Thursday, January 6, 2011
A British Cob
A cob is simply a crusty round loaf of bread. The name "cob" comes from England, it's Anglo Saxon for "head." I guess the theory is that the round loaf looks like the shape of a head when baked.
I enjoy making bread in this cob form, it cuts down on the amount of pans I have to wash later. Plus, it's a lot of fun to handle these round loaves as opposed to our (USA) traditional rectangular loaves. To get this round shape you simply bake it on a cookie sheet instead of in loaf pan.
This bread has become a family favorite around here. I found the idea for this recipe in a baking book called The Best-Ever Book of Bread. Through some trial and error I finally settled on this adapted recipe. It is especially lovely served warm, just from the oven for dinner. It also makes a great tasting sandwich bread.
Just a note for those of you who may be new to baking with yeast (as I was just about a year ago): Yeasted breads take a bit of practice. It's wholly different than baking up a quick batter bread. The whole process (kneading, rising, resting) will take you on a sharp learning curve. I recommend buying or borrowing a good bread baking book. It will help you visually, showing you various steps, and it will also help you to troubleshoot for when something goes wrong as it usually will until you've had more practice. Don't give up. Bake some bread once a week and before long you will be a pro!
Makes 1 round loaf
1 1/4 c milk
2 Tbsp butter
2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (or one packet)
1/4 c lukewarm water
3 c whole wheat flour
1 c all purpose unbleached flour
2 Tbsp water
1/2 tsp salt
Scald milk in a small saucepan. Remove from heat. Stir into the milk the butter, salt and sugar. Set aside until cooled to lukewarm.
In a small bowl, stir together the yeast and 1/4 c water. Set aside
In a large bowl, mix both flours together and reserve about a cup to use later during kneading. Make a well in the middle of the flour. Add into the well the cooled milk mixture and the yeast mixture. Stir until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
Flour a board (or whatever surface you will be doing your kneading on) with some of the reserved cup of flour. Turn out the dough onto this floured surface. Knead the dough for 10 minutes, until it's smooth and elastic, using the reserved flour as needed on your surface. Place dough in a large oiled bowl, turning dough over once to coat. Cover with damp, lint-free towel and leave to rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.
Punch dough down and turn out onto a floured board again. Knead another few minutes, about 3-5.
With the dough on the board, shape into a round. Press your lightly fisted hand into the center of the round. Then pick up the dough, turning it over so the pressed side is on the bottom and lightly cup and shape it into a compact ball shape. **see photo at side**
Place dough ball onto the middle of a floured cookie sheet. Cover with a large inverted bowl and leave to rise for 30-45 minutes.
For the topping: Mix water and salt together. Brush over the top of the risen dough and sprinkle with rolled oats.
Bake in a preheated 450° oven for 15 minutes. Then reduce heat to 400° and bake for another 20 minutes, until the cob feels firm and when thumped on the bottom, sounds hollow. Or until a thermometer in the middle reads 205°-210°. Cool on a wire rack or slice into it and enjoy warm.