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Photos of loaves from the bake-off can be found here.
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The cottage loaf is a traditional English bread that has fallen out of favour in recent years. I absolutely adore making them. Despite a bit of a dodgy start, my last few attempts have turned out quite well, and it’s lovely to have such an unusually shaped loaf to serve at dinner.
I’ve met several fellow bread bakers since starting this blog (and converted a couple to the cause) – would any of you be interested in joining me in a cottage loaf bake-off?
By “bake-off”, I don’t mean to imply anything competitive. Rather, I thought it might be fun for us all to bake a cottage loaf or two, and then I’d put pictures up as we go on the Cottage Loaves page. And since it’s not a contest (and there aren’t any prizes – sorry), I won’t bother with rules – just bake your dough of choice in a cottage loaf shape. Then leave a comment here with a link to your photo, or let me know and I’ll email you to get a copy if you don’t have a website to upload them to.
Here are my tips – please chime in if you have any others…
- Use a lower hydration dough. This is not the time for a wet 75% dough, as the two halves will fuse into each other when you join them, and you’ll end up with some weird looking spaceship. I use a 60% dough for my sourdough cottage loaves.
- Let the two storeys have a second rise until almost doubled, before you put them together and give them a third brief rise as a combined unit.
- Look, I know this bit is cheating, but if you can get it right, the oven shelf above can stop the loaf from rising too much and “popping” its top off.
- I aim for the top layer to be half the dough weight of the bottom layer. I find this works well. Also, small loaves seem easier to get right than large ones.
- Finally, poke a hole all the way through the middle and work the dough outwards with your fingers to try and weld the two layers together. Slash well – I find lots of cuts helps the dough to rise more evenly.
It takes a bit of practice, but don’t give up, because these are heaps of fun to make. After all, if Wallace and Gromit can make them, how hard can it be? (She says, in her best Jeremy Clarkson voice.) And if you’d like a good laugh, have a look at my failed first attempts.
Edit: If you’re after a bread recipe, you might want to try this Pain de Campagne de Cottage Loaf recipe. It uses commercial yeast rather than sourdough and works well in this shape.
Please join in – it’ll be great fun! Let’s bring cottage loaves back into vogue!
Photo from Wallace & Gromit – The Official Site