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Sonya Hundal's cottage loaf

Sonya’s recipe is unusual in adding a dash of wholemeal wheat and rye flour to the usual white.

Cottage loaf. Copyright: Victoria Harley

Cottage loaf. Copyright: Victoria Harley

By 1977, Elizabeth David might wax nostalgic about the cottage loaf, but still within the context of bakeries making it. It graced the cover of that year’s Ladybird bread book for children, and of The Sunday Times Book of Real Bread in 1982. Today? I can’t remember the last time I saw one outside a baking competition.


Makes 1 very large loaf

625g/1lb 6oz white bread flour
40g/1½oz wholemeal bread flour
25g/1oz wholemeal (dark) rye flour
10g/2 tsp fresh yeast (reduce to 4g if room temperature is above 20°C/68°F)
9g/1¾ tsp fine/table salt
450g/1lb water (at about 18–20°C/65–68°F)


1. Stir all the flours together, then rub the yeast into the flour. Add the salt and most of the water and mix together thoroughly, then knead the dough for 10 minutes. This needs to be a stiff dough but if it’s so stiff that you can’t knead it, or any dry patches remain, gradually add more of the water. Cover and leave to rise at a cool room temperature (15–18°C/60–65°F) for 2 hours, then give the dough a single fold (see page 17), cover again, and leave to rise for another 45–60 minutes.

2. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. The side of the dough in contact with the floured surface is the ‘good side’ and will end up as the top of the loaf. Shape the dough into a ball (see page 21), return to the bowl good side down, cover and leave to rise for 1 hour.

3. Divide the dough into 2 pieces, one about half the size of the other (so the smaller piece weighs about 360–370g/12¾–13oz), then flatten each piece to thoroughly de-gas the dough and shape each piece tightly into a ball, to keep a defined shape for baking. Cover the dough and leave for a final 45–60 minute rise. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/425°F/gas 7, with a baking stone or baking sheet in place, leaving sufficient headspace for your loaf.

4. Slightly flatten each ball and place the smaller on top of the larger one. Using a thumb and two fingers pinched together, or a wooden spoon handle (some old-school bakers used an elbow), push a deep dimple straight down through the middle of the top ball and well into the lower one. With a really stiff dough, you can go down to the work surface. Cover and leave the dough to rest for 10 minutes.

5. If you like, you can snip or slash vertical notches on one or both parts of the loaf just before it goes into the oven. Using a floured peel, lift the dough onto the baking stone and bake for 10–15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/gas 4 and continue to bake for a further 20–30 minutes until well browned.

About the baker

Sonya Hundal is a writer and baker who set up Greenfield Bakers in 2008 in a converted stable in Friskney, on the coastal strip of rural Lincolnshire. She bakes slow-fermentation breads all made from stoneground organic flour from the Maud Foster Windmill in Boston, some with added locally seasonal ingredients. They are baked directly on the floor of her wood-fired clay oven “by a contented human being”.

Recipe text © Sonya Hundal.

Taken from Slow Dough: Real Bread by Chris Young, published by Nourish Books.

Reproduction prohibited without written agreement of the copyright holder.

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Published Thursday 22 February 2024

Real Bread Campaign: The Real Bread Campaign finds and shares ways to make bread better for us, better for our communities and better for the planet. Whether your interest is local food, community-focussed small enterprises, honest labelling, therapeutic baking, or simply tasty toast, everyone is invited to become a Campaign supporter.

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