Recreate Paul Hollywood’s ‘hearty’ cottage loaf from the GBBO with baking expert

The Great British Bake Off returned for episode three of new latest season last night on Channel 4, where Paul Hollywood challenged 10 contestants to follow his vague cottage loaf recipe.

While the recipe is relatively simple, there are a lot of opportunities for it to go wrong, according to baking expert and founder of Candy’s Cupcakes, Candice Bannister.

Speaking exclusively to, she said: “On week three of GBBO, baking proved to be a labour of loaf! The words ‘under-proved’ and ‘dense’ were the terminology used when describing most of the bakes this week. The art of baking bread is Paul Hollywood’s specialty and expectations were set high for the contestants.

“A Cottage Loaf is a hearty and unusual shaped bread that epitomises the rustic lunch and farmhouse tea time.”

Luckily for those wanting to recreate the technical bake at home, Candice has a straightforward recipe that anyone can follow with ease.

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Cottage loaf recipe


  • 320ml water at room temperature
  • Half a teaspoon of caster sugar
  • 7g dried yeast (three months old max.) – Candice uses Allinson in the green tub/sachets
  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 25g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 7g sea salt – Maldon is best

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According to Candice, the bread can be made by hand or using a stand mixer with a dough attachment. The tools are simple though a large, buttered baking tray is a must.

Start by placing the flour and butter into a large bowl then rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips. Add the sugar and yeast to the bowl on one side followed by the salt on the opposite side, so that it doesn’t come into direct contact with the yeast.

Make a well in the centre of the flour and then add all of the water. Using your hand, bring the dry ingredients into the water and mix them together. Continue mixing in the bowl until the dough has formed a sticky ball, then place the dough onto a clean worktop and knead.

Form the dough into a ball, place in a clean bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave in a draught-free place until doubled in size. When the dough has expanded, turn out onto a lightly floured surface, ensuring the top of the dough is in contact with the worktop – what was the top is now the bottom.

Weigh the dough and cut off one quarter, then starting with the larger piece of dough, stretch, pull and knead. Create a ball shape by cupping your hands around the dough, tucking and turning to create a tight ball shape.

Place the dough ball base of the cottage loaf, onto a prepared baking tray then repeat the stretching process with the smaller piece of dough before shaping it into a ball.

Place the smaller ball centrally on top of the base then, with two floured fingers, push down, through the centre of the top ball, tight into the base. Doing so joins the top and bottom together, creating one loaf.

Score the top six times and the bottom 12 times. Cut vertically, from top to bottom. Cover with a tea towel, and leave in a draught-free place until doubled in size, 45-60 minutes.

While the loaf is undergoing its second proof, preheat the oven to its hottest setting. Usually 250C/230C, gas mark nine, 500F.

Candice said: “15 minutes before the loaf is ready, place a pan with 5cm of water in the base of the oven. The steam created will delay the forming of a hard crust on the loaf, allowing maximum expansion, also called oven spring, to take place.”

As soon as the loaf has doubled in size it is ready to bake. Remove the tea towel and place it in the middle/lower part of the oven. Bake for five minutes at the hottest temperature and then reduce the oven temperature to 220C/200C fan, gas mark seven, 450F.

Continue to bake for a further 35-45 minutes. Candice said: “The loaf is baked when it is a deep golden colour, feels light and sounds hollow when tapped on the top and base with a knuckle Remove from the oven and place immediately onto a cooling rack.

‌”You can also make small Cottage Loaf bread rolls, just divide the mixture before baking. It can also be wrapped in cling film and frozen for up to a month.”

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