Cob bread is a crusty round bread that can be made into one large loaf or smaller individual rolls. It’s a simple free-form bread that does not require a bread tin.
About This Recipe
- It’s a basic white bread recipe that does not require a bread tin. Making it great for cooks who only have basic baking equipment.
- This crusty cob recipe is made with just 5 ingredients.
- You can use this cob bread for everyday sandwiches.
- It can be hollowed out to make a bread bowl for hot dips – a great idea for parties.
- You can use it make pull apart bread.
- It can even be used to make hollowed out sandwiches, for easy work lunches or picnics.
Bread flour – also known as bakers’ flour or strong flour is the ideal flour to use for this recipe. It is higher in protein and produces more gluten than plain flour.
And since it has more protein it holds its shape better and, rises up instead of spreading out like bread made with plain flour. Which is what we want because we aren’t using a bread tin for this recipe.
Water – you can either use cold tap water or warm water (depending on the room temperature) this will help to active the yeast and speed up the proving (rising) time.
I normally use cold tap water when I make bread because, we live in a warm climate and it doesn’t take that long for the bread dough to rise.
However, if you live in a cold climate use warm water because, this will help to speed up the activation of the yeast which will in turn speed up the rising time.
Avoid using hot water because, it will kill the yeast.
Butter – use soft butter not melted. If you use melted butter you are adding more liquid to the dough which could end up making it to wet.
I always use salted butter for cooking, I find it just gives everything a nice flavour. If you don’t want to use salted butter you can use unsalted butter.
Salt – enhances the flavour of the bread, without it you could find the bread a little bland. However, if you are on a salt reduced diet, you can leave it out.
Instant dry yeast – this is my preferred yeast because, you can use it straight away without waiting for it to be activated.
Olive oil – this is optional and only used to grease the inside of the bowl you are proofing the dough in. It just stops the dough from sticking to the inside of bowl.
This section will give you and overview of how to make crust cob bread. I made this bread using a stand mixer. But don’t worry if you don’t have a stand mixer, the recipe card has instructions for making it by hand kneading and in the bread machine.
Step 1 – Place all the ingredients and almost all of the water into a large mixing bowl. Add the remaining water a little at a time at the being of kneading if the dough looks a little dry.
Step 2 – Knead the dough either by hand, in a bread machine or stand mixer until soft and smooth.
Step 3 – The dough is correctly kneaded when it can pass the windowpane test. This is when a piece of dough can be stretched thin without easily breaking.
Step 4 – Place the dough in a large mixing bowl (leave it in the stand mixer bowl if you used that), cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap, place in a warm place and leave to double in size – this can take between 45 minutes to 2 or more hours depending on the room temperature.
Step 5 – Scrape the dough out of the bowl and on to a lightly floured work surface, stretch out one section of the dough.
Step 6 – Fold the stretched section over the dough and back toward the opposite side. Turn the dough clockwise, stretching and folding another section, turn clockwise again and repeat the stretching and folding process several times, working your way around the dough. You should end up with a neat ball.
Step 7 – Turn the dough ball over so that the smooth side is up. Next shape into a tight firm ball.
Do this by: placing your hands on the top of the dough and gently smooth and stretch the dough in a downward action, tucking excess dough under the ball.
Repeat working your way around the dough until you get a nice and firm round loaf. When finished the base should curve up and away from the tray and not sit flat.
Step 8 – Place the dough ball onto a baking tray lined with baking paper, cover with a dry tea towel and then a damp tea towel. Leave and a warm place and allow to double in size.
Step 9 – Once the loaf has doubled in size, lightly sprinkle with flour and gently rub it in.
Step 10 – Next, use a large shape knife and make shallow 1cm (0.4 inch) deep cuts across the top to from a diamond pattern.
Step 11 – Before baking the cob bread place a baking tray on the bottom of the hot oven and fill it with boiling water. Then bake loaf on the bottom shelf until golden brown. Turn out onto a wire rack and allow the cob bread to cool completely before serving.
Recipe Tips and Notes
Regardless of your kneading methods the dough should be kneaded until it looks and feels smooth. It should pass the windowpane test; this is when you can stretch a piece of dough until it becomes thin and almost see through.
Shaping The Dough
Scoring the Dough
You need a long sharp thin bladed knife for cutting the dough. As you cut the sections will spread open because of the tension you created when shaping the loaf. Be careful and try not to cut too deep, you only want to make them about 1 cm (0.4 inch) deep.
You can score the bread in one direction and have a single row of lines or make cris-cross lines to create a diamond pattern.
To Get A Crispy Crust
Steam is used during baking to give the cob bread a nice crispy crust. You will need a baking tray or something similar that will sit on the bottom of the oven and under the bottom rack.
Just before placing the loaf into the hot oven, place on boiling water into the baking tray and place it in the oven. As the bread bakes the hot water creates stream which will give the bread a crisp crust.
If your oven does not have space for a tray, use a spray bottle to spray water above the loaf when it’s in the oven just before closing the oven door and then spray a few more times as the bread bakes.
Party Food Ideas
Use the cob bread as a vessel for a hot dip.
Cut a section from the top of the loaf. Pull out pieces of bread to create a hollow bowl with a crust wall of about 2-3 cm thick.
Place the bread, cut top piece and the scooped-out pieces of bread onto a baking tray.
Make a hot dip and pour into the cob bread bowl, place in to a preheated 180°C (350°F) oven for about 10 – 12 minutes. Serve hot.
Here are some recipes for cob loaf fillings you might enjoy:
- Cheese and bacon cob loaf – createbakemake.com
- Spinach cob loaf – mysugarfreekitchen.com
- French onion cob loaf – newideafood.com.au
What to serve with cob loaf dip?
You can serve the dip with the warmed pieces of scooped out bread, vegetables sticks, crackers, grissini, mini toasts, crustini crispbread and even garlic bread.
You can use this crusty cob bread make pull apart garlic bread
Slice the bread into a diamond pattern, being careful not to cut all the way through. The slices should be about 2.5 cm (1 inch) thick or thicker if you prefer.
Place the bread onto a large piece of foil and onto a baking tray.
Melt about 150 – 200 grams (5 – 7 oz) of butter and mix in 2-3 minced garlic cloves and 1 tablespoon of fresh finely chopped parsley (or you could use 2 teaspoons dried parsley).
Use a pastry brush to drizzle the butter between the slices and stuff each section with a little grated mozzarella cheese. You will need about 1 – 1 ½ cups grated mozzarella.
Brush the top of the bread with a little butter, wrap in foil, bake for about 20 minutes in a 180°C (350°F) oven. Unwrap and cook for 5 – 10 minutes. Serve immediately.
This English cob loaf is suitable to make hollowed out bread sandwiches.
Hollowed out bread sandwiches are perfect for taking out on picnics or sharing at football parties or on game day.
These can be made the day before by cutting the top off the bread, removing the insides and leaving about a 2 cm (0.8 inch) outer crust.
It is then filled and layered with any combination of cold deli meats, shredded cooked meats, vegetables fresh or dried, cheeses and other flavourings.
Once filled the top is placed back on and the bread is tightly wrapped in plastic. The cob loaf is then stored in the fridge over night with something heavy onto to squash it down.
Here are some recipe ideas:
- Gourmet layered cob sandwich – mouthsofmums.com.au
- Mediterranean-style picnic cob loaf – taste.com.au
- Picnic loaf – thesimplethings.com
Frequently Asked Questions
What is cob bread?
Cob bread is a traditional English round loaf. Before baking a sharp blade is used to score a diamond pattern on top. It is normally cooked on the bottom shelf of the oven where the oven temperature is cooler.
Can you bake bread on a tray?
Yes, you can bake bread on a tray. To do so you need to shape the dough into a right round ball (see recipe notes above) before the second fermentation.
Place the dough onto a baking tray lined with baking paper or you can use a greased and lightly floured tray. Allow the dough to double in size, then bake.
Can I use plain flour instead of bread flour?
No, If you do use plain flour you won’t end up with the same results. Bread flour is high in gluten and this what is needed for making a good loaf of bread.
If you are new to making bread you might like to read the following articles:
- How to use instant yeast
- Kneading dough in a bread machine
- Bread making tips
- Why is my bread dense and heavy?
More Bread Recipes To Try
- Soft Hawaiian dinner rolls
- No knead focaccia bread
- Cheese bread sticks
- Hot cross buns
- Browse all bread recipes
I do hope that you try this cob loaf recipe! And if you do make it, I would love to hear from you. Drop a comment below and tell me how it went.
