I developed this pan bread recipe for my teenage kids so that they can bake tasty and flavorful bread easily, quickly, and fail-proof when I don't have the time for baking. We ended up liking it so much that this has become our new favorite bread. It's very flavorful, soft, and airy inside, with big holes, and a nice golden brown, thin, and crispy crust.
How is this pan bread recipe different?
There are so many fantastic bread recipes out there but many require skill, experience, and time commitment. On the other hand, this pan bread recipe is simple, straightforward, and quick to make. You really don't need much baking experience to be successful with it. It's a cross between my No-Knead Bread and No-Knead Sourdough Bread; it's as quick to make as the no-knead bread but with the robust flavor of the sourdough bread.
Baking this bread in a 9" x 5" bread pan eliminated the stress associated with dough shaping, scoring, and transferring to the oven for novice bakers. There is also no need to own or deal with baking stones, cloches, or hot cast iron cookers. This recipe is as easy as it gets for the big flavor your get from this bread and let me tell you, this bread is extraordinarily good.
I think its taste rivals my favorite French baguettes. The crumb is very similar - open, airy, and with big beautiful holes.
While the shape of the bread is different, the crust has similar wonderful qualities - thin and crispy. It has outstanding texture when straight from the oven. Since we bake this bread in well-buttered pans, the crust absorbs all that butter, making it exceptionally crisp and flavorful.
I can eat this bread like I do baguettes - without anything, or with just a little bit of butter or cream cheese, or with some homemade strawberry jam... It's just as addictive as my baguettes. Even without adding honey to the dough as I do with baguettes. I may try that though... or add a little bit of liquid malt extract for a touch of sweetness and nuttiness.
When this bread cools down the crust softens up while the crumb remains soft and moist. It has very good keeping qualities and stays soft, fresh, and very tasty for a few days. It makes excellent sandwich bread. Toast it or grill it, tear it into pieces, and make Panzanella (bread salad) with it. Now is the best time to make it. Delicious!
Using sourdough discard in this recipe
Another great thing about this recipe is that it uses sourdough starter discard. Rather than throwing my sourdough starter away, I use it to make delicious baked goodies like cinnamon rolls, English muffins, biscuits, and this bread. It's used in this recipe for flavor, not for leavening but the bread tastes like very mild sourdough bread anyway.
How is this bread made?
The process is very simple and takes about 5-6 hours from start to finish. This is another strong point of this bread. We often start making this bead around noon and have it ready for dinner.
Mixing the dough
Combine the ingredients together by hand in a large bowl. When adding yeast and salt, put them on the opposite sides to minimize their contact. Make sure to use warm water to expedite fermentation. We use 85F (29C) water.
Let the flour hydrate for 3o minutes. There is no need to use a stand mixer to make bread. Mixing bread dough in a stand mixer ruins gluten structure, creating a crumbly structure with tiny holes. It will look like grocery store bread.
Stretch and folds
Next, perform three 'stretch and folds' (I go into detail on how to do that in my Artisan Sourdough Bread post) to give the dough strength and wait until it doubles in size. For this bread, space stretch and folds about 20 minutes apart.
Shaping and proofing
After that, divide the dough into two equal pieces, shape it into logs, and place the logs seam side down into well-buttered bread pans. Wait until the dough about doubles in size again.
Next, place in the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes with a pan filled with hot water and 25-30 minutes without a water pan. The baking temperature for this bread is 425F (220C) for the first 20 minutes and 400F (205C) for the rest of the baking. To make sure that enough steam is produced during the first 20 minutes of baking, place the water pan on the bottom of the oven, closest to the heat source.
It's often recommended to let bread rest for an hour before slicing. Not with this one. While this bread is very good cooled down, it's even better hot out of the oven. Don't worry, it won't be gummy like some bread tends to be when hot.
I like slicing this bread right after it comes out of the oven, just like my French baguettes, smearing some butter on it, and spending the next 15-20 minutes in heaven. It will be hot so handle it with oven mitts and use a good sharp bread knife to make nice cuts.
Storing this bread
This bread has very good keeping qualities. Let it cool completely, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap. It will stay fresh and soft for a few days.
- Add water and sourdough discard to a large bowl and stir until the starter is dispersed.
- Add flour, then yeast on one side of the flour and salt on the other, making sure the two don't touch each other. Mix by hand, squeezing the dough between your fingers, until a sticky homogeneous mass is formed. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes have passed, perform a stretch and fold, then another one after 20 minutes, and another one 20 minutes later. Let the dough continue its fermentation for an additional hour to 1.5 hours or until it just doubles in size. Don't let it increase in size more than that.
- Gently turn the dough over onto a work surface and cut it in half with a serrated knife. Shape each piece into a log about 9" long, then place the logs seam side down into liberally buttered 9" x 5" bread pans.
- Cover each pan with a piece of paper towel (this will prevent sticking of the dough to the plastic wrap), then a plastic wrap. Let proof for about 1-2 hours or until the dough doubles in size.
- Preheat the oven to 425F (220C). Fill another bread pan or similar with boiling water about halfway and carefully place it on the bottom of the preheated oven.
- Transfer bread pans into the oven and bake at 425F (220C) for 20 minutes.
- After the 20 minutes is up, remove the water pan, decrease the temperature to 400F (205C) and bake for an additional 25 minutes (30 minutes if you want a more crunchy crust).
- Next, remove the bread pans from the oven and place them on top of the stove. Using oven mitts, carefully remove the bread from the bread pans and place it on a cooling rack.
- Using an oven mitt to hold the bread, carefully slice and enjoy it while the bread is hot; or let it cool down completely before eating.
- Once the bread had fully cooled down, wrap it in plastic and store it at room temperature. It will stay fresh for a few days.