A couple of years ago, as I started regularly baking bread, a dear English friend of ours asked if I’d ever heard of “cottage loaf.” I had not. He explained that it was a bread he enjoyed as he grew up, that was baked in a special shape: two loaves together, the smaller one sitting happily on top of a larger one. It had a soft crumb, perfect for indulgences with butter, jam, or fruit preserves.
Listening to him, eyes glowing with his childhood memories, I couldn’t help but set off on a mission to find the recipe. None of my bread books helped, and I posed questions in bread baking forums, but no one knew exactly what dough and what shaping were behind the elusive “cottage loaf”. After a while I gave up hope, until last week I was thrilled to receive a comment from Zeb, who invited me to join a group of bakers to make – ready for this? – cottage bread (!!!!). As we say in Brazil, “… it was like asking a monkey if he wanted some bananas”. 😉
Without further ado, I share my first attempt at this traditional English bread.
(adapted from Celia’s blog; dough recipe from Peter Reinhart’s Pain de Campagne)
140g all purpose flour
140g bread flour
2/4 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 preferment 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, like in this photo.
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 (which I forgot to do), 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: One of the members of this bake-off group (Joanna), had great results starting the bread in a cold oven, turning it on just when the bread went in. If anyone is interested, drop me a line and I’ll put you in touch with her for specifics. The idea is to prevent over-rising of the top layer, which can pose problems…
Having made Reinhart’s Pain de Campagne for the BBA Challenge, I knew we’d love the taste of this bread, but the shaping seemed tricky. No problems, though. Well, at least not with the bread itself. But, as I was putting my large container of instant yeast back in the freezer, it slipped from my hand, and in surreal slow-motion fashion, I saw the lid flying in one direction, and the bottle slowly turning upside down in mid-air during its descent to the floor, spilling yeast everywhere, faster than wildfire. Of course, our almost-deaf dalmatian went at the yeast with a passion, and my hysterical screaming to stop him only alerted our Jack Russell to join the (microbiological) feast. I’m happy to inform that yeast is not harmful to dogs.
Notes to self:
1. place an order at King Arthur’s Flour for instant yeast. ASAP.
2. bake a loaf of Cottage Bread for our friend. ASAP. 😉
I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting!