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Our Site Guide to Loaf Pans

Our Site Guide to Loaf Pans


Loaf pans! So many styles, so many sizes. So many choices, and all you want to do is make a batch of banana bread. I hear ya!

The good news is you can get along perfectly fine with just one inexpensive loaf pan. Or you can be like me and have so many, you need to store them in a plastic bin in the basement. Either way, this guide will walk you through.

WHAT RECIPES USE A LOAF PAN?

Besides the aforementioned banana bread, loaf pans are handy for baking meatloaf, pound cake, yeasted breads, and weird little casseroles you throw together with leftovers.

Though you can make all sorts of things in any given loaf pan, you might want to consider the type of recipes you make most often when you select a pan’s size and material.

8 1/2-INCH PANS VS 9-INCH PANS

In America, what recipes call a “standard loaf pan” is 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 x 2-1/2 inches. If a store sells only one size of loaf pan, this is probably it. If you own one loaf pan, it should probably be this size.

But larger loaf pans are not uncommon, either in stores or for recipes. Another common size is a loaf pan measuring 9 x 5 x 2-1/2 inches.

The difference between an 8 1/2-inch pan and a 9-inch pan doesn’t seem that big, right? But it is.

You can see this in the photo above. The 9-inch pan is on the left and the 8 1/2-inch pan is on the right. The same recipe was made in both pans, and you can see how the loaf made in the 9-inch pan is flat, while the loaf made in the 8-inch pan rose beautifully.

If you do the math, you’ll find there’s a 15 percent difference in capacity. Here’s what that difference means:

  • If a recipe’s yield under-fills a pan, it’s not too big a deal. It’ll probably bake faster and not rise up as high, but the recipe will work.
  • If the recipe’s yield over-fills the pan, the batter can spill over and burn, or a risen dough can have droopy, unattractive mushroom-cloud blobs.

As a rule of thumb, if the batter fills the pan 2/3 full, the loaf pan is at its limit. If you still have extra batter, don’t over-fill the pan. Instead, bake the excess batter a muffin pan, filling the empty tins with a few tablespoons of water to keep the pan from warping. Disaster averted!

WHAT IF THE RECIPE DOESN’T SPECIFY PAN SIZE?

If you’re online, try and ask the person who wrote the recipe. If you’re working from a cookbook, check the introduction to see if the author specifies the pan there.

If in doubt, use a standard 8 1/2-inch pan and follow the “2/3 full” rule mentioned above.

Older recipes often don’t specify dimensions when they call for loaf pans. Sixty years ago, a “standard loaf pan” was 9 x 5 x 2-1/2 inches. (Why the change? I have no idea.) If you are making Aunt Margie’s cranberry bread from a yellowed recipe card, and your pan seems over-filled, just take out some of the batter, using the 2/3 rule.

One more thing: Some recipes might call for pans of specific capacity rather than dimensions, e.g. “a 1-quart loaf pan.” How do you know how much your loaf pan holds? Easy! Measure out a quart of water, and if it all fits in there without overflowing, your loaf pan is a 1-quart pan.

WHAT MATERIAL PAN SHOULD YOU BUY?

Now that we’ve tackled sizes, let’s talk materials. Your choice is typically between aluminum, glass, silicone, ceramic, cast iron, or stainless steel. Each kind of pan has its pluses and minuses. Let’s take a look at each one.

ALUMINUM LOAF PANS

Aluminum pans are lightweight, affordable, sturdy, and conduct heat decently. Cakes and breads brown well in them. They are a classic loaf pan choice. If you are new to baking or don’t bake often, we say go with one of these! You can find a-okay, inexpensive ones very easily, often right at your grocery store.

Within aluminum pans, you can get unfinished or nonstick finishes. Nonstick bakeware has become so ubiquitous, it can be tricky to even find metal baking pans without the finish. What’s the advantage of one over the other?

Nonstick pans are easier to clean, and breads often do release from them with zero to little effort. Most nonstick finishes will gradually break down in the dishwasher, so it’s best to hand-wash nonstick pans. Also, don’t cut into a baked loaf in a nonstick pan, because you can damage the finish.

If you grease unfinished metal loaf pans correctly, they also provide you with easy release and easy cleanup. Naked aluminum will turn a streaky, pitted dull gray if you put it in the dishwasher. So be sure to hand-wash those, too.

