worry that the bread might not turn out great. Then the aroma wafts in the air and soothes my nerves. When the beeper goes off, I take the bread out of the oven and marvel at my finished product, tapping the sides and bottom to find out if it’s done… the hollow drumbeats are like music to my ears. Then, the first warm bite of freshly baked bread made by my own hands tastes like no other. It is the taste of satisfaction from hard work, love, and peace within myself.

Hello there bread making, welcome back to my life! Making bread is something I used to dream about after I read The Baker’s Apprentice by Judith Hendricks. The main character, Wynter, is a broken-spirited baker in Seattle. Somehow, I felt a connection towards her and the life of a lonely baker just appealed to me. Maybe because I felt the same way… Sometime later, I randomly picked out a weekend read called By Bread Alone by Sarah Kate Lynch. From this book, I gained some knowledge on how sourdough starters work and some good life lessons as well. I’m not going to lie, but the thought of baking bread with a candle burning nearby (like what Esme, the main character in the book, did) just seemed incredibly sexy. Finally, I got brave and made the French bread recipe from Mireille Guiliano’s French Women Don’t Get Fat, a fun book full of inspiration, wit, humor, and healthy recipes. Her French bread seemed easy enough for a newbie... Surprisingly, my first attempt was a success! And then I was hooked. Making bread became my ritual on Saturday or Sunday mornings.

However, months later, I learned the art of sleeping in on weekends and didn’t have time for baking bread anymore… Last Sunday, I gave it a new try. All those feelings came rushing back and I’m in love with baking bread again.

Here it is… a cottage loaf. This is great practice bread for beginners like me because it is quite easy to make. Later on, as I get more acquainted with the art of making bread, maybe I can move to fancier stuff.

This bread is thick and has a nice, well-salted taste, with a slight buttery texture. It is best paired with some jam or a drizzle of honey. Always, bread is wonderful with chunks of cheese, but because of this bread’s flavor, I would recommend serving it with mild cheeses.

Cottage Loaf (Makes 1 loaf)
(adapted from 100 Great Breads, Paul Hollywood)

2 2/3 cups white bread flour, plus extra for the dusting
1 ½ tsp salt
26 g yeast

2/3 stick butter, softened (salted or unsalted, both are ok)
1 cup warm water

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and yeast together, well. Add the butter and pour in the water. Mix with a wooden spoon until the dough is soft enough to knead.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead with your palms and fingers for 5 minutes.

Form the dough  back into a ball and coat the it with the leftover softened butter so it pulls away easily from the bowl after rising. Gently return it to the bowl. Let rise for an hour in a warm spot in your house.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Transfer the risen dough back to the floured surface. Tear apart 1/3 of the dough and form it into a ball. Then form the rest of the dough into a bigger ball. Place the smaller ball on top of the larger one.

Gently flatten the top of the dough with the palm of your hand. Then push your pointer finger down the center of the loaf until you feel the counter. With a knife, make straight slashes on the sides of the loaf, from top to bottom.

Grease a baking sheet with butter and bake for 30 minutes or until the bread is golden brown. Move to a wire rack to cool.  

This is a note on how I knead:

First, form the dough into a ball.

Then, slightly flatten it with your palms.

Fold it in half and press it with your palms until it is slightly flat. Turn the dough and repeat the process until you have kneaded for however long the recipe requires.

Keep in mind, practice makes perfect.

 Tell me your bread making stories… I would love to hear it.  


  1. This is exactly what I am doing too. I have an artisan bread book (nothing fancy) that I am making my way through...one type of bread at a time. I never think I can make the next type and then I do and I am amazed it wasn't all that darn hard after all. Brioche is my very favorite bread to make.

    1. Hello Sarah! I love your blog's title. Brioche is lovely. I have made it once with a block of chocolate in the middle. I have to admit, I didn't make it pretty, just turned it into a boule without braiding.

  2. This looks delicious! I want to take off the top layer, pop something secret in the middle and then put the top layer back on. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Oh! I like that idea Aylin... some fruit pieces or jam or chocolate!!!

  3. I bought that book! Haven't had the time to read it.. I will definitely take time from today onwards! I think your bread looks lovely! The breads i've made so far are not as delicious as i hoped!

    1. Cool! This bread could definitely be better. What I love about it is the fact that I made it and it's better than plain store bought white breads. It is not the best, but it's a good starting point. I think the book is great for new bread bakers because his process is not too complicated. I will continue practicing off of this book for now to see if his other recipes are good then maybe add my own touch later as I learn more. Do let me know if you find something in his book that you like. :)

  4. I think your bread looks fantastic. I too love making it, nothing tastes quite like it and it is so satisfying. Keep baking!

    1. Thank you Laura! And yes, I will keep baking... just gotta make sure not to keep eating too much of it. ;)

  5. Wow! Gorgeous loaf. I've been getting into bread making lately. Something about the winter makes me want to bake bread. Looks like you have it down!

    1. Thanks Stephanie! I know that winter feeling exactly! :)


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