The Great Bread Pan Experiment

Many of you know that I bake all of our sandwich bread. I’ve been baking my own bread for about sixteen years, using the honey-wheat bread recipe that my Grandma Virginia (my mother’s mother) used for decades prior. Interestingly, it goes really well with the pimento cheese recipe that my father’s parents (Sue and Al) made for decades – so there’s a lot of family history in a pimento cheese sandwich at our house. I’ve never picked up the trick of making the pimento cheese, so I have to rely on my dad for that.

The bread recipe I use, almost verbatim from my grandmother, is here:

http://www.villines.com/Writings/Bread_Recipe.htm

For years, I used Grandma Virginia’s bread pans, but they were way past their life expectancy. After ruining two consecutive batches, I realized I had to get new pans. I bought the first ones that seemed comparable, and have been unhappy with every subsequent batch of bread since.

Hence the great bread pan experiment. I used one each of the following: a cheap Publix glass bread pan, a slightly more expensive Baker’s Select (Kroger) non-stick pan, a mid-range Faberware non-stick pan, a Williams-Sonoma Goldtouch non-stick 1 1/2 lb. (10″x5″x3″) bread pan, and a Williams-Sonoma Emile Henry ceramic “artisan” loaf pan.

Here they are with the dough first worked into them. You can click on them for larger images:

Back row: W-S Goldtouch, W-S Ceramic; Front Row: Faberware, Publix, Kroger

Back row: W-S Goldtouch, W-S Ceramic; Front Row: Faberware, Publix, Kroger

Now here they are after rising for one hour:

Back row: W-S Goldtouch, W-S Ceramic; Front Row: Faberware, Publix, Kroger

Back row: W-S Goldtouch, W-S Ceramic; Front Row: Faberware, Publix, Kroger

At this point, the glass pan was already suspect. I knew that there was a slightly smaller quantity of dough in the Kroger pan, but it was one of my existing pans and I already knew I didn’t like it.

Here’s what they looked like coming out of the oven:

Bread after baking

Bread after baking

And here’s the final product:

The finished loaves

The finished loaves

Note that both Williams-Sonoma pans (on the left) are quite consistent, but the ceramic one (in the back, on the left) turned out a little too poofy and boxy.

And here are the results:

Publix Glass Pan – The clear loser of the bunch. The bread was not cooked evenly, and, despite the huge quantities of Crisco I’d used to coat it, the bread stuck to the sides on the way out. We whacked this loaf up immediately and ate it in fragments.

Baker’s Select/Kroger Non-Stick Pan – Still not high on my list. It did an adequate job, but is too small for my recipe. More significantly, it’s a darker pan, and seems prone to burning the bottom.

Faberware Non-Stick Pan – I really like the grippy things on the end, and overall a suitable pan. Also a little too small for my recipe. It is a lighter pan, and seems to be a little better-made than the Baker’s Select.

Williams-Sonoma Emile Henry Ceramic – Boy this thing is pretty, and it makes a nice loaf of bread too. The crust wasn’t as brown as I generally prefer, and it did stick in one spot. Overall, though, a really nice pan – but not suitable for regular use. I kept it for baking holiday breads.

Williams-Sonoma Goldtouch – The clear and unquestionable winner. This pan produced one of the best-looking loaves of bread I’ve ever made. We sliced it the next morning, and the loaf was consistent throughout. We went and bought five more pans just like it this afternoon.

Here’s a link to the pan for those who are interested: http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/sku7081532/

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