GLASS LOAF PANS

Glass is an insulator. It takes longer to heat than metal, which is a conductor. Because of this, loaves baked in glass pans may have different baking times than what a recipe calls for.

An old rule (introduced by Pyrex itself) says to reduce the temperature 25 degrees lower than the recipe calls for if you’re baking in glassware. We’ve found this is not necessary. Just check for the doneness early, and rely on sensory cues (smells, firmness, the good old toothpick-inserted-in-center-of-loaf-comes-out-clean test) to gage doneness rather than time. Which is a good habit no matter what your pan is made of.

A few other things to note when cooking in glass pans:

  • Baked goods don’t release from glassware as easily as other materials. Be sure to grease them well.
  • Glass pans are dishwasher-safe, but still can be harder to keep sparkling clean because residue will nestle in the tiny wrinkles that can remain when the molten gob of glass was pressed in its manufacture. Also, you can’t use abrasive cleaners on glass. If your glass pans develop a few spots of brown, baked-on grease, I say just live with it.
  • A plus with glass pans is how evenly things brown in them. You can see through the pan and tell how done the bottom and sides are.
  • A minus is their heft compared to metal. Glass pans weigh a little more and are slightly bulkier than metal ones. Unmolding cakes and loaves from them can be a little trickier because of that.
  • Glass pans can shatter when they go through temperature extremes. Don’t plunge a hot pan in a sink of cold water, or pop a pan straight from the freezer to the oven. Does this shattering thing sound unpleasantly dramatic? I’ve seen it, and yes, it is.

SILICONE LOAF PANS

Silicone pans are safe in the oven, microwave, and freezer. It’s a-okay to put silicone in your dishwasher on the top rack. It’s colorful and nifty.

But it does have drawbacks. Since silicone is bad at conducting heat, baked goods don’t get as brown in it. Your breads will have paler sides.

Silicone bakeware is also floppy, which can mean it’s hard to handle a full pan. Set it on a baking sheet before filling it with batter or dough. The baking sheet makes it easier to take in and out of the oven, too. Its floppy nature can also make silicone a pain to wash and store; it’s not easily stackable.

Unlike things baked in metal, glass, or ceramic pans, loaves baked in silicone should be cooled in the pan and then unmolded. From the research I’ve conducted, muffins and cupcakes are smaller, and would be okay to unmold after five minutes or so. But with a large loaf or cake, there’s still some starch conversion happening as the hot pan sits, and that has a lot to do with the loaf’s structural integrity. Basically, if you want your loaf to keep its shape, let it cool in the silicone pan.

Over time, silicone can develop a greasy film. This is totally normal and nothing to worry about, but it if bugs you, you can soak the pan in hot water with plenty of strong liquid dish soap, such as Palmolive or Dawn. Then give it a good scrubbing.

CERAMIC LOAF PANS

Ceramic loaf pans have rustic appeal, and they hold heat excellently. Like glass pans, they can take a while to heat up. They come in many colors and patterns and generally have a cheerful vibe, which is always a plus.

Like glass pans, they are dishwasher-safe. Most are safe in the microwave, too, but you should always check first (some older pans or handmade pans might not be).

And also like glass pans, ceramic pans can be harder to unmold cakes and loaves from, because they are bulky and heavy. But they are a great choice for meatloaf and small casseroles, since you don’t unmold casseroles. Plus, ceramic pans tend to give you browned, crispy corners, which some people just looove!

CAST IRON LOAF PANS

Cast iron loaf pans, whether coated with enamel or raw, are the heaviest of the bunch. If you like a good crust on your loaves, cast iron will deliver. It’s not dishwasher- or microwave-safe, and its weight can make it trickier to store and handle.

STAINLESS STEEL LOAF PANS

Stainless steel loaf pans are an option for those who prefer metal bakeware but want to avoid aluminum (studies years ago linked use of aluminum vessels to Alzheimer’s disease; scientists have since found no connection and maintain there’s no threat). Stainless steel pans do not hold heat nearly as well as aluminum, so your browning won’t be as good. They are dishwasher-safe.

A great compromise? Aluminized steel, like this loaf pan. It’s the best of both worlds. It has the strength and durability of steel, but it’s dipped in an aluminum alloy which gives it better heat conductivity. More expensive, but will last a long time!

