My little brother is very smart. He’s getting paid to attend Gonzaga University right now, if that gives you any idea. Back in third grade, he and some buddies came up with this idea for a new toothbrush, and Toshiba liked it, so they sent him to Washington D.C. to be with some other child prodigies. The whole fam got to go, and after the smart-kid convention was over, we went to Colonial Williamsburg. While there, I picked up a cookbook of traditional Williamsburg recipes – the kind that they served to Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. It was my cooking bible for the next five or so years. From it, my family got such wonderful dinners as Shields Tavern Chicken with Virginia Apple Dressing, and the pork chops with sweet potatoes and the raspberry glaze. I even made the Roast Duck with Fruit Stuffing for a Christmas dinner party. However, the longest lasting favorite from this cookbook is the Manchet Bread. It’s not dry or cardboardy, no matter what kind of uber-healthy flour you use. The perfect amount of sweetness that is equally fantastic smothered with butter and jam or toasted with a thick slab of cheddar cheese. So, without further ado, here’s the recipe. I usually double it to make two loaves.
3 1/2 to 4 cups sifted unbleached natural flour, divided
1 package active dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup butter
1 egg, at room temperature
Combine 1 cup of flour with the dry yeast, sugar, and salt in the large bowl of an electric mixer; mix thoroughly.
Heat the water with the butter over low heat until very warm (120-130 F).
Gradually add the liquids to the dry ingredients. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally.
Add 1/2 cup of flour, or enough flour to make a thick batter. Add the egg and beat at high speed for 2 minutes. Keep scraping the bowl.
Stir in enough additional flour to make a soft dough – approximately 1 1/2 cups.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board and knead until it is smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes, using the remaining flour as needed. If you’re using a kitchen-aid type mixer, add enough flour and knead with the dough hook long enough so that the dough is pulled cleanly from the sides of the bowl.
Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover with a moist cloth and let it rise in a warm, draft-free place (about 85 F.) until double in bulk – about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Keep the covering cloth moist.
Grease a loaf pan.
Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a lightly floured board. Cover; let it rest 15 minutes. Roll it into a uniform thickness in a 9 x 12-inch rectangle. Beginning with the upper 9-inch side, roll toward you, jelly roll style. Seal with thumbs or heel of hand. Seal the ends; fold the sealed ends under. Be careful not to tear the dough. Place in the prepared pan.
Cover with the moist cloth and let it rise in a warm, draft-free place until double in bulk, about 1 hour.
When the dough is near the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350 F.
I like to use an egg wash on the top of each loaf and then sprinkle it with about a teaspoon of sugar. It really gives those loaves a lovely golden color when they come out of the oven.
Place the loaf inth eoven on the center shelf and bake at 350 F. for 40 minutes, or until done.
Remove from the pan immediately and cool on a rack.