I used to alight from the 627 trolleybus in Howland Street, its terminal, after a ride from Tottenham. From there I would walk down Charlotte Street, past all the restaurants, into Rathbone Place. In Rathbone Place, on the corner of Stephen Mews, there used to be a bakery.
Passing the shop one morning, I saw that the window was filled with Cottage Loaves. I had not seem them since before the War when they were very popular. The Cottage Loaf consists of two pieces, a small top and a large bottom. The top of the loaf was baked almost black which added to the taste. I bought a couple expecting that, by lunchtime, they would have sold out. They did, but the next morning they had a full window again and I was now buying them for my colleagues in Soho Square.
After a few days they stopped because they had had a visit from the “Bread Police” who said that it was against the law to bake white bread. These days you never see the cottage loaf at all. However here is the recipe so that someone can revive them:
675 grams of unbleached white bread flour
10 ml salt
20 grams fresh yeast
400 ml lukewarm water
Grease two baking sheets. Sift the flour and salt together into a large bowl and make a well in the centre.
In 150 ml of the water mix the yeast until it dissolves. Pour into the centre of the flour with the remaining water and mix to a firm dough.
Knead on a lightly floured surface for ten minutes until smooth and elastic. (the dough needs to be firm enough to carry the weight of the top round of dough). Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with lightly oiled cling film and leave it to rise in a warm place until it has doubled in bulk (about an hour).
Turn out on to a lightly floured work surface. Knead for two to three minutes then divide the dough. One piece to be two-thirds of the dough leaving one third for the second piece.
Place the balls of dough on the prepared baking sheets and cover with inverted bowls. Leave to rise in a warm place for about thirty minutes.
Flatten the top of the larger ball and cut a cross at the centre about 4cm in length. Brush with a little water and then place the small ball on top.
Press a hole through the middle of the top ball as far as the bottom ball using the thumb and two fingers. Cover with lightly oiled cling film and leave to rest in a warm place for about ten minutes.
The pre-heated oven should be set at 220 C. Place the bread on the lower shelf. Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire tray.
Next Chapter: Chapter 23: Christmas Parcels
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