In the centre of the dinner-table, just below the cruet stand, stood an enormous loaf of bread. Mr. Harding, the baker, cooked one for Father every Saturday. It was four loaves baked in one so that it did not get as stale as four small loaves would have. It was made cottage-loaf-shape–two storeys high with a dimple in the top.
– Emily Carr, The Book of Small, p17
[I]f there is anything quite as good as the soft part of the crust from an English cottage loaf (how soon shall we be seeing cottage loaves again?) I do not know of it.
– George Orwell, In Defence of English Cooking, 1945
The closures and confinements are wearing, aren’t they? But once again the BBBabes have helped to ease the pain!
Cathy chose to make cottage loaf. Now that we are being discouraged from going to the cottage, what could be better than bringing the cottage to us?
Bread Baking Babes (BBB): Early American Cottage Loaf
By far the most characteristic and distinctive shape among English breads, one now unique I think to this country, is the cottage loaf, two round loaves baked one on top of the other, the top one always being smaller than the bottom one. This loaf, like all our hand-moulded bread, was baked on the floor of the old brick oven of the cottage, the farmhouse or the village bakery.
[A]lthough the true cottage loaf has all but disappeared, and efforts made in modern bakeries to reproduce it result in futile travesties, to the English the cottage loaf remains the basic symbol of homely, wholesome bread. The shape would still be instantly recognized by any Englishman anywhere, even had he never set eyes on the real thing.
Elizabeth David, English Bread and Yeast Cookery, p.203-204
The common shape of bakers’ loaves is given by dividing the portion of dough intended for one loaf into two parts of unequal size, the smaller one being little more than a third of the whole. These are made into the form of very thick cakes, and then placed one on the other, care being taken that there should be no flour between them, and then pressed together, and a deep indentation made inthe centre of the upper one, sometimes by the baker’s elbow.
The loaves technically called “bricks,” which are baked in tins, are of convenient form for making toast or for slicing bread and butter.
Eliza Acton, The English Bread Book, p.184
[T]here was one thing in the kitchen that Mrs Woolf was very good at doing; she could make beautiful bread. The first question she asked me when I went to Monks House was if I knew how to make it. I told her that I had made some for my family, but I was no expert at it. ‘I will come into the kitchen Louie’ she said, ‘and show you how to do it. We have always made our own bread.’ I was surprised how complicated the process was and how accurately Mrs Woolf carried it out. She showed me how to make the dough with the right quantities of yeast and flour, and then how to knead it. She returned three or four times during the morning to knead it again. Finally, she made the dough into the shape of a cottage loaf and baked it at just the right temperature. […] It took me many weeks to be as good as Mrs Woolf at making bread
– Louie Mayer, Recollections of Virginia Woolf, edited by Joan Russel Noble, p. 157
Pioneers blended grains available to produce breads with interesting texture. These wholesome, unusual[sic] shaped loaves were baked in cast iron pots in the cottage fireplace.
-Red Star Yeast, Early American Cottage Loaf
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