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Mix the flour, yeast and salt in a large mixing bowl. Put in the butter and rub it into the flour. Make a dip in the centre of the flour and pour in almost 300ml hand warm (cool rather than hot) water, with a round-bladed knife. Then mix in enough of the remaining water and a bit more if needed, to gather up any dry bits in the bottom of the bowl, until the mixture comes together as a soft, not too sticky, dough. Gather it into a ball with your hands.
Put the dough onto a very lightly floured surface and knead for 8-10 mins until it feels smooth and elastic, only adding the minimum of extra flour if necessary to prevent the dough sticking. Place the ball of dough on a lightly floured work surface. Cover with an upturned, clean, large glass bowl and leave for 45 mins-1 hr or until doubled in size and feels light and springy. Timing will depend on the warmth of the room.
Knock back the dough by gently kneading just 3-4 times. You only want to knock out any large air bubbles, so too much handling now will lose the dough’s lightness. Cut off two-thirds and one-third with a sharp knife and shape both into round balls. Cover with the glass bowl and leave for 10 mins.
Now shape to make a cottage loaf. Gently re-shape the balls of dough if necessary. Sit the larger ball on a baking parchment-lined baking sheet. Sit smaller ball in the centre of the larger one and press down through the centre of the smaller one right into larger one with your finger (dipped in flour so it doesn’t stick), to attach it. Dust the top with a little flour. Cover with a clean dry tea towel and leave for 40-45 mins, or until about doubled in size.
Put a roasting tin in the bottom of the oven 20 mins before ready to bake and heat oven to 230C/210C fan/gas 8. Put the risen bread in the oven, carefully pour about 250ml cold water into the roasting tin (this will hiss and create a burst of steam to give you a crisp crust), then lower the heat to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Bake for 30-35 mins or until golden. Remove and cool on a wire rack. If you tap the underneath of the loaf if should be firm and sound hollow.