This cob loaf recipe is the perfect bread for beginning bakers to make. The beautifully crisp, crackly crust is a joy to eat, and the soft interior is great for sopping up sauces and gravies. You'll definitely be wanting a second piece!
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Where is cob loaf from?
It is an English white bread shaped into a free-form round, and has a crunchy crust.
How do you make a crusty cob?
- Sift the flour. This helps create a thinner crust instead of a thick, break-your-teeth crust.
- Knead thoroughly. Kneading builds up the gluten, encouraging a good rise, lovely texture, and nice crust. See the "How to Make Cob Loaf" section below for details.
- Bake with steam. The steam creates a layer of starch gel on the outside of the dough as it bakes, which hardens into the crunchy crust we love.
Is cob loaf healthy?
For those on a balanced diet, it is healthy in moderation. If you cut it into 12 pieces, each piece would be 200 calories. Scroll down to the bottom of the recipe card below to see the full nutrition facts.
Can you freeze this bread?
- Yes, you can freeze it.
- Let it cool completely on a wire rack and pre-slice for ease if desired.
- Seal it tightly inside of a zip-top freezer bag and press out the extra air.
- Freeze for up to 1 month.
How to Make
Gather the ingredients. You'll need bread flour, salt, yeast, sugar, unsalted butter, and water.
Sift the flour into a mixing bowl, then add the salt and yeast on opposite sides of the bowl. Stir each one in with your finger. The purpose of this step is to keep the salt from touching the yeast, as it can kill the yeast on contact.
Add the sugar and mix in the butter.
Gradually add the water and mix with your hand until all the flour is picked up from the bottom of the bowl. Keep adding liquid until a slightly sticky dough has formed. You may not need all the water, or you might need a little extra, depending on the humidity and the brand of flour you're using.
Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until the dough is very smooth and no longer sticky, about 20 minutes. You should be able to stretch a lump of dough thin enough to read through it, as in the photo below.
Place the dough into a buttered bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
Let the dough rise in a warm place until at least doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Punch down the risen dough to release the air pockets. Shape the dough into a tight ball and place on a cookie sheet.
Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rise until almost doubled in size, about 30 minutes. The dough should spring back slowly when prodded with a fingertip.
Preheat the oven to 450 F and put a sturdy metal casserole dish on the lowest shelf. Just before baking the dough, cut a few slashes on top with a lame or sharp serrated knife.
Put the loaf into the oven and pour some water into the hot metal dish to create steam. Shut the oven door and bake at 450 F for 20 minutes, then remove the steam pan. Bake for another 20 minutes, until it has an internal temperature of 190-200 F.
Let it cool completely on a wire rack before slicing and serving, about 1 hour.
How do you eat cob bread?
- By itself. Try spreading it with butter or dipping into olive oil for a lovely snack.
- Sandwiches. Slice it and make into hearty grilled cheese or toasted tomato sandwiches.
- Dip. Cut off the top of the loaf and pull out some of the bread from the center. Fill with your favorite dip, such as spinach and artichoke, bake until warm and bubbly, and enjoy with the pulled-out pieces. (This is popular in Australia.)
- Croutons. If you've never tried homemade croutons, you're missing out on something amazing!
- Garlic toast. This toast tastes fabulous with Italian food.
- Always use bread flour. All-purpose simply will not give you the best rise and texture.
- Knead for a while. The time you invest kneading will be well worth the effort, ensuring a crackly, high-rising result.
- Be careful not to add too much flour during the kneading process, as this can make it dry and tough.
- Shape the loaf into a tight ball. This will encourage it to rise up instead of flattening out.
- Want that crackly crust? Bake with a pan of water in the oven and brush the crust with butter as soon as it comes out of the oven.
- Instant Yeast: this kind of yeast doesn't need to proof before being added to the dough.
- Cookie Sheets: this set of two cookie sheets will be loved for years to come.
- Digital Thermometer: using a thermometer is the best way to see if your bread is cooked.
- Pastry Brushes: it's easy to brush butter and glazes with these durable brushes.
- Cooling Racks: your baked goods will cool faster and stay crispy on these racks.
Other Bread Recipes to Try
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Easy Cob Loaf Recipe
Making & Proving the Dough (30 min + 1 hr proving)
- Sift the bread flour into a mixing bowl and add the salt and yeast on opposite sides of the bowl. Mix them into the flour with your finger, then stir in the sugar.
- Dump in the softened butter and half of the water. Stir and crush the mixture with your hand to begin forming the dough. Gradually add more water and mix well until all the flour has been incorporated and a slightly sticky dough has formed. You may need more or less water than the recipe states.
- Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface, and knead vigorously for about 20 minutes, until the dough is smooth and quite stretchy. You should be able to stretch a lump of dough thin enough to read through it.
- Shape the dough into a ball, place in a buttered bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough prove until at least doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Shaping & Proving the Dough (10 min shaping + 30 min proving)
- Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and punch it down all over to knock out large pockets of gas.
- Form the dough into a flat circle, and fold the edges into the center to form a hexagon shape. Pinch the edges together, then turn the dough over so the folds are underneath.
- Cup your hands around the loaf so the dough is between your palms. Shape it into a round by turning the dough between your hands and keeping it on the work surface.
- With your hands still cupped around the loaf, use your thumbs to pull the edges of the dough underneath itself to stretch the top of the loaf taut. This tension will help the loaf rise upward instead of spreading out as it proves.
- Place the loaf on a metal baking tray and cover with a piece of plastic wrap. Let the dough prove at room temperature until the dough springs back slowly when prodded with a fingertip, about 30 minutes.
- About 10-15 minutes before the final prove is done, preheat the oven to 450 F. Place an old metal casserole dish on a lower shelf to preheat.
Baking the Loaf (40 min baking + 1 hr cooling)
- Once the oven is preheated, score the bread with 5 lengthwise slashes using a lame or sharp serrated knife.
- Put the loaf on the middle shelf of the oven. Pour about 2 cups of water into the preheated metal dish and quickly shut the door. The water turns into steam, which creates a crunchy crust.
- Bake at 450 F for 20 minutes. Remove the steam pan and bake for 18-20 minutes longer. Cover it with aluminum foil if it's getting dark. The bread is done cooking when it has an internal temperature of 190-200 F.
- Immediately brush the loaf with butter and let it cool on a wire rack until it's fully cooled, at least 1 hour.
- Always use bread flour, not all-purpose. This kind of flour produces a good rise, high rise, and chewy texture.
- Don't skimp on the kneading. It takes time to build up the proper gluten structure, which is essential.
- Only add a little flour as you knead. When the dough is properly kneaded, it will no longer be sticky.
- Shape the loaf tightly. Otherwise, it will flatten as it rises, making it rather unattractive.
- Ensure a crackly crust by baking the loaf with a pan of water in the oven and brushing the crust with butter as soon as it comes out of the oven.
This post was originally published on September 23, 2017.