Cottage Loaf is a traditional type of bread made in England for hundreds of years. Not so popular these days, as it cannot be readily found in most baker’s shops, it is a very good bread and is ideal for eating with soup or as a sandwich. The shape of the loaf is unusual in that it is made of two balls of dough, one larger than the other. The large ball is the base and the smaller ball(about 1/2 the size of the larger one) is placed on top as centrally as possible. Then each ball is scored with a razor blade or a very sharp knife and baked in the oven.
If done correctly it should retain that shape, but sometimes the top ball becomes lopsided. That really doesn’t matter, apart from the aesthetic aspect. It will still taste just as good.
I made mine entirely by hand, and it doesn’t take a lot of effort really, as I have acquired a Danish dough whisk that I wanted to try out.Iit takes a while to make as the dough must prove once before forming and then again afterwards. So upwards of three hours is required to make the loaf and then it has to cool down before cutting.
Another new departure for me was kneading the dough on an unfloured surface, which I hadn’t done before, but it worked well and I soon had a nice firm and strong dough. Of course this could all be done in a stand mixer with the dough hook, that would work just fine.
The novel part of the process was placing one ball on the other and then poking through the entire thing, in the centre, to stick the balls together. The recommended way is to use a floured finger or thumb but I used the handle of the dough whisk as that is longer and I wouldn’t be pushing the top ball out of shape.
My loaf turned out very well. Perhaps not the perfectly centred top, but it retained the shape well. It baked for 20 minutes and then a further 18 minutes at the lower temperature. After cutting and tasting I can say it was very good indeed.
- 400g(3 1/4 cups) Strong white flour
- 100g(3/4 cup) plain wholemeal flour(wholewheat in some places)
- 25g(scant 2 tbsp) butter, cubed, at room temperature
- 7g(1 packet) instant yeast
- 300ml(1 1/4 cups) luke warm water
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Place the two flours and the salt into a large bowl and mix to combine.
- Add the yeast and mix to combine.
- Add the butter, dropped in around the flour, and mix a little.
- Add the water and mix into a stiff dough, scraping the side of the bowl as you do so,
- Pull the dough into a large mass and turn out onto a clean work surface.
- Knead for 8 minutes, and scrape up any butter or bits that stick to the work surface.
- When the dough has been kneaded for 8 minutes it should be tacky and quite strong to pull apart.
- Very lightly flour the work surface and place the dough on the flour and then pull up from the edge to the centre a few times to form a ball.
- Place the ball of dough back into the bowl and lightly flour the top, then cover with a clean towel and allow to prove for 60 to 90 minutes. By which time the dough should have puffed up nicely.
- Place it on a lightly floured surface and knock the air out.
- Divide the dough into two pieces, one of about 543g and the other about 272g.
- Start with the larger piece of dough and pick up the furthest side of the dough pull it up over the rest of the dough, placing it on top, just shy of the front edge..Turn the dough 45 degrees and repeat.
- Keep doing that until the dough is a quite firm ball. Then turn it over.
- Use the edges of your hands to tuck the bottom of the dough under, turning the ball a little as you do it, until it is a nice ball with quite a smooth top .
- Repeat the process with the smaller portion of dough.
- Lightly flour the top of both balls.
- Place the larger ball on a parchment lined baking tray.
- Place the smaller ball on the top, taking care to centre it as exactly as you can.
- Using a floured finger, wooden spoon or such like poke a hole into the top of the small ball, as centrally as possible, and press down until you hit the surface of the tray. Then remove the finger, spoon etc.
- Cover the dough again and leave for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes turn on the oven to preheat to 220c/200C Fan/430F.
- Place a deep tray on the bottom of the oven.
- Take a very sharp knife and score a series of lines down the height of the top ball and the again with the bottom ball.
- Leave the dough exposed while the oven heats up. Once the oven is up to temperature gently test the dough to see if it feels rather soft and delicate.
- When that state is achieved place it in the oven and carefully pour 1/2 inch of boiling water into the deep tray.
- Close the oven door and bake for 20 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to 190c/170c Fan/375 F and bake for a further 15 to 20 minutes until it sounds hollow when the bottom of the loaf is tapped.
- Place on a wire rack and allow to cool completely before slicing.