Many years ago, I baked a bread called “Cottage Loaf” for a wonderful friend of ours, who was born and raised in England. I had never heard about it, never seen or tasted this special bread that elicited fond memories in our friend. Come to think of it, pretty naive of me to try and bake a special loaf having zero knowledge about it. I was so nervous about the shaping – it involves dividing the dough in two unequal portions, balancing the smaller one on top of the bigger one, so I completely forgot to slash it before baking, as you can see with a jump to my old post. Seven and a half years went by (!!!), I never attempted it again. To my surprise, last week’s episode of The Great British Bake Off featured that very bread of my past as the technical challenge. I simply had to go for it, particularly after witnessing so many talented bakers having all sorts of issues with the challenge. Not because they lack skills, mind you. But because the instructions given in the show for every technical challenge are pretty minimal. One of the contestants had his top loaf collapse into the lower one, and in despair he said “my dough ate itself!” I could feel his pain… Anyway, without any more tangential talk, here is my Cottage Loaf. Too bad we now live 312 miles away from our friend Glenn. I suspect he would enjoy a slice or two…
(adapted from Celia’s blog)
(recipe in metrics at the end of the post)
140g all-purpose flour
140g bread flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp instant yeast
Mix the two kinds of flour, salt, and yeast in a bowl. Add the water, mix briefly and let it rest for 10 minutes. Knead the dough briefly, allow it to rise for 1 hour at room temperature, then stick it in the fridge overnight.
All the preferment
225g bread flour
45g rye flour
3/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp instant yeast
170g water, at room temperature
Remove the pre-ferment from the fridge 1 hour before making the dough, cutting it into pieces to speed up warming up to room temperature. Place in a large bowl. Cut it into pieces with a knife or pastry cutter, and place them in a large mixing bowl.
Add the water and yeast, and stir together, then add the flours and salt. Combine everything into a shaggy mass, allow it to sit for 20 minutes undisturbed. Let the dough rise for 90 minutes, folding the dough at 20 and 45 minutes. Dough should rise not more than double its original size.
Weigh the dough (it should be around 900g), divide in two pieces (600g and 300g each), form each piece into a tight round. Allow them to sit for 15 minutes at room temperature, then coat the large ball with a little olive oil, cut a cross on top. Cut a cross on the bottom part of the smaller ball, and place it on top of the large one.
Now insert your finger or chopsticks in the center of the round, going almost all the way to the bottom, opening the whole outwards slightly to join both loaves. Allow them to rise for 10-15 minutes more before baking.
Slash the dough all around cutting through both levels. Place the bread in a the oven (430F), cover it with an inverted roasting pan moist with hot water, bake it for 30 minutes, uncover and allow it to bake for another 15 minutes (if top layer is browning too much, protect it with aluminum foil). If you don’t have a roasting pan large enough to cover the dough, follow the baking method explained here.
Allow to completely cool on a rack before slicing through.
to print the recipe, click here
Comments: I was so happy with this baking adventure! I haven’t baked a loaf of bread in many months, my poor sourdough starter is totally neglected. This bread – that takes a simple pre-ferment made the day before – was a nice way to warm me up for more baking ahead. All things considered, it is not a difficult recipe. The bulk rise of 90 minutes is followed by simple shaping, less than 30 minutes more and into the oven it goes. Once again I used a 600 g to 300 g ratio of lower ball to upper ball, but I think that 650:250 could work even better, more stability for the upper component. Keep that in mind if you try it. Cutting a cross on top and bottom before joining the two balls is very important to ensure they will stay glued during baking, probably a step that was not included in the instructions for GBBO contestants.
I think my technical challenge went very well. At least our judge Paula Hollywood seemed pleased with it… If you are ready for some serious silliness, click on the video. At your own risk…
Please note Bogey circling around from the get go, and Buck getting up the moment he hears the knife in action… Oscar? He rather not have anything to do with so much non-sense going on in the kitchen. What a fun killer!
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NOTE ADDED AFTER PUBLICATION:
Measurements in cups:
For the pre-ferment, mix 1 cup all-purpose flour to
1 + 1/3 cup bread flour. To that add 3/4 cup water
For the final dough: 1 + 1/2 cups of regular flour, 3/8 cup rye flour, and 3/4 cup water
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