The Great British Bake Off is one of my favorite shows, inspiring new bakes, new flavors, and new techniques! Join me on my journey to bake through all the Season 8 Challenges.
Total Cooking Time: 3 hours
The Great British Bake Off is a classic show for bakers and those looking for a friendly competition. All the bakes on the show look delicious and I often want to try baking them myself! I finally got off the couch and into the kitchen to recreate some of the recipes from Bake Off! I chose to start with season eight of Bake Off as it is my favorite season and the one with some of my favorite challenges!
The technical challenge for bread week is one that I have never seen before: a cottage loaf. After looking at the ingredients, I decided it was basically a loaf of white bread enriched with butter and shaped in a particular way. I love how a cottage loaf looks like two loaves stacked on top of each other. But even though this is a simple recipe, I found there are a lot of places to go wrong! Let’s get into this delicious technical challenge.
The ingredients for a cottage loaf are very simple. They are the classic staples of any bread: flour, yeast, salt, and water. The only non-classic addition would be butter. The butter adds a fat into the bread and gives it a wetter texture but also inhibits the rise. Because any non-standard ingredient is going to inhibit the rise.
Making the Dough
The first step for making the dough is mixing the ingredients. I like to make sure the yeast and salt is distributed evenly throughout the flour. This helps the dough rise evenly and makes sure the flavor is properly dispersed. The butter and water are then added to the dry ingredients and mixed to create the dough.
I like to use the dough hook to knead the dough in the stand mixer. This makes the process easier on your arms because kneading dough is hard! Sometimes I like to finish kneading the dough on the counter because it helps me feel the dough. There is a part of me that believes I can tell when a dough is properly knead by feeling the stretchiness of the dough. Once everything feels right, it’s time for the first proof.
Shaping and Baking
When the first proof is done, it’s time to create the shape. This is, in my opinion, what truly makes a cottage loaf. The dough will be split into two smaller balls. One will consist of 1/3rd of the dough while the other will be 2/3rds. Once each section is shaped into a ball, the smaller ball will be place centered on top of the larger ball.
To keep the two balls together while they bake, the doughs must be further joined. This is done by using your finger to drive down into the center of the loaf. Without this step, the two balls will not be conjoined and will separate when baked. Then is it time for the second proof.
The last step in this process is baking! This recipe calls for putting water in the oven which I will get into more in the lessons section. Before the bread goes in the oven, the top of the bread should be slashed in the classic style. This will help with shaping as well as give the air in the bread a location to escape. It’s like a chimney for baking. The bread will bake in about 30-40 minutes and will turn a nice golden brown.
Why add water into the oven when baking bread? Because it add many great benefits! The water in the oven will create steam which will attach itself to the outside layer of the bread. This keeps the crust of the bread softened instead of getting a hardened crust. The steam also encourages the bread to rise earlier in the bake and give a more open structure.
Classic Cottage Loaf
- 3 ¾ Cup All-Purpose Flour plus additional for dusting
- 2 ½ Tsp Active Dry Yeast
- 1 ½ Tsp Salt
- 3 ½ Tbsp Butter softened and cut into pieces
- 2 Cups Warm Water split
- Combine flour, yeast, and salt in a mixing bowl
- Add butter and 1 ¼cups water and mix together, use a dough hook if using a stand mixer
- Add remaining water and mix until the dough pulls together into a ball.
- Knead for approximately 5-10 minutes or until the dough is soft to the touch
- Place dough ball into an oiled bowl and let proof until the dough is doubled in size (about one hour)
- Divide the dough into 1/3rd and 2/3rd sections respectively
- Shape each piece into a ball.
- Place the smaller ball on top of the large ball. To connect pieces, flour two fingers and pushdown through each dough ball.
- Cover with a cloth and allow to rise for about one hour, or until the dough is soft and springy
- Pre-heat over to 425 F and place a large pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven
- Slash bread in 8 places
- Reduce oven temperature to 415F and bake the for 15 minutes
- Reduce the oven to 375F and bake for another 20-25 minutes or until bread is golden brown