HANDY HACKS AND BONUS INFO

Always grease loaf pans well before using them, even if the recipe doesn’t tell you to. Better safe than sorry! And if you’re lining your pan with foil or parchment, you should still grease the foil and any exposed portion of the pan. Even silicone pans should be greased.

Many recipes call for greasing pans with butter, but according to baking expert Rose Levy Beranbaum, butter is actually a poor choice for greasing pans, because the milk solids in the butter can cause sticking. Nonstick baking spray—which is made with vegetable oil—works very well for me, though smearing shortening around with a paper towel does a good job, too.

Some metal pans have waffle-like textures or wavy lines embossed on the metal. The corrugation provides more surface area and promotes air circulation, which aids in browning (or so the manufacturers say). I haven’t noticed too much difference. Those crevices can be trickier to keep clean, though.

Many pans have handles on the side. I like them, because they make it easier to maneuver and invert the pan with potholders. Some people might find them bulky.

Last but not least: It sounds silly, but if you are choosing between loaf pans, pick them up and handle them like you would if you were using them—imagine them full of batter; turn them over like you’re unmolding a cake; notice if they feel too flimsy or too hefty. The best pan is the one that feels right to you.

IN THE MOOD TO BAKE? GET OUT YOUR LOAF PAN AND TRY THESE RECIPES!

  • This banana bread is our all-time most favorite recipe with readers.
  • This classic meatloaf with a ketchup glaze can be baked in a 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 or 9 x 5-inch pan.
  • Lemon blueberry ricotta pound cake bakes with a golden-brown crust.
  • Homemade whole wheat bread makes the best sandwiches!
  • Irish brown bread baked in a loaf pan makes it easy to toast leftovers.
  • Chocolate zucchini bread will make you welcome those monster squash your neighbors give you.

Casseroles were practically created to serve a crowd, meaning that enormous lasagna recipe, your grandmom’s famous tuna noodle casserole, or Senator Amy Klobuchar’s award-winning Taconite Hotdish might seem like a bit too much while sheltering at home alone, with one other person, or even as a family of four. Loaf pans to the rescue! Pretty much any casserole recipe you have can be assembled and cooked in two 9x5 loaf pans. Here’s what to do:

1. Line one of your pans with parchment paper.

2. Eat the un-parchmented one for dinner, chill the other overnight in the fridge, then transfer to the freezer while still in the loaf pan until frozen solid.

3. Once frozen solid, remove from freezer. Use the parchment paper to lift the casserole from the loaf pan. Wrap it well with plastic wrap, then foil, and then put into a freezer bag and return to the freezer.

4. When you want to have it for dinner again, unwrap while frozen and pop it right back into a greased loaf pan. Let thaw, covered, overnight in the fridge before reheating. Result? Two fabulous meals for half the effort.


Types of baking pans and tins

Now, there is an uncountable amount of tins and pans available. Different sizes and different shapes serve a different purpose. The first distinction I am going to focus on is the distinction based on the shape and what their primary purpose is.

BAKING PANS- DISTINCTION BASED ON SHAPES

There is no end to the types of shapes of baking tins. But, for now, let’s get it down to the very basics.

1. The Circle (Round Cake Pan)

The most common type of baking pan is a circular tin. They serve the purpose of making round desserts, obviously the most common being cakes. Round tins are really preferred all over the world because they help in a very evenly distributed amount of heat. This factor allows your cake to cook thoroughly and faster too. Hence, they are time-saving as well! Plus, when it comes to decoration, you do not have to fret over perfect corners like you have to when it comes to square or rectangle cakes. Round baking tins also come in varieties of heights. You can purchase a deeper round tin and get multiple cake layers from it!

If you are a beginner, you are looking at a 6 inch or a 7 inch round baking tin.

2. The square baking pans

Most commonly used for brownies, a square tin is a must-have baking tin. You can also use them to make some chocolate fudge or some no-bake bars. Being equal from all sides, they allow you to have well-proportioned quantities of anything you are using them for. I like to use them when I am looking for a different way to design my cakes. Like in this gluten-free plum cake- I loved how the square baking pan transformed its look!

The ideal size if you are a beginner is either 8X8 inches or 9X9 inches.

