Don’t Worry About the Boule: Bake Bread in a Loaf Pan

In the frivolous, pre-pandemic before-times I slacked off on my bread baking. At the beginning of quar, I prepper-panicked, hastily re-started my starter and fired up the Mockmill 100 grain mill.

Baking with a sourdough starter puts you on a collision course with the unpredictability at the heart of the “natural” i.e. non-internet world. For me the unintended randomness of my loaves came down to the discovery that I was using too course a grind with the mill. Thereafter, my loaves improved.

Even after that simple fix, I still get can get distracted by chores and forget to shape the dough in a timely manner, thus leading to what looks more like a pancake than an Instagram worthy boule. But if you’re not making bread for the ‘gram, you don’t have to do a boule or batard unless that really floats your boat. There’s nothing wrong with baking in a loaf pan. Sometimes it’s kinda nice to have a square loaf for sandwiches anyways.

The pan I have is a Pullman pan made by USA Pan. It’s square and has a lid. The lid is especially handy in that you can do the first 20 minutes of the bake with the lid on, thus sealing in the moisture which helps with loaf spring. You don’t need the fancy Pullman type with the lid but if you’re going to buy a pan I’d suggest getting a Pullman. I use a bit of olive oil to keep the loaf from sticking. If you don’t have a Pullman pan, you can cover any loaf pan with a piece of aluminum foil for the first part of the bake.

You have my permission. Bake in a loaf pan.

Lastly, I’ve been fielding some emails about what kind of mill to get. The Mockmill 100 has served me well. I’ll do a full review sometime in our quarantine part II future. If you’re curious about my bread recipe, I use Josey Baker’s 100% whole wheat recipe (with a higher hydration) that can be found in his book.

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  1. I LOVE USA Pans. Over the years I’ve been replacing most of my baking equipment with their wares.

    I don’t oil the pans. I find that their silicone coating is sufficient. For a very sticky sugared dough I just put in a parchment sling as insurance. And pans that are 5 years old look like new. No discoloration or warping or dents in those sturdy pans. I also like how the generous depth of metal transfers heat and creates a nicely browned crust.

    I use my Pullman pan without a lid. I think it was this high profile pan that first occasioned me to discover the great quality but it wasn’t the concept of a proper Pullman loaf that I was looking for but the additional height for a recipe that had a high rise on a tender loaf without a lot of structure.

  2. I learned about the Mockmill here and am 100% in love.

    My efforts to make a sourdough boule in quarantine have not paid off. I really should go back to baking bread in a pan. I used to be quite good at that before bread got fancy.

    I’m currently down the rabbit hole of making our own masa. We’ve almost got it down. Our tortilla game is seriously elevated.

  3. I’m a big fan of pullman loaves. As an added bonus, I can it a small one into my toaster oven. That way I can bake in the summer without turning my house into a sauna.

  4. I bake using the “Artisan bread in 5 minutes a day” book, but I’ve never managed to form a boule so I drop the too wet mixture in a pan, previously greased and dusted with flour. Honestly, I accept my bread has room for improvement but it’s a good enough thing for me. I didn’t know the cover in the pullman tins were for that, now I’ll experiment covering the pan.

    The mockmill looks like something I’ll lust after for many years until I’ll totally forget about it.

    I really enjoy dropping by this corner of the interwebs, as usual. Thank you

  5. I’ve always preferred making my sourdough into a loaf. Using a dutch oven just seemed like too much trouble. Just a plain grocery-store-bought loaf pan with parchment paper has always done the job. I’ve never covered it and it always comes out golden brown. The loaf shape is easier to store (cut end face down on the cutting board) and the shape is great for toast and sandwiches.

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