If you’re like me, you have probably used whatever loaf pan you found in your cupboard to bake bread.

However, if your loaves have been disappointing, your bread pan may be part of the problem.

If you’re making a two-pound loaf of bread — which is standard in most bread machines and many bread recipes — bread pans measuring 8 1/2 inches long and 4 ½ inches wide will help you achieve that iconic high-rise profile in your loaves.

The reason is that when your bread rises, you want it to go up, not out. Loaf pans longer and wider than 8½ x 4½ will affect the final rise of your home baked bread. A wide loaf may not fit into your toaster very well either!

An important step in preparing your pan before you put dough in it is warming the pan to help keep your bread dough warm from start to finish. This is especially important if you live in areas where winter temperatures are frigid. In summer I sometimes don’t need to warm the pan because our outdoor temps are so high everything in the house is already 90+ degrees!

In general, I recommended aluminized loaf pans for baking bread. One reason for this is the corrugated feature of the pan, which makes it so much easier to slip your baked loaf out of the pan with zero sticking.

My earliest bread baking attempts involved baking in glass pans. It was so fun to see the bread raise, be able to view the browning crust from top to bottom and keep an eye on the process from start to finish.

However, those wonderful rewards were often crushed when my well-greased glass pan refused to let go of that beautiful loaf! It never failed that the pan managed to cling to a big bite of either the bottom of the loaf, one side, or both.

So, I really discourage you from using glass pans, unless you use parchment paper to help keep the loaf from stubbornly sticking to the pan. If you do use parchment, you may have to do some cutting so the parchment fits into the corners of your pan and your loaf finishes with a nice square bottom. You can also cut a piece of parchment that simply fits into the bottom of the pan. A sharp knife can help pry the baked loaf loose if it sticks to the sides of the pan. No guarantee that it won’t damage your loaf.

Another reason I like the aluminized pans is even heating and a lifetime warranty. They cost more when you purchase them but they’ll give the best service.

I still use a spray non-stick product on my pan right before placing dough into it. And if you’re using a metal pan or other type of loaf pan for your bread, by all means use the non-stick coating or butter, lard, parchment — something that will make it easy to slip the baked loaf out onto a cooling rack once it’s baked.

If you’re making dinner rolls or buns with your dough, pan size isn’t as critical. Although, your buns will rise higher if they’re in a pan that squeezes them together a bit.

Longtime journalist Loretta Sorensen is the author of “Secrets To Baking Your Best Bread Ever!” and regularly shares information about whole grains and bread baking. You’ll find her book on her blog site at www.bakeyourbestever.com, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the Country Store at Our Dakota Horse Tales. Her weekly bread baking posts are featured at Mother Earth Living, GRIT Magazine, Our Dakota Horse Tales, and on Pinterest and Facebook

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