3. The Rectangular Pan

The only difference between a rectangular tin and a square tin is the dimension. They end up serving a similar purpose. Hence, if you are just starting out as a beginner baker and you’re on a budget, instead of in either a rectangular tin or a square baking pan. Then, as you advance, you can experiment with them! I loved making these Date and Walnut Bars in a rectangular tin because they gave me a very nice cut to the final bars. You can also use rectangular baking pans for making sheet cakes or swiss rolls! That is where they come super handy!

4. The Bundt Cake Pan

The only reason to own or invest in a Bundt cake pan is for how beautiful they make your desserts, haha! Bundt cake pans have a protruding center. This means that your cake will have a hole in the middle. Depending upon the type of bundt cake pan you choose- with a wider protruding middle or with a different edge design, all bundt cake tins differ in the final cake design. I have shown a comparison here which will help you out!

5. The Loaf Tin

Goes without saying, the loaf tin allows you to have a cake that resembles a bread loaf. Ideal for some delicious banana bread and obviously, for breads and even babka, a loaf tin is a definite have if you are starting out as a beginner!

For all your tea cakes and trials- in which you might be testing a recipe out, a small baking tin like a loaf tin will come too handy!

The ideal size should be somewhere around 26 x 13.5 x 6.5 cm or any loaf baking tin that yields 150 Grams.

5. The Muffin Tin

A basic muffin tin has about six to eight dents for your muffins! Do not think that a muffin tin is only limited to producing muffins and cupcakes. From mini cakes to cheesecake cups and even to no-bake bites, a muffin tin is really useful! If you are a beginner, your best bet is to start with a small muffin tin with 6 dents. Please also make sure that you are getting some muffin liners too. The best ones are white or golden- this is my personal opinion!

5. The Tart Tin

Tart tins are of course for tarts and pies. I would recommend using a tart tin with a removable base so it is easy to de-mold your tarts. Like cakes, you can not reverse it onto a plate and I would not recommend this either- haha.

BAKING PANS- DISTINCTION BASED ON MATERIAL

You would not believe the various baking tin material available in the market today. We are going to limit this article to the topmost common ones- aluminum baking tin, non-stick baking tins, silicone tins, and glass dishes.

1. Aluminum baking pans

The most commonly used baking tin material (at least in India) is aluminum. It’s economical, super-duper durable, and very easy to use. Since it is not a non-stick material, greasing the tin very well is extremely necessary. Because of its metallic nature, it also conducts heat very well and allows even heating and baking of your dessert. If you are a beginner looking to invest in a baking tin- aluminum baking tin is an excellent choice! Look for a medium weight tin so it goes on for even longer! It is most commonly used even by professionals!

You can get Aluminium tins online on a number of platforms. Going ahead with Amazon rating is always a good choice as there is no specific brand for such tins. If you have a big budget, you can try USA Pan Bakeware.

2. Non-stick baking pans

Non-stick cake pans are also a good option! You will mostly see non-stick baking pans coming along with your new microwave or new oven/OTG. They are usually seen to have a grey or black coating on the inside. Even non-stick baking tins require some greasing before you pour in your batter. The release is comparatively better than aluminum. When purchasing this, please keep in mind that they will be considerably more expensive than an aluminum baking tin and a low-grade non-stick baking pan will be the worst investment.

Why I would not recommend a non-stick baking tin to a beginner is because they require extra care. This is something most beginners are not very aware of. Because these tins have a non-stick coating that can come off very easily too, it’s best if beginners go for an aluminum tin to start with.

On Amazon, there is a huge variety of such tins. Try out Syga, Femora, or Bulfyss.

3. Silicone Baking Pans

Silicone-based bakeware has completely changed the face of the baking industry. While silicone spatulas are a compulsory staple in most kitchens and bakery, silicone baking molds are not that preferred. If you are into entremets and other frozen desserts, silicone will come handy. But, not always. I personally am not a fan either. The material is good- it sometimes requires absolutely no greasing and silicone molds help in easy unmolding too. But since they are not excellent conductors of heat and sometimes, they tend to really disappoint. They are good for desserts that do not require baking- like fudge, granola bars, and more!

Amazon has a very nice variety of silicone molds. You can try the brand known as ‘Bulfyss’. The reviews of the same are excellent!

