An English cottage cob is a bread I often make myself. It is not seen very often as it is really hard to get the shape correct after it exits the oven. This is a hard bread recipe to do well so if you are up for the challenge, give it a go! We are using the same recipe as the tiger and bloomer bread, see the video for how to make all three from the same dough mix.
How to make a cottage cob video
400g White bread flour
Method to make Cottage loaves
Add the ingredients into a mixing bowl and use a plastic dough scraper around the edges of the bowl to combine the ingredients. After a minute or so, take the dough onto the table and use some long stretching motions to gently knead the dough. Continue for 8 minutes and then put the dough back in the bowl, in the fridge for 10 minutes.
Using a dough mixer:
Add the ingredients into a dough mixer with a dough hook. Mix on slow speed 7 minutes, until the dough is nice and elastic. Then increase the speed and knead for another 5 minutes. Put the dough into a bowl and take a temperature reading if it’s above 26C (78F) cover and put it in the fridge. If it’s cooler than 26C (78F) cover and leave at room temperature. Skip to step 4.
Fast knead the dough
Take the dough onto the table and knead as fast as you can for 7 more minutes. At the end of this the dough should be reasonably stiff, with signs of a strong gluten network appearing.
The first rise (bulk ferment)
Put the dough into a mixing bowl, cover, and leave to rest on the work-surface for one hour.
Stretch and fold
Knock back the dough or complete a stretch and fold.
Take a temperature reading of the dough, if it’s above 26C (78F) place it in the fridge, if it’s cooler then leave it out on the table, covered for another hour.
Remove the dough from the bowl using a dough scraper onto a lightly flour dusted area of a workbench. Pre-shape into a round ball and allow to rest for ten minutes.
Divide into two, at a 60:40 ratio and mould into balls, pushing as much air out of the dough as possible. Leave to bench rest for another ten minutes.
Press as much air out as possible and shape into two round balls again. Put the large one down on a lightly floured workbench and very lightly flatten. Put the smaller ball on top and press down in the centre with two fingers, push hard to form the characteristic hole. The pieces should stick together. Apply some pressure around the edges if they look uneven.
Cottage loaves are cut before they undergo the final rise. Apply 5 - 6 cuts around the edges, cutting both the top and the bottom with each cut - the top piece should but cut deeper than the bottom. Place onto a flour dusted board.
Leave to rise for around 45 minutes. Poke in the hole every now and again to stretch it and to keep the bread rising evenly.
Use a peel to slide the bread in the oven, adding plenty of steam as they go in. Drop the temperature to 230C (450F) and bake for 40 - 50 minutes.
Remove and cool
Bake until the right colour has been achieved. Use a peel to remove it from the oven and let it cool.
Using dried yeast
If using instant yeast, divide the amount of fresh yeast used by 3 and follow the same method as fresh yeast.
Active dried yeast needs to be activated before use. In this case, warm 20 grams of water to 35C (95F), add the yeast with half a teaspoon of sugar, whisk and leave to stand for ten minutes before adding to the dough. Remove 20 grams of water from the recipe.
Top tips for the best cottage cob bread
If you want to change the batch size or make the two other breads shown in the video use the bakers formula. This is a spreadsheet that you can download which changes the recipe ingredients depending on the amount of dough that you need.
The challenge for this recipe is to develop the dough enough for it to not explode erratically in the oven. Don't worry if this happens to you, try to increase or decrease the proof time next time.
If you are using steam its best practice to open the oven door to let the steam out after 20-25 minutes. This helps with the colour and texture of the crust.