To Make a Coburg Loaf

Here’s another recipe toad to the series of posts on bread and bread-making (see main post here).

Coburg loaves are a common sight in traditional bakeries, but are rarely spotted outside of them these days. A Coburg is a round loaf that is not baked in a tin like your basic loaf (see recipe here), but as a round plump crusty loaf on a tray. On the top there are cuts in a cross shape that open up when it bakes. It can be made with pretty much any flour you like – white, whole-wheat, rye, oat, or whatever takes your fancy. I class it as one of the basic loaves because it contains just flour, yeast, salt and water.

Technically, a Coburg is a kind of cob, the only difference being that a cob does not get cut before going in the oven. There are variations on the Coburg cuts though; sometimes several cuts are made in a chess board fashion which expands to make a porcupine loaf, which is also known as a college loaf. Alternatively, the top of the dough gets quickly stabbed with a piece of wood spiked with lots of nails. A bit hardcore that one.

The Coburg loaf became popular in the Victorian era, and I assumed the loaf was named after Queen Victoria’s hubby Prince Albert Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, as many things were in those days. The British public were fascinated by the royal couple, and really took to many German traditions (especially a Christmastime). However, it may not be the case. There was such a thing as Coburg material; cheap and coarse and used for making mourning clothes that predated Albert so the word is older. The most likely explanation is that a German baker living in London, as many did, gave it his family name, though no baker actually knows who this was. The loaves themselves were certainly around before the Victorian era, centuries earlier in fact. They were made from courser grains than today and went by the name of a Brunswick loaf. So it seems all that occurred was a name change.

The good thing about baking these loaves is that you need no tin and consequently you achieve a good crust all over the surface. The recipe below is based on one from Elizabeth David and I haven’t provided massive detail on the making of the dough as I have already done that in the recipe for baking a basic loaf, so if you are new to bread-making, it might be worth having a little of that post first (you’ll find it here).

 

Ingredients

14 oz strong white flour (or a mix of up to 50% other flour(s) if you like)

2 tsp salt

¼ oz fresh yeast or 1 tsp of dried yeast

8 fl oz blood-heat water

 

Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl and place in a cool oven to warm a little. In the meantime cream the yeast in a little of the warm water, adding a pinch of sugar if using dried yeast. After about 10 or 15 minutes, it should be alive and foaming, so make a well in the middle of the flour and tip the yeast in along with the remainder of the water. Mix together with a wooden spoon and then bring the dough together with your hands. If it is very sticky, add a bit more flour, cover and allow it to double in volume in a warm place. Knock the dough back well and give it a knead for 5 or 6 minutes. If you want, give it another rising. On a baking tray, shape the dough into a nice plump bun by moulding the dough and pulling it under itself. If it feels that it is too moist to rise without spreading, add some more flour. Cover with an upturned bowl and allow to prove until it doubles in size once more.

Slash the top of the loaf with a sharp knife to make a cross shape and bake in the oven at 230⁰C (450⁰F) for 15 minutes, then at 200⁰C (400⁰F) for a further 15 minutes then turn the loaf upside down on its tray with the oven switched off for a final 10 minutes. Cool on a rack or over some tins.

15 Comments

Filed under baking, bread, food, history, Nineteenth Century, Recipes, Teatime, The Victorians, Uncategorized

15 responses to “To Make a Coburg Loaf

  1. Kathryn Marsh

    Loathe as I am to disagree with the great Elizabeth David, normally my idol and inspiration, I was taught, at both the bakery behind my grandparents’ house and at Kelly’s bakery, which used to be on Harehills parade, that to make a Coburg loaf you must use a sponge – it is not only the shape that is characteristic but the extra development of the gluten and the extra flavour. Of course things may have deteriorated in these modern times when standards are not what they used to be……………
    Kelly’s made the best ever oven bottom cake in the days of my youth – I must have spent a billion hours trying to reproduce it. Even better than my York grandmother’s or my own mother’s. It was a must for us if we were heading for a day on the moors – just the right size for two hungry teenagers with about half a pound each of butter and wensleydale

    • Hello Kathryn. How do you mean ‘use a sponge’? Do you wipe the top with a wet sponge or something to help the dough rise more in the oven?

      • Kathryn Marsh

        In baking setting a sponge is making a batter with the water, yeast and about a quarter of the flour – less if you are making the bread in commercial quantities and leaving it in a warm place overnight. Then you add the rest of the flour, the salt, and any extra yeast food such as sugar or honey the following morning and proceed in the usual way. We still have one bakery not too far away with an old fashioned plate oven and a couple of times I’ve been up there in the early morning when it is still gently warm from the previous day’s baking and when the canvas is taken off the trough with the rising sponge you could get happily drunk on the scent.

      • Everyday’s a school day! Thanks for that Kathryn. I shall add it to the long, long list of bread posts I intend to do….

    • I wouldn’t put all the yeast in the sponge mixture if I were leaving it overnight – it would over-ferment, especially if it was in a warm place. The point of a sponge is to use slow fermentation to bring the flavours out from the flour: the longer you can leave it the less yeast you need and the better the flavour will be. If I were in a hurry I would use all the yeast for the sponge but use it not much more than a hour after mixing. For overnight I would use only about 1/4 of the recipe’s yeast and then probably not add all of the rest when doing the final mix – how much I’d use would depend on how active the sponge is.

      • Thanks for the message – I agree with you. I’ve made quite a few loaves since those comments and I always use a tiny amount of yeast if I have the time. Been enjoying some sourdough recently and it is in the queue of posts for me to write!

  2. Kathryn Marsh

    ps – I prefer the porcupine cuts – more crust

  3. Pingback: Our Daily Bread… | British Food: A History

  4. Michelle

    I’m making this today using the sponge method. I also did half my bread flour and substitute it with wholemeal. Will let you know how it turns out!

  5. Michelle

    If i knock it back more times and let it rise, does this make the bread softer?

  6. Michelle

    oh bugger, i only did it twice this time. Will try more knock and rise next time. I’m trying to make my own sourdough culture. if it turns out well, i shall give you some!

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