July 18, 2013
Gluten free bread is more of a science than an art and precision matters. In my gluten free cooking classes we weigh all of the flours to ensure that the we’re using the same amount each time. We use one thermometer to monitor the oven temperature, and a separate thermometer to determine when the bread is done.
Measuring the weight of ingredients and the temperature of the oven and bread may seem nit-picky if you haven’t tried it, but it pays off in the end when you get a loaf of bread that turns out beautifully. And the weighing and temperature taking does not really add any work at all.
The Hidden Cause Behind GF Bread Failures
Over the past two weeks, I’ve discovered a new hidden cause of gluten free bread failures: the size of your loaf pan.
Even the most precisely measured dough will not turn out well if the size of your loaf pan or bread machine pan is different than the pan that the recipe writer used. If the pan that you use is to small, then your dough will rise too high and may collapse before the crust has set. If your pan it too large, then you’ll end up with a short loaf, or a loaf that has large air bubbles.
The shape of the loaf pan matters too. A loaf pan with tall, straight side will give you a higher loaf than a pan with angled sides.
A Case Study In Loaf Pans
The pictures below show the same recipe cooked in two different pans.
The bread pictured above on the top is my “No Corn For Me Gluten Free, Corn Free, Xanthan Gum Free Loaf” baked in my 10″x5″x3″ pan. The picture on the bottom is the same recipe baked in the 9x4x4 Pullman pan. It’s quite a difference!
The first photo was taken when I was developing my corn-free, gluten-free bread recipe. I knew the consistency of the dough was right. I was confident of my measurements. Yet, I was still not getting the high, tall loaf that I wanted and that I got from my Finally, Really Good Gluten Free Sandwich Bread recipe.
I asked a professional baker who was learning to bake gluten free bread to test the recipe and refine it for me. After 6 months of testing, he came back and said that the recipe was just fine as I’d written it. It worked perfectly in his 9x9x4 Pullman pans.
What Size Pan Do You Need?
Did you think a loaf pan was a loaf pan? I must admit, I had not given much thought to this matter. However, a quick search on Amazon reveals that there are a multitude of different pan sizes. Some pans are simply labeled small, medium, or large. Others state that they are for 1.5 LB loves. Others give specific height, length, and width measurements.
Of all of these ways of describing the size of a loaf pan, only the specific measurements are any help at all. Loaves of bread vary in weight depending on the flours used, and gluten free loaves tend to weigh more than similarly sized loaves of white wheat bread. This renders the differentiation between 1.5 and 2.0 pound loaves meaningless.
The best loaf pan for you will depend on the bread recipes that you’re using, because you want to use the same size pan that the recipe writer used. Unfortunately, that information is not given in most recipes, so you may choose to keep a few different pan sizes so that you can experiment with smaller or larger pan sizes. That’s a pain in the rear, I know, so I’m going through my bread recipes this week and adding a note about the recommended loaf pan size!
I use this Chicago Metallic Commercial II Traditional Uncoated 1-1/2-Pound Loaf Pan that measures 10″x5.5″x3″ for my Finally, Really Good Sandwich Bread Recipe and Irish Cousin Gluten Free, Yeast Free Loaf, which are both included in my Gluten Free Bread 101 class.
However, I am planning to purchase this USA Pans 9 x 4 x 4 Inch Pullman, Aluminized Steel with Americoat.
Pullman pans were invented for Pullman train cars. The straight sides of the pan allowed the Pullman train car personnel to store 3 loaves of bread in the same area where they had previously only been able to fit 2. If you’re family is yearning for the familiar shape of a commercial loaf, this may be what you need. There is also a larger 9 x 13 x 4 pan size that I’d love to experiment with. I’ll have to scale up my recipes first, but the resulting loaf would be around the same length as a loaf of store-bought white wheat bread.