The cottage loaf is a traditional British loaf shape from the Victorian era and possibly even earlier although it’s rarely seen in shops these days. I use my standard bread recipe but this loaf is shaped by putting a small ball of dough on top of a bigger one to make something like a dough snowman then using your fore finger to punch a hole through both balls of dough.
It looks difficult but it’s actually pretty easy to do.
- 500g bread flour
- 10g dried yeast
- 10g salt
- 30g unsalted butter
- Roughly about 320ml of tepid water. Just enough to make a silky dough.
If you’ve never made bread before, it might be worthwhile to read my previous post which goes into more detail about the process.
Step 1 – mix
Combine everything in a bowl and get your hands in there to mix into a dough. Don’t add all the water at once as you may not need it all. Just add a little at a time until everything comes together.
Step 2 – knead
Then knead on your work surface for about ten minutes. You want to stretch the dough, fold it over on itself and stretch it again until it’s very soft and silky feeling. By kneading you are allowing the gluten to form giving the dough the elasticity it needs to rise and be soft and pillowy.
Step 3 – rise
Set it aside in a bowl covered with cling film and leave it to rise until it has at least doubled in size. In a warm room, this is about 40 to 60 minutes.
Step 4 – shape
Then, we knock it back. This means basically you do it all again but only for 5 minutes.
Next we have to shape the dough into the loaf shape we want it to end up looking like. In this case, split the dough into two pieces, one about a third the size of the other and form them into balls. Then place the smaller of the two pieces on top of the larger one, making a snow man type shape.
Use a floured finger to press all the way down through the centre of the loaf, as far as possible, so it almost touches the baking sheet and then use the tip of a knife to score lines around the dough.
Step 5 – prove
Now you want to cover the dough with a clean tea towel and put it aside to rise again, just like before. This is called proving and is when the dough will take on its final shape and size before you bake it. At this point you want to put the dough onto the baking tray you are going to use to bake it as you don’t want to have to handle the dough once it has risen.
Again it will take roughly an hour for the dough to become twice its size and ready for the oven.
While the dough is proving you can get your oven pre-heated to 200C (180C fan). Put a small dish or baking tray onto the floor of the oven, when we bake our bread we are going to put some water in this tray to create steam in the oven, this helps get a nice crust on the bread.
Step 6 – bake
Put the dough on its tray onto the middle oven shelf and add a cup of water to the tray on the oven floor.
Bake your bread for around 35 – 40 minutes, when it’s done, tapping on the bottom should give a hollow sound.