One of my coronavirus quarantine projects has been learning to make artisan bread of many kinds. Here’s another beautiful and delicious experiment, inspired by Paul Hollywood’s classic cottage loaf recipe. For our version of this crusty two-tier artisan bread, we used coconut oil instead of lard. So good!
1 tbsp active dry yeast
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 cup hottest tap water
4 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 cup + 1/3 cup warm water
2 cups white flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tbsp salt
In a small non-metal bowl, gently mix the yeast, brown sugar, and hottest tap water. Let it sit for 5 minutes to bloom, then add the coconut oil and warm water.
In a large metal bowl, stir together the flour and salt, then add in the yeast mixture and mix until it comes together into a nice soft ball of dough. Knead it by hand on a lightly floured board for 10 minutes to work out the gluten and make it smooth and elastic. Then put it back in the large, lightly oiled metal bowl. Rise in a warm place for about an hour to double in size.
Once it’s risen, knead the dough for 2 minutes more to knock the air out so it will rise upwards instead of flattening outwards.
The next instruction comes straight from Paul Hollywood’s expertise, since it’s a bit complicated to explain:
“Tear off one third of the dough and set aside. Shape the larger piece into a ball by first flattening the dough into a rough rectangle, then rolling it into a thick oblong. Turn the dough so that the longer edge is running away from you and flatten it slightly. Now fold in the two ends to the centre and press them down, so you end up with a chunky, squarish shape. Turn the dough over, so that the join is underneath. With your palms turned upwards, put your hands on each side, slightly under the dough. Move the cob around, tucking the dough neatly under itself as it turns. You are gently forcing the sides of the dough down and underneath, to create a smooth, taut top and a rough underside. Avoid using too much extra flour during shaping.
Place the ball of dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat the rolling and shaping for the smaller piece of dough, then place the smaller ball on top of the larger ball. Flatten the top slightly. Dust your middle finger and forefinger with flour and push them through the centre of the loaf all the way to the bottom. Use a sharp knife to make 8 slashes in the surface of both the top and larger lower part of the loaf.”
When you’re done, it will look something like the photos below.
Gently cover the shaped dough with cling wrap and rise another 30-60 minutes in a warm place, just until it has doubled and the dough springs back when you poke it. Dust the risen loaf with flour.
Preheat the oven to 415F and put a large tray of water on a lower rack to heat up with the oven so it creates steam (this gives the bread a nice crunchy crust). When the oven is up to temperature, put the bread in on a rack in the middle of the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Without opening the oven, turn the temperature down to 375F. Bake for 20-25 more minutes, until it’s crusty, golden brown, and sounds hollow when you tap the bottom.
Cool on a wire rack and enjoy your crusty two-tier artisan bread as a snack or an accompaniment to any meal!