White bread is my most favorite kind of bread, especially when it’s homemade. Although it’s not the healthiest kind of bread, I love its light texture and fragrant aroma as it bakes. Besides, it doesn’t have the earthy taste of whole-wheat bread. When I started making bread, it was the first kind that I made. Even a peanut butter and jam sandwich is improved a great deal by homemade white bread! 🍞
This cob loaf is a plain white bread from England, traditionally shaped in a round. One of its most enjoyable characteristics is its rustic, hearty crust. To achieve this effect, put a metal casserole dish on the lowest oven shelf when you preheat the oven. To bake, put the loaf on the middle shelf of the oven and pour about 2 cups of water into the metal dish. It will instantly sizzle, creating steam. Shut the door quickly and leave the pan of water in the oven as the bread bakes. The steam creates that wonderful crust that’s perfect for dipping into soup!
If you want to learn how to make bread, I recommend this easy recipe for cob loaf that can be made as a free-form loaf or in a bread pan. Make it in a bread pan first, since it’s easier to shape, then try making a free-form round loaf. With this recipe, you’ll practice the basics of mixing, kneading, proving, and baking–techniques that you can use in every loaf you bake.
With only 5 ingredients, this recipe is easy to memorize and simple to make. Making bread is much easier than what most people think, so don’t be afraid to give it a go! Follow the instructions exactly, and you should end up with a lovely, crusty loaf to share with your family. While your loaf is proving, make our yellow split pea soup to go with it. Twice the yum there! 😉Print
This rustic cob loaf has a crunchy crust and soft interior, scrumptious with a hearty soup or just with some soft butter.
- 5 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting (500g)
- 2 teaspoons salt (10g)
- 3 teaspoons fast-action yeast (10g)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing
- about 1 1/4 cup cool water (about 300ml)
Making & Proving the Dough
- Put the flour in a large mixing bowl and add the salt and yeast on opposite sides of the bowl. Mix them into the flour with your finger.
- Pour in the olive oil and half of the water. Start to stir the mixture with your hand.
- Once the dough starts to come together, 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 work surface greased with olive oil, and knead vigorously for about 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and quite stretchy.
- Shape the dough into a ball, place in an oiled bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap.
- Let the dough prove until at least doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Shaping & Proving the Dough
- 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 pentagon or 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.
- Once the dough is stretched taut, turn it between your palms again, making sure it is smooth and round.
- Place on a large round baking stone and rub a light dusting of flour all over the top and sides to prevent sticking.
- Slide the baking stone into a large, clean garbage bag and tuck the edges of the bag under the pan. This covers the dough and prevents a tough skin from forming on it as it proves.
- Let the loaf prove until it’s about doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- About 10-15 minutes before the final prove is done, preheat the oven to 425 F. Place an old metal casserole dish on a lower shelf to preheat.
Baking the Loaf
- Once the oven is preheated, gently rub in more flour on the loaf.
- Using a very sharp knife, like a serrated bread knife, score the bread with 5 lengthwise slashes.
- Working quickly, 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 hearty crust on the loaf.
- Bake at 425 F for 45 minutes. If you’re using a metal cookie sheet, check your loaf at 30 minutes. The loaf is baked when it is well browned on the top and lightly browned on the bottom, has a hard crust, and sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom.
- Let the loaf sit on a wire rack until it’s fully cooled, about 30-45 minutes.