Easy Cob Bread
- Stand mixer or bread maker (optional)
- Kitchen scales
- Measuring spoons
- Baking tray
- Roasting pan
- Spray bottle filled with clean water
- 500 grams (17.63 oz) bread flour (bakers’ flour, strong flour)
- 40 grams (1.4 oz) butter at room temperature
- 3 level teaspoons instant dry yeast
- 2 level teaspoons salt
- 300 grams/ml (10.14 oz) water tepid or room temperature
- A little olive oil this is optional
Kneading And First Rise
- If Kneading by HandPlace all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl, holding back some of the water. With a clean dry hand, mix the ingredients together in the bowl adding a little more water if necessary, to bring everything together.Next, tip the dough onto a lightly floured bench, gather the dough together, and start kneading. Press the heel of you palms into the dough,pushing and stretching the dough away from you, then rolling the dough back on itself toward you. Repeat this action for about 5 – 10 minutes or until the dough looks smooth and soft. If necessary, lightly dust the bench with flour and scrape any stuck bits of dough from the bench back into the dough as you work.When kneaded place the dough into a large bowl, tightly cover the bowl with a clean damp tea towel or plastic food, place n a warm area for 1-2 hours or until it has doubled in size.Optional: Lightly oil the inside of the bowl before adding the dough, then return the dough bake to the bowl. Cover the bowl with a clean damp tea towel for plastic food wrap. The oil will stop the dough from sticking to the bowl making it easier to remove. If Using A Bread MakerPlace all the ingredients for the dough to the basket of the bread mixer. Set the bread machine to the dough cycle. After a minute or two check the dough, if it looks a little dry add a tablespoon of two of water.Keep the dough in the bread machine until it completes its full cycle where the dough will double in size. If Using a Stand MixerPlace all the ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer, holding back some of the water. Attach the dough hook, start the machine and knead on low speed for about 1 minute to combine all the ingredients, stopping the mixer once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl.Increase the speed to medium and knead for about 15 – 20 minutes. While kneading the dough, if it looks dry add some of the reserved water if needed. When the dough is smooth and soft, remove the bowl from the stand mixer and tightly cover with the bowl with a clean damp tea towel or plastic food wrap. Optional: Remove the dough from the bowl. Lightly oil the inside of the bowl then return the dough bake to the bowl, cover with a clean damp tea towel for plastic food wrap. The oil will stop the dough from sticking to the bowl making it easier to remove.Place in a warm area for 1-2 hours or until it has doubled in size.
SHAPING THE DOUGH AND SECOND RISE
- Line a baking tray with baking paper.
- Once the dough has doubled in size scrape it out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface.
- Use your hand to stretch out the dough in one direction,then fold it back over to the opposite end.Next, turn the dough slightly in a clockwise, stretch and fold the dough again.Repeat this action working your way around the dough, until you have formed a ball.
- Turn the dough ball over so that the smooth side is up. Next shape into a tight firm ball.
- Place your hands on the top of the dough and gently smoothand stretch the dough in a downward action, tucking excess dough under the ball.
- Repeat working your way around the dough until you get a nice and firm round loaf. The base should curve up and away from the tray and not sit flat.
- Place the shaped dough onto the prepared baking tray. Cover with a clean dry tea towel and then a damp tea towel. Allow to stand for one hour or until it has doubled in size.
SETUP AND PREHEAT OVEN
- Remove the oven racks from the oven leaving the bottom rack in place. Preheat the oven to 200°C(425°F) about 20 minutes before the end of the second rise.Note for small oven users: If your oven has only one shelf this is okay just preheat it as directed above. But, during baking you will need to keep an eye on the bread. If the bread is browning too quickly, loosely cover it with a piece of foil covering all sides and continue to bake until done.Hot waterJust before scoring and baking, bring 1 – 1 ½ litres (4-6 cups) of water to the boil. You will then fill the baking tray with hot water just before baking and place it on the bottom of the oven. This will create steam during baking which will give your bread a nice crispy crunchy crust.Note for small oven users: If your oven does not have space for a tray, use a spray bottle to spray water above the loaf when it’s in the oven just before closing the oven door.
SCORING AND BAKING
- Just before baking and when the dough has doubled in size, sprinkle a little flour over the top and gently rub it in.Next, use a large shape knife and make shallow 1 cm (0.4 inch) deep cuts across the top to from a diamond pattern.
- Pour the hot water into the baking tray and place it on the bottom shelf. Then place the loaf on the bottom shelf.Note: If you are using the spay bottle to create steam, give about 8-10 squirts of water just before closing the oven door. Then spray again after about 5 minutes of baking.
- Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and cooked. If you notice uneven browning, turn the bread every so often to ensure even browning. To tell if the bread is cooked remove it from the oven, turn it oven and knock on the bottom it should sound hollow. When done place on a wire rack to cool completely.
Adapted from Paul Hollywood’s crusty cob loaf recipe.