4. Glass Baking Pans

Glass baking tins are awfully famous and really really helpful when it comes to baking pies and also for no-bake desserts! But, baking in a glass dish is a little dicey, to say the least. Glass does not conduct heat as well as metallic or steel baking tins. This common fact has to be kept in mind especially when you are baking in a microwave. Since the heat is not coming from below and only from above, desserts like brownies can not be baked in a glass dish. In general, it is best to be safe rather than sorry and the best shot is to avoid glass dishes when it comes to baking.

In case you need glass baking dishes for no-bake desserts, Borosil has an unbeatable variety!


Considerations

Your baking needs

Your top consideration is your baking needs. What do you bake most often? Loaves of white bread? Nut loaves? And why does this matter?

The fact is, certain pans work better for baking traditional loaves, while others are better for shaping loaves made of ingredients other than flour (like meatloaf). If your favorite type of loaf is the sweet kind, a silicone loaf pan is an excellent all-around kitchen accessory. If you bake multiple loaves at once, you may prefer a multi-mold loaf pan designed for baking large quantities.

In short, there isn’t just one type of loaf pan, so you’ll want to take inventory of your baking habits to figure out which type would serve you best.

A standard-size loaf pan measures 9 x 5 x 3 inches. If you plan to bake a variety of loaves in your new pan, a standard one may your best bet. If you have a specific recipe in mind, however, you should pick your pan size according to the recipe you’re using. Otherwise, the wrong loaf pan size could lead to improper rising or spilling of ingredients. Fortunately, most recipes specify the pan size that you need.

Material

Loaf pans may be constructed from several materials. The most common choices are metal, ceramic, cast iron, silicone, and glass. Here’s a look at each type.

Metal: Stainless steel pans are durable and easy to clean, but they don’t heat evenly, which isn’t great when it comes to baking bread. Aluminum, on the other hand, is inexpensive and heats evenly. However, aluminum does nick easily, and aluminum pans require more frequent replacement than other pan types.

Ceramic or cast iron: Cast iron and ceramic are both long-lasting options that distribute heat evenly. Notably, ceramic is relatively delicate and will break or crack if dropped. Cast iron can be heavy, but if treated well, it can last a very long time.

Silicone: Silicone is easy to clean, highly durable, and safe for use in the refrigerator, freezer, microwave, and oven. As mentioned, a silicone loaf pan is an apt choice for people who like to bake sweet breads.

Glass: If you opt for a glass loaf pan, choose ovenproof glass to prevent shattering. Glass is delicate, but it heats slowly. Slow heating isn’t necessarily ideal for baking bread, as it could cause loaves not to cook all the way through while the exterior becomes rock hard and too dark. Notably, glass works well for non-yeasted loaves, and its transparent nature allows you to keep tabs on your creation.

If you have pets in your home, choose pans that are clearly marked PTFE and PFOA-free. Birds and small rodents have sensitive respiratory systems that may be affected by the fumes given off by certain cookware coatings.

Shape

Most loaf pans are rectangular in shape. However, there are specialty pans with decorative molds available as well. These are typically used for baking cakes rather than breads.

Nonstick coating

Some loaf pans have a nonstick coating. This coating may wear off over time, but it’s ultra-convenient and prevents frustrating accidents caused by batter and dough that stick or burn onto your cookware.

Dishwasher safe

Check manufacturer instructions to be sure it’s safe to place your loaf pan in the dishwasher. If in doubt, wash the pan by hand to avoid damaging it.

Handles

A loaf pan with prominent handles is easier to remove from the oven. What’s more, you won’t accidentally puncture your perfect loaves if you have something to grab.

Embossing

Embossing is a handy feature for frequent bakers with multiple pans. Some loaf pans have handy markings with the size of the pan, which allows bakers to quickly find the right vessel for their immediate baking needs.


What is Pre-cooked flour?

Pre-cooking flour, also called tangzhong, water roux, or pre-gelatinized flour, is the act of cooking raw flour and a liquid to approximately 150°F (65°C). At this temperature, the starches in the flour will gelatinize similar to how the exterior of a bagel gelatinizes when you boil the dough. This process turns the mixture into a sticky starch paste that's then added to the dough during mixing. This upfront cooking is a small step at the beginning of this recipe, but one that results in a bread that's more tender and fluffy without the need for other enrichments such as butter, oil, or eggs.

