Cottage Loaf

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes

    1

    loaf

Appears in

Making Bread at Home

Making Bread at Home

By Tom Jaine

Published 2005

  • About

The cottage loaf is perhaps the ultimate symbol of British traditional baking. Yet this shape is one of the most difficult to get right. The dough needs be firm so that the bottom half does not collapse under the weight of the top. The joining of the two needs to be firm yet gentle. All too often, the ‘hat’ topples off: if it does, console yourself that the bread will be none the worse for being misshapen.

Ingredients

  • 300 g/10 oz unbleached white plain flour
  • 150 g/5 oz unbleached white bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 25 g/¾ oz fresh yeast
  • 200 ml/7 fl oz warm water (26°C/80°F)
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • beaten egg for glaze

Method

  1. Sift the flours and salt into a bowl and make a well in the centre. Crumble the yeast into the well and pour on the water. Stir with a finger to dissolve the yeast. Add the oil and mix the dough. When it leaves the sides of the bowl, turn it on to a floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes. The dough will be firm.
  2. Leave the dough to rise in a bowl covered with oiled clingfilm in a warm place (26°C/80°F) for 1½ hours, until doubled in size. Turn out on to the lightly floured work surface, knock back and form two balls, the first of one-third of the dough, the second, two-thirds. Divide by weight if you are unsure. Leave them to rest for 5 minutes, covered with oiled clingfilm.
  3. Gently flatten the top of the larger ball and the bottom of the smaller one. Moisten the bottom surface of the smaller one with a brush dipped in water. Place the smaller ball on top of the larger, making sure you position it in the centre, then carefully press a hole through the centre from top to bottom, using the first three fingers and thumb of one hand gathered into an approximate cone shape.
  4. Place the loaf on a floured baking sheet and brush with the beaten egg. Cover with oiled clingfilm as well as a large glass bowl inverted over the loaf, to avoid a skin forming on the outside of the dough. Leave to recover and prove in a warm place (26°C/80°F) for about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6.
  5. When proved, brush again with beaten egg, then, with a pair of scissors, snip small cuts at 5 cm/2 inch intervals round the outsides of both the top and bottom sections of the loaf. These will help the expansion of the loaf in the oven.
  6. Bake the loaf in the bottom of the oven, preferably under a ‘bonnet’ of a large saucepan or metal bowl inverted over the loaf (allowing plenty of room for growth). This will equalize the pull of the oven and encourage the loaf to rise straight, as well as keeping the crust soft and expandible for as long as possible. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the ‘bonnet’ and bake for a further 15 minutes so that the crust can brown. Cool on a wire rack.