- 450g (1 lb) strong white flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 15g (1/2 oz) butter or lard
- 15g (1/2 oz )fresh yeast or 1 tsp dried yeast with 1 tsp caster sugar
- 300ml (1/2pint) warm water
This is quite a tricky loaf to make as the dough must be stiff enough to hold its form, but not stodgy. The top-knot also tends to slide off the bottom part during baking unless carefully moulded and firmly fixed.
Make the dough following the recipe for Basic White Bread Dough. When knocking back the dough after the first rise, work in a little extra flour if the dough seems slack. Cut off a third of the dough and round up into one large and one small ball. Place the large ball on a floured baking sheet and flatten the top. Place the small ball beside it, leaving room for both to expand. It is best to prove the rounds separately, as the weight of the top knot tends to flatten out the base. Cover and prove until nearly doubled in bulk — it is safe to under-prove slightly rather than over-prove, which would cause the loaf to spread and collapse in the oven.
Move the large round to the middle of the baking sheet, flatten the top again if necessary, cut a cross in the centre and brush with water. Damp the bottom of the small round and place it on top of the large round, centring it carefully.
Fix the two pieces firmly by pinching the dough together round the base of the top knot. Put your middle finger over your index finger, dip them together into the flour bag and then into the centre of the top-knot, pressing firmly down into the lower part of the loaf. Withdraw your fingers carefully and make sure both parts of the loaf are nicely rounded. Brush the loaf all over with salted water for a crisp crust, or dust with flour for a soft crust.
Bake in the centre of a preheated hot oven at 220°C (430 F), Gas Mark 8 for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 200°C (390 F), Gas Mark 6 for a further 20 to 25 minutes. Test by turning upside down and tapping the bottom of the loaf. If it does not sound hollow, return it to the oven for a little longer. Cool on a wire tray.