Monday, January 6

Plaited Cob Loaf

A wise man once said..."Man cannot live on bread alone...."

Well no, he really can't...But he can damn well try!

This is the attitude in my house. My brother is a remarkably bread baker, (he really does make a mean loaf), and weekly kneads a few doughs for his house to eat at university.
Understandably, whether at university or home, the second a freshly made loaf is out of the oven it is sliced up, buttered and devoured in minutes.
You really can't beat the mouth watering smell of freshly baked bread first thing in the morning!

One thing I really want to work on this year is my bread skills. Yes, I can make a multitudes of cakes and bakes, but bread is an adventure I've mostly left to my brother in the past.
Whilst the master bread baker was still at home, I used his expertise for guidance to get me started.

First thing is first, a simple white cob loaf. I've made this a couple of times as it is Paul Hollywood's classic beginners loaf, but I got tired of the simple circular shape and decided to spice it up with a cute plait design.
(I promise it is a lot easier than it looks and practise really does make perfect when it comes to bread!)

A white cob is a beautifully soft white loaf with a crispy, crunchy outside. Perfect for some stacked up sandwiches or fresh toast!

Slice it up and smother it, hot or cold, with anything that you fancy.
(I'm more of a 'toast with lashing of molten butter' kind of girl!)

To make your own white cob loaf, you will need:

- 500g strong white bread flour, plus a little extra for dusting
- 10g salt
- 10g instant yeast
- 30g unsalted butter, softened
- Amount 320 ml of cool water (see below)
- Olive oil for kneading.

Measure out the flour into a large mixing bowl.

Add the salt to one side, and the yeast to the other. (This is because the salt can inhibit the yeast's growth.)

Add the softened butter and three quarters of the cool water.

Shape your hand a little bit like a claw and turn the mixture around with your fingers. If you need a little bit more water, go ahead, but in tiny amounts. Each brand of flour will have a different absorption rate so it is a little bit of trial and error until you've found out the amount of water needed for your chosen brand.
Ideally you are looking to have picked up all of the flour from the sides of the bowl, you might not have needed to use all of the water, or maybe a little bit more. The dough needs to be soft but not soggy.
(I used Doves strong white bread flour and I needed around 325ml.)
Keep on going until the inside of the bowl is clean and the mixture forms a rough dough.

Kneading is a personal thing. Everyone has their own tact and methods, as long as you are stretching the gluten strands in the dough, you are making progress!
Lightly coat your work surface with olive oil (not extra flour, this is for later on) and turn out your dough.
A good starter method is to stretch the dough away from you (as in the picture above), then folding it back towards you, turning it 45 degrees, and starting again.
After a few minutes, leave the dough to rest for 30 seconds- 1minute before continuing, this will allow the gluten strands to relax before stretching them again.

The dough will have an initial wet stage when your first start, but keep with it. You need about 5-10 minutes kneading until your dough is smooth and silky.

Have a go! The more you try, the sooner it will become second nature.

When you think your dough is ready, shape into a ball by cupping both your hands underneath, turning around and repeating again until spherical.

Pop the dough into a lightly oiled large mixing bowl and cover with cling film or a tea towel.

Leave until it has doubled in size, (it doesn't have to be in a very warm spot, but a student house with zero heating on will not help it rise if you want it quickly!)  This should take at least 1 hour, but could be as long as three, so just be patient with it.

Once it has doubled in size, line a baking tray with parchment and lightly flour a work surface.

Tip the risen and bouncy dough out onto the work surface and 'knock back'. This means knocking out all of the air/carbon dioxide that has built up.
All you do is pull out some of the dough, and then fold it back in on itself in a circular movement.

Keep on working your way around like a little parcel.

Now here is where we can be creative!

If you would like a classic cob loaf (a large circular shape)....
Flip over the parcel and use the method before of 'cupping your hands' to stretch the skin and create a smooth silky and tight top.
(Slide this onto the baking tray and then slash across the top with a knife in lines/hatched pattern.)

But it you fancy a bit of wow factor, have a go at the plait (it really isn't that hard!)
Weigh your dough and divide this amount into three equal cuts of dough.

Using both hands, roll out each chunk of dough into a long octopus leg, about 30-40cm long (too much flour on the surface will make rolling difficult.)

At one end, tact the dough legs together with your fingers and then start plaiting, making sure it is tightly knitted with no gaps.

Then just use your fingers to tact the other end together and slide the plait onto the baking tray.

Place the baking tray with the dough on into two, or one very large, plastic bag creating a little 'den'.
Try to prevent the bags from touching the dough.
Allow the dough to prove for a second time for one hour or until it has doubled in size.

15 minutes before ready, preheat the oven to 230C/210 fan and slide a hot roasting tray into the bottom of the oven.
Sprinkle the dough with a little extra flour, slide into the oven, and pour hot water into the roasting tray in the bottom: this will create steam and give your bread a lighter crust.
Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until golden brown and hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Cool on a wire rack and savour the mouth watering smell swarming your kitchen.

Bread. A classic staple and one which actually isn't too hard to make. It just takes a bit of patience and a bit of practise.
Plus, for all of those on new years resolutions, bread really is great to make as it is impossible to munch upon whilst baking. (Brownie batter is my biggest downfall...)

So dig in, butter it up and toast under the grill.
Expect a lot more bread on the blog this year, I really want to venture out from the classic cakes and bakes.
It's a new frontier I'm determined to crack!



  1. Well done! Looks great!

    Mr Hollywood would be proud

    Caroline x
    Cocktails and Caroline

  2. I'm exactly the same - all cake and no bread. First on my list is a soda bread I think :)

    Beanie x

  3. Good on you girl! Looks delicious, love the plait design you chose. I agree it freshens things up and looks beautiful!

    Katie <3

  4. Looks perfect!! There's nothing better than homemade bread :)

    Rosie xx

  5. Emily that looks delicious!
    I've never actually made bread myself, though I am very determined to try it out this year.
    Kudos to your brother for being such the skilled breadmaker, seems like it runs in your family!

    {Teffy's Perks} X

  6. The closest I ever get to making bread is when we do pizza nights!
    I'm hoping you inspire me to get all floury this year :)
    x x x
    {The Lobster & Me}


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