My bread making has been a long time in the making, first taken up during my undergrad dissertation writing as a way to stay sane during long hours in the house. After about three or four attempts at a Cob Loaf I had still not managed to stop it from being undercooked in the middle. This lead to ‘project bread making’ being shelved for a long time and I returned to my normal cooking. However after I found myself at a loose end over Christmas, injured and unable to do much other than work, I decided to step back into the apron and give bread making a second chance.
I decided to start off by banishing my nemesis, the same Cob Loaf recipe by Paul Hollywood, which had defeated me before. Alas this time I came up good and slowly improved in my attempts. I have to say the single best tip I picked up, which seasoned bakers will know is obvious, is that wetter is better! My only previous successful forays into baking had been flatbreads where dry is good. Secondly being aware of the temperature you are letting the dough rise at is important, kitchens can vary in temperature greatly and thus ‘room temperature’ is essentially a useless term. So while a thermometer is definitely overkill a conscious thought of the temperature (e.g. are you wearing a jumper?) helps replicated good results. The recipe for this cob loaf can be found on the BBC and is definitely worth a go, makes a great sandwich!
The ingredients for a good sized loaf are:
- Strong White Flour – 400g
- Strong Brown Flour – 280g
- Salt – 2 tsp
- Yeast – 8g (2.25 tsp)
- Butter – 28g
- Warm Water – 400ml
- 1 Egg
And to turn this into bread I suggest you:
- Mix the flour in a bowl and add the butter, cubed, into the mixture. Then rub the flour into the butter until it becomes a bit ‘breadcrumby’
- Add the salt and yeast (opposite sides of the bowl so the salt doesn’t kill the yeast) before adding half the water. Mix it together before slowly adding the rest of the water. Could need less/more depending on the batch of flour etc. It should be a relatively firm dough, but if in doubt remember wetter is better! (think I stole that saying from a Dan Lepard book Catriona has)
- Need the dough for 10 minutes… put some effort it!
- Return to a bowl, cover with damp tea towel, and leave in a warm place (like an airing cupboard) for 1.5 to 2 hours… essentially it should at least double in size.
- Knock it back and shape into however you want it to be.. but remember this effects the cooking times. I tend to go for a fat baguette/loaf thing which makes good sandwiches and is easy to toast. Probably between a 1ft and 1.5ft long placed on an oiled baking tray.
- Cover with damp towel again and leave at room temperature for 40 minutes… do not put somewhere too warm! The second rise should be slower. Also this is a good stage to put the oven on, get it nice and hot… about 230 degrees.
- Once the second rise is complete put some slices in the top and paint with an egg glaze… makes a lovely shiny crust!
- Place in the oven for 15 minutes at 230 degrees, then reduce to 200 degrees for a further 15-20 minutes. (remember that these numbers and times can change slightly with different ovens, so don’t be put off if the first attempt isn’t spot on, its almost always edible!)
- Leave to cool for 30 minutes before eating… if you can.
Any questions.. just ask!