Saturday, May 16, 2020

Early American Cottage Loaf #BBB

This is the saga of the bread that prevailed.  The little loaf that could.  The dough that defied fate.  Okay, I'll stop, but truly, baking circumstances were colluding against me on this one.  And yet we still ended up with two very tasty loaves, albeit one slightly scorched on the bottom.

A slightly lopsided cottage loaf, owing to the spacious
Dutch oven and the uneven "oven" spring.

It tried to doff its cap.
 So on the first loaf, my oven died right in the middle of preheating!  I went to put in the loaf, already in the Dutch oven I was using and noticed that the little oven thermometer inside read minimum temp.  Good thing I noticed or I wouldn't have been able to easily save it 40 minutes later as I had preheated the Dutch oven on the stove top burner, which still worked.  So I frantically heated up the barbecue and shoved the Dutch oven in there.  I knew it would scorch the bottom a bit but was hoping the cast iron would provide a little protection.  (Actually it was a good thing I was trying out the new Dutch oven as I am certain a glass dish could have shattered on the barbecue.)  It seemed pessimistic on first glance, but after slicing, it was just fine.  Cut off that very thin edge of scorch and the bread was delicious! 

Oh my, that looks bad.
Hmm, maybe not as bad as I thought.
Well look at that, just superficial scorch!
The second time I fully intended on baking in the barbecue, even though we had our new oven by then.  But I also knew we were running low on propane.  I was watching the grill carefully and had already sent hubby to the store to replace the empty spare tank, just in case.  It was a good call, the flame ran out right at 375ºF.  The dough was starting to get over-risen at that point so I deflated and reformed the loaf so I could have the best possible results.  And here is how the setup and the resulting loaf looked:

The crust is actually quite soft, and I accidentally put out my burners when trying to add some steam at the beginning.  I figured it out when the temperature had gone down the next time I checked and had to quickly relight with a fwumph.  I originally intended on using my oblong clay baker, but soon found there was not room for it atop my setup.  So I switched to the pizza stone and did a regular oblong loaf.  I wonder if just the overturned sheet pan or the oven burner grill plates alone would be enough protection for the bottom of the Dutch oven or baker.  The point is to allow for heat circulation as well as limiting direct heat contact.  My friend actually makes cinnamon rolls, (cinnamon rolls!), using this method and a pyrex dish.  She uses the overturned half sheet pan and the burner plates.  The resulting breads, baked in the grill, take on an elusive and extremely pleasing hint of smokiness or savoriness from the grill.  Her boys actually prefer the hint of smoke in the barbecued cinnamon rolls and I now completely understand why.  This honey touched loaf is absolutely delightful with the hint of grill flavor.  The challenge of the barbecue is that it loses a lot of heat very quickly if you lift the lid, so you need to figure out the temperature settings ahead of time.  I wanted to just have one burner going to get some convection, but the temperature would not stay high enough, so I had to use both.  The loaf actually browned better in the Dutch oven, I assume as a result of more even heat from the cast iron conduction.

I used the yeast method for both of my loaves but there is also a sourdough adaptation provided.  This was a nice and quite happy dough to work with and I was more than happy to make it twice.  I actually would like to see how it turns into french toast.  It makes the lightest toast too, just delicious.  I love the touch of honey flavor.  Everybody is baking more right now, why don't you join us and try out this tasty loaf of bread?  No blog is necessary to participate, a picture will do. Just send a picture or your post of your finished loaf to our host kitchen by the 30th of this month.  You will receive a Bread Baking Buddy graphic to keep or add to your post, and be included in our Buddy round up at the end of the month.  New recipes are posted every month on the 16th. Check out our Facebook group to see the participants' baking results during that time.