This tangzhong pan bread is a direct bake, meaning it's baked the same day you mix (except for the levain, which is created the night before).

Overnight proof option: while I don't call for this dough to be retarded (cold proof overnight), this can be done if it's better for your schedule. Simply place it in the fridge after it's shaped and in the Pullman pan, then bake first thing in the morning.


Making popsicles in a loaf pan is a great way to make them in bulk if you have a party or event coming up. The process goes something like this:

  1. Line loaf pan with plastic wrap
  2. Pour in popsicle filling
  3. Cover with aluminum foil then poke sicks through (the aluminum foil helps to keep the sticks standing upright)
  4. Freeze until solid
  5. Slice into popsicles

You can also make popsicles without a mold by using a muffin tray, shot glasses, yogurt containers, or tall skinny drinking glasses!


Conclusion

The bottom line is that there is no one answer to the question, “How long do you bake bread in mini loaf pans?” It will depend on the size of the pan, the type of pan, and the temperature of the oven. Don’t be discouraged if your first few efforts don’t come out perfectly with bread making, it takes a bit of practice and some experience before you get the hang of it. Once you do, it’s worth the trouble: nothing beats the smell and taste of freshly baked bread! Find out more about bread baking.


Brownie Pan

This is essentially a square cake pan with straight sides, and for most basic brownie recipes, you'll want one that's 9 by 9 inches. A sturdy aluminum one is fine for starting out, but you can graduate to a glass or ceramic one later on. Also use it for bars, gingerbread, and square sheet cakes.


-Method-

You will now shape about 1.5 pounds worth of dough into a loaf. In the picture below you can see the dough directly after it had been cut from a larger mound of dough. See the structure of the dough? See the skin? Keep this in mind when shaping the loaf. You want a smooth, unbroken skin all along the surface of your shaped loaf.

There are many ways you can form a pan loaf. This is only one way and you can feel free to use a different method if you prefer. I have a few different methods that I switch between. There are few things in the world that are as fun to play with as bread dough, so just enjoy the experience of shaping the loaf, and however you end up doing it, the rest of the process is the same.

So, for this method, you first want to flatten and degas the dough, since it has just finished rising. You want to push out all those large air bubbles. Don’t be afraid to be a little rough with the dough. If you want you can even use a roller to help ring out some air. This is optional. Try to form the dough into a rough oval or rectangle shape while pressing it. If it looks absolutely nothing like these shapes it is OK. In that case simply degas it completely and fold all edges into the center, knead it a couple times, round it off, and give it a five minute bench rest. Then you will have a nice round mound of dough that you can again, flatten, and you will be able to form an easy oval with it.

Fold one end into the center of the dough and press it down. Pinch the edges of this flap into the dough beneath it.

Fold in the other side and press and pinch it down as before.

Now fold the top of the dough (the edge farthest from you) about a third of the way down the rest of the dough and press in the edges once again.

Roll the remaining dough up over the top of the loaf and press the edges in.

Flip the loaf so that the seam is on the bottom and pinch the edges down a bit. Be gentle and try not to tear the skin of the dough.

Butter an 8ࡪ loaf pan and place the loaf inside. It should be just about a perfect fit. You want the edges to touch the sides all around the pan or at least come very close. You may choose to brush the loaf lightly with butter at this point, or not. Since I am baking two loaves today, I will brush one with butter and not the other, so at the end of this article you can see the difference.

Now the dough must rise. You can simply drape a damp cloth over the pan and leave it on the counter top to rise, or you can cover it loosely with plastic wrap, or leave it completely uncovered, though if you do this you will end up with craze lines all along the crust once it is finished baking, because the crust will have dried out a bit too much, but this is not a terrible thing. It is only a cosmetic problem, and some people like it. The main things to keep in mind for this step is to try to keep the skin of the dough from drying out (if you don’t want craze lines), don’t let the dough stick to anything (sometime it will stick to the damp cloth or plastic wrap. You will just have to develop a feel for it and learn how to avoid it), and the warmer the dough is, the faster it will rise, though a slow rise in a cool room is just fine. So whatever your style, set the dough aside to rise.

