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Whole Grain Wheat and Spelt Pan Bread via @theperfectloafOne of the exciting aspects to working with pan loaves is the pan affords the baker some wiggle room to experiment, to push the boundaries. Because the pan provides added structure, we’re able to promote the hydration (making it softer), push the number of mix-ins, and even experiment with new grain types. Chances are no matter what you do, as long as you can “get it into the pan,” your bread will bake up just fine.

I bake pan loaves rather often because when sliced, they’re perfect for sandwiches and simple morning toast with butter and jam. I grew up eating this type of bread from time-to-time, but nowadays my naturally leavened version, with only three ingredients and lengthy fermentation time, is quite a bit more healthy.

Common Dough Weights for Different Pans

Finding the right pan to hold a dough can be a challenging thing. I’ve tried so, so many pans, always searching for the right one. Below is a list of my favorite pans and how much dough I’ve been able to fit in each one without it overflowing.

Click on the Bread Style column to view a particular recipe and the Pan column links to purchase each online, if available.

Bread Style (with recipe link) Pan (with store link) Total Dough Weight
Rye bread 9″ x 4″ x 4″ Pullman Pan 1450g
Small Sandwich Loaf (or sourdough banana bread) 9″ x 5″ x 2.75″ Pan 1200g
Large Pan Loaf 8.85″ x 4.7″ x 4.7″ Custom Pan1 1400g

Shaping a Pan Loaf

Lightly flour the top of your relaxed dough on the work surface. Using a bench knife and your hand flip the round over. Fold the bottom up to the middle. Then fold each side, left and right, over to the other to form what looks like an open envelope in front of you.

Whole Grain Wheat and Spelt Pan Bread via @theperfectloafThen, grab the top and fold it up and down to just above the middle. Using both hands, grab the new top and gently roll down into a long tube (imagine rolling down a beach towel or yoga mat).Whole Grain Wheat and Spelt Pan Bread via @theperfectloafShaping a Pan Loaf via @theperfectloafAt this point, you can choose to roll the dough on a towel spread with toppings, such as rolled oats or seeds.

If you’d like to do this, use your bench knife and a floured hand, scoop up the shaped tube and invert it onto the towel with oats (the seam will be facing up, see below). Grab the tube with each hand and gently rock it back and forth, so the oats stick to the outside.Whole Grain Wheat and Spelt Pan Bread via @theperfectloaf Finally, transfer the tube of dough to the pan. At this point, you should be able to just drop the dough in, but if you have trouble don’t fret, once you drop it in use your fingers to tuck the dough down at the sides. You want a smooth top on the dough when it’s in the pan, so it rises uniformly.Whole Grain Wheat and Spelt Pan Bread via @theperfectloafWhole Grain Wheat and Spelt Pan Bread via @theperfectloaf Finally, wrap the tin in food-safe plastic bags to proof overnight in the fridge, if desired. You want to keep these covered in the fridge to avoid a thick crust from forming on the dough, inhibiting optimal rise.Shaping a Pan Loaf via @theperfectloaf

Proofing and Scoring

In the photo below you can see how puffy, soft, and well-risen the dough is in my pan. When poked, the dough springs back very slowly and doesn’t entirely fill in the impression. This is a little past what I’d typically proof a freeform hearth loaf. Why? Since the pan provides added structure, we don’t have to worry about the dough spreading when it’s baking. If this were a hearth loaf, I would have baked it much earlier.

Shaping a Pan Loaf via @theperfectloafI prefer not to score pan loaves. If the fermentation is pushed to the limit, the bread will rise in the oven in a more subdued and controlled manner. With this level of proof, the loaf will not expand dramatically or rupture erratically in the oven.

What next?

I have a few sandwich loaf recipes where you can put all these new techniques to use right away:

Happy baking!

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  1. This pan was custom made by a metal fabricator