Early American Cottage Loaf
Makes one large loaf 
adapted from Red Star Yeast

Yeast Version:
1¼ cups water
2 TBSP oil (I used butter)
3 TBSP honey
2¼ cups (286 grams) bread flour (I used 300g King Arthur all purpose) 
1 cup (120 grams) whole wheat flour (I used 135g freshly milled sprouted spelt flour) 
1½ tsp sea salt
2 TBSP wheat germ (I substituted sprouted amaranth that I ground at level 5 on the mockmill - about a farina consistency)
¼ cup (30 grams) oat or wheat bran (I used the bran from the milled spelt here)
¼ cup (30 grams) oatmeal (I used steel oats, milled coarse enough to flake them)
2 TBSP corn meal (I used freshly milled sprouted millet meal - level 10 on the mockmill gives a good corn meal level grind for me)
1½ tsp instant dried yeast (original recipe calls for 2¼ tsp active dried yeast)

Sourdough Version:
120 grams sourdough starter, fed & active (or create a levain the night before with a tablespoon of starter + 50 grams flour and and 50 grams water to equal 120 grams and let it ferment overnight)
220 grams water
27 grams oil
63 grams honey
226 grams all-purpose or bread flour
120 grams whole wheat flour
9 grams salt
14 grams wheat germ
30 grams rolled oats (old fashioned)
30 grams oat or wheat bran
15 grams corn meal

*The method is the same for both versions except you would add the sourdough with the wet ingredients and let it ferment longer.

In a mixer bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients, including the dried yeast and salt.  Add the water, honey, and oil.  Knead until a cohesive mixture is formed.  Let rest for 5 minutes, then knead until the dough is elastic and just slightly tacky.

Cover and let rise 45 min to 1 hour.  Do a stretch and fold and let rise an additional hour or until doubled.  (It usually takes less time to double after the first rise.)

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and press down to degas. Cut off 1/3 of the dough.  Let the dough relax for 10 minutes.  You can divide the dough by weight or just estimate.

Shape each section into a round ball. Place larger ball in a greased 2½ quart casserole or soufflé dish. Using a sharp knife or lame, cut a cross, about 1½ inches across, in the top of the larger piece of dough.  Brush the surface with water and then place the smaller piece of dough on top. Press through the center of both pieces of dough using the handle of a wooden spoon or your finger.  (That is the traditional cottage loaf form, but this bread is delicious in any shape you choose.) Check out the host kitchen's post for excellent step by step pictures to form the traditional cottage loaf.

Cover and let rise until an indentation remains after lightly touching dough. 

Second loaf, standard oblong shape.

Just before baking, stick handle of wooden spoon or finger to refresh the hole. Using a sharp knife or lame, make 8 long slashes around the top and 12 smaller slashes around the bottom of the loaf.

Bake in preheated 375°F oven 35 to 40 minutes.  Remove from dish and cool on rack.

The rest of the Bread Baking Babes


  1. Great saga Kelly! You are almost like Elizabeth! Lol! I love that you were able to save your loaf in the BBQ, charred bottom or not! Your crumb is gorgeous.

    1. Definitely going to use the technique for hot weather baking if I can!

  2. Brilliant, Kelly, brilliant!! The bread looks wonderful.

    The black bottom also looks all too familiar. This has happened to us on a number of occasions in our old oven. We discovered that once the bread has cooled, you can use a box grater to grate the burned part off. Then you don't lose so much of the crust.

    Baking in the barbecue rocks, doesn't it? And good call to NOT use the pyrex dish in the barbecue. It's probably along the same lines as using it on the stove top. (Cleaning up shattered pyrex isn't fun - especially if it is full of fish braising in milk. Don't ask how I know....)

    1. I saw a video once of a little old Russian grandma/baker taking a huge batch of loaves out of a very uneven oven, maybe wood fired. She had a dedicated grater to remove the dark areas and used it quite deftly!

  3. Wonderful story and loaves! The bread that could... You prevailed even with no oven. Love it!

    1. We really enjoyed this recipe, despite the challenges. Thanks for picking it!

  4. If I were giving a prize.... you would win it! Well done overcoming all the stuff to end up with a great loaf.

    1. Thanks! I got the prize of a new baking alternative skill. ☺

  5. Beautiful Loaf. Luckily you were able to save the loaf despite all the difficulties.

    1. I sure would have lamented the loss of those ingredients! Though I did also have friends offering to turn on their ovens for me so I could run over and bake. ♥


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