• The Wellington local who took out this year’s title of Cob Loaf World Champion was Diego Baradit, winning with a South American inspired cob loaf. (Gloria Depaz)Source: Gloria Depaz
All hail the cob loaf. Once a simple bowl of bread filled with cheese dip, the humble cob loaf is now being transformed into a vehicle that you can fill with anything from chocolate to spaghetti.
By
Yasmin Noone

25 Nov 2019 - 11:01 AM  UPDATED 28 Jan 2021 - 4:10 PM

You can’t get a more humble dish than a massive ball of bread with the middle scooped out to hold cheese dip. And yet, the food world has recently gone crackers over the party food that’s been sitting in the corner for years, waiting for its turn at great attention: the cob loaf.

As it turns out, a mighty celebration is exactly what the cob loaf deserves, given its age and youthful flexibility to transform into an international favourite with a cult following.

Although no one really knows exactly where the cob loaf originated, it’s believed to date back to at least 1877. According to UK media, the word ‘cob’ could hail from a British term referring to cracknel made of fine flour; the English word for cot or cottage; the Welsh word for ‘top’; or the German word keubel meaning a bucket or large container.

Whatever its origins or true age, there’s never been a better time to pay homage to the diverse cob loaf.

All hail the cob loaf

Home cooks and restaurateurs, swept up in cob loaf fever, are now flexing their culinary muscles to pimp the cheese and spinach or French onion dip cob loaf we once knew. From a desert s'mores cob loaf featuring masses of chocolate and marshmallows to a Mexican-themed nacho flavoured cob loaf, it seems that cob loaf reinventions are endless 

There’s now an Australian festival dedicated to the breadbasket dish. The Cob Loaf Festival happens every November in Wellington NSW – situated about 40 minutes drive from Dubbo – drawing cob loaf enthusiasts to the area to learn how to make and eat cob loaves.

President of the International Cob Loaf Federation, Andrew McKay says locals “go ballistic” for the party favourite.

“It’s just a timeless dish,” McKay tells SBS. “Anybody can cook a barbecue but you’re really putting your culinary wares on show when you make a cob loaf.”

As a judge of the festival’s cob loaf competition, McKay has seen a fair few variations since the event first kicked off in 2017. “The vegan cob loaf we tasted last year was a really interesting concept. It had fake bacon and ham that tasted like real bacon and ham but was plant-based. The desert cobs were also really tasty.”

The Wellington local who took out this year’s title of Cob Loaf World Champion was Diego Baradit, winning with a South American inspired cob loaf. Baradit’s variation was a homemade sourdough cob loaf with a steak and chimichurri filling.

“To do that, I grilled the steak on hot charcoal,” Baradit, who was born in Chile and raised in Australia, tells SBS. “I then mixed the barbecued steak with chimichurri and a pickled capsicum that I made with olive oil and red wine vinegar.

“It really felt nice to embrace the Australian icon that is the cob loaf and add a little bit of my Chilean culture to it as well.”

Cobs from Italy to Lebanon and Korea

Malek Aouda – owner of Young Mug café, located in the south-western Sydney suburb of Revesby – is another one of the many cob cult followers. Since this article was published Aouda's cafe has re-branded to Grain'd Cafe and is focusing on breakfast and lunch offerings.

“The cob loaf may seem plain but it matches every kind of food that goes well with bread,” explained Aouda. “By changing a cob loaf’s filling, you are taking an old idea and making it new. But what’s really exciting about that is the cob loaf allows you to experiment with different ingredients from many different cultures.”

Not long after taking on ownership of the cafe, Aouda told SBS that he is determined to increase the café’s cob presence. In the second half of 2020, Young Mug had been holding monthly cob nights honouring cob loaf fillings like hummus and spaghetti with meatballs. The last cob celebration for the year saw a seafood chowder dished up inside the bread bowls.

“We’re also talking about expanding the cob loaf nights to become a weekly event from around February next year and incorporating different cob loaf flavours into our daily breakfast and lunch menus," he said.

“My background is Lebanese. I’ve come from working in a Mediterranean restaurant. Our chef is Korean and he does a lot of Korean-Japanese infusion dishes. Because of our cultural diversity, I want to vary the cob loaf recipes we will feature.”

“I just want our cob loaves to be multicultural and reflect the many different nationality groups around us.”

He hoped to introduce cob fillings from Asia, the Middle East, the Mediterranean and Mexico.

“Maybe we will do a beef stroganoff cob, a curry cob and a cob based on a Lebanese dish with kafta and potato casserole, which goes really well with bread. We could even do an Australian steak Diane cob.

“I just want our cob loaves to be multicultural and reflect the many different nationality groups around us.”

Japan’s shokupan is the upper crust of loaves
Japan may be a rice-based culture, but they have perfected the art of the fluffy white loaf. Known outside Japan as Hokkaido milk bread, within Japan it’s ‘shokupan’, and it has cult status.
One-bowl cakes are the no-fuss bakes we love
From Donna Hay's ultimate easy cakes to a great-grandmother’s recipe for chopped apple loaf, these are fast, easy and cut down on the washing up, too!
French savoury loaf

This pull-apart loaf is rich with cheese and herbs. 

Challah bread

Challah is a Jewish bread that's soft and rich on the inside, with a glossy, dark crust. While it's traditionally served for ceremonial occasions, the popularity of this decorative loaf means it appears far more often than just at formal celebrations. Make it, and you'll understand why!

Walnut bread

This versatile loaf is nutty and fragrant with wholemeal flour, walnuts and walnut oil, making it as at home on cheese platter as it is toasted for breakfast.