What I often do, is boil a bit of water, pour it into a pan in the oven (turned off but with the light on) and put the dough into the oven to rise. I do not cover the dough with any plastic or cloth and just let the gentle warmth of the oven and little bit of steam from the hot water keep the dough from drying out and aid in the rising.


The dough is finished rising when it crests over the top of the pan two or three inches. With this method it typically only takes about 20 minutes, but it may take as long as an hour, depending on how you treat the dough during rising.
The best way to tell if the dough is ready is to press a finger into the dough. When you remove your finger the indentation should remain. If this happens the dough is definitely ready. If it fills back in when you move your finger it needs more time.

Do not worry about ruining the nice shape of the loaf by doing this. It will plump while baking and it will be like the indentation was never there.

Take all dough out of the oven and set it aside, as you preheat the oven to 375. I leave the water from my rising technique in there. Steam during baking is good for the crust. This is not required, but if you can get some hot water in the oven to steam your bread during the baking then do.

If you want to slash the loaf, now is a good time. Some people like to give their loaf a slash down the middle, or a few diagonal slashes, or some other design. This is totally optional and will not affect the rest of the process, so if this is your desire go ahead and slash the loaf. I typically do not slash pan loaves.

Bake the loaf for approximately 35 minutes. You will know it is finished when the crust is golden brown and when you take the bread out of the pan and tap the bottom and it sounds hollow. The bread should feel light weight. If you have a food thermometer you can be absolutely sure that it is ready by measuring the internal temperature. Anywhere from 194 to 205 degrees means that it is perfect. I like to get closer to 205.

Take the loaf out of the pan right away. You may give the pan a minute to cool if you desire. Place the bread onto a cooling rack. It is releasing moisture and if you leave it in the pan or place it directly onto a surface the bottom may end up soggy.

Below you can see the difference between the buttered loaf and the unbuttered loaf. Can you guess which is which?

The only real difference between the two is that the buttered loaf looks a little more smooth and shiny, and the crust may be just a tad more tender. Sometimes I butter, and sometimes I don’t. It just depends on what I feel like doing at the time.

At first the whole loaf may feel like it is rock solid, but as soon it cools you will see that it softens greatly. The crust will have just a little bite to it but not enough to be tough or crunchy, if all went well. The bread itself should have a tight smooth, uniform crumb. Ideally there should be no big air bubbles, but occasionally you will have them. No big deal. This is what will happen if you failed to degas the dough completely before shaping. You can also have gaps if you failed to pinch the ends down during shaping, or did not press everything together tightly.

I know that in the picture it looks like nothing more than mushroom shaped wonder bread. You may be wondering what the big deal is. Trust me this is something you just have to taste to understand how great it is.

You can slice the bread as soon as it has completely cooled. I find that it is easier to slice the next day, but naturally you’ll want little bit right away to enjoy it fresh. I usually just slice as needed and otherwise keep the loaves intact.

I always save the end of the bread when I slice it partially. If I am going to leave the bread out for a while I just cap the open loaf with the end of the bread and that keeps things reasonably covered. I leave it out for hours this way at times.

For longer storage you do want to protect the bread a bit more, though. If I had a bread box I would just toss everything into there. Since I don’t I wrap the completely cooled bread in plastic, or foil, or just a plastic zipper bag.

Depending on the time of year the bread will last different amounts of time. I find that if it is not too hot or humid it will be pretty fresh for four to five days. If it is not ideal conditions it may start to become less than awesome at around three days.

I really need to get a bread box.


Tools and Pans

Baking can be a simple matter of using your imagination, a spoon, and a bowl to create everything from brownies to bread. There is almost no end to the array of tools (some say "toys") that a baker can accumulate. Knowing how to select the best tools for your baking can save you a lot of time and money.

Our test kitchens work over hundreds of tools every year, poking, dropping, and trying to scratch, break or otherwise abuse just about every tool in the marketplace. Here's what we've learned from using all those funny whisks, trying every shape and surface imaginable for a mixing bowl, and baking in every pan—assessing it for size, durability and ease of release—that comes our way.

Baking Pans

Baking pans are typically made from aluminum (an excellent heat conductor), or an aluminum-steel combination. Less common are stainless steel pans while easy to clean and non-reactive, they don't conduct heat as well as aluminum. We've found silicone pans to be best for sweet baked goods, whose sugar helps them brown baked goods low in sugar or fat (e.g., hearth breads) baked in a silicone pan don't brown well.

Other common materials for baking pans include glass, ceramic or stoneware. On the plus side, these pans are often lovely to look at, and a clear glass pan allows you to see how well the crust is browning as the product bakes. On the minus side, ceramic or stoneware doesn't conduct heat as quickly as metal pans. If you're baking something where precise temperature isn't critical (bread pudding or pie), they're a perfectly acceptable choice. Glass pans are slower to transfer heat, but retain that heat for longer, which can cause edges and bottoms of baked goods to become hard and overdone by the time the center cooks through. We recommend you reduce your oven's temperature 25°F when using a glass pan.

Baking pans are often coated with a non-stick surface. This is usually helpful, but also means you shouldn't cut baked goods in the pan, unless you use a special non-stick-safe knife or server. Angel food pans should not have a non-stick surface, as the baking batter actually needs to "climb" up the wall of the pan in order for the cake to rise.

Look for pans that are sturdy, but not so heavy that they're hard to handle. When a recipe calls for a 9-inch round pan, it means the top inside measurement should be 9 inches. Many manufacturers cut corners and make their pans 9 inches from edge to edge, but only 8 3/4 inches (or less) inside. This makes a difference in whether the pan can hold a recipe comfortably. This is particularly true with pie pans.

To make a sandwich loaf using a recipe calling for 3 to 3 1/2 cups flour, use a pan that measures 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2 inches. For a recipe calling for 4 cups of flour, use a 9 x 5 x 2 1/2 inch pan. Using the proper size pan will give you a nicely domed loaf using a pan that's too big will yield a loaf that's flat across the top.

Pain de Mie or Pullman Pan

A pain de mie or pullman pan, usually 13 x 4 x 4 inches, is a straight-sided loaf pan with a flat sliding cover. Holding a recipe made with about 4 1/2 cups of flour, it will produce a very fine-textured, flat-topped bread, perfect for sandwiches.

When making sweet breads, use a light-colored pan, to keep the bread's crust from burning. When making bread without a significant amount of sugar (e.g., 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar or less per cup of flour), use a dark-colored pan, to promote good browning.

For extra-crisp hearth-type loaves, choose a covered stone baker. Shaped to hold round or baguette-type loaves, a covered stone baker will draw moisture from the bread as it bakes, producing a crunchy bottom crust. In addition, while that moisture is drawn off during the initial part of baking, it collects as steam inside the covered pan, keeping the bread's upper crust soft, so that it can rise to its fullest. Once the steam has dissipated into the oven, the upper crust becomes crisp as well.

There are a variety of pans on the market designed to shape and hold particular loaves. Included in this group are pans for baguettes (double and triple) Italian loaves (usually double) breadsticks and Italian sandwich rolls (4 to 5 rolls). These pans are usually perforated, allowing for air circulation for a crisp crust. Other shapes include pans for hotdog and hamburger buns brioche panettone and sticky buns or cinnamon rolls. These pans aren't perforated, as the goal is a soft crust (and, in the case of sticky buns, no leaks!)

Pizza pans are usually made of dark metal, either anodized aluminum, or, less common, blue steel. Both of these materials transfer heat quickly and thoroughly, and if there's one thing every pizza needs, it's high heat, delivered quickly. An exception to this is porous (unglazed) stoneware pans. Because of their ability to draw moisture from the dough, they'll make pizza crust every bit as crisp as a dark metal pan. Another alternative is to cook pizza directly on a preheated baking stone.

Pizza pans are available in 12- and 14-inch round size, both deep-dish and thin-crust versions in individual deep-dish pans (about 6 1/2 inches wide, usually sold in a set of four) and in 13 x 18-inch rectangular. You can find them perforated, or solid bottom we prefer a perforated pan, which we set directly on a preheated baking stone. Don't purchase a non-stick pizza pan you're sure to injure the finish eventually by cutting in the pan. Instead, make sure there's a good film of olive oil in the bottom of the pan before you add the dough.

Unless you're making a Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, which requires a 12- to 14-inch round pan at least 2 inches deep, your pizza pan doesn't need to be very deep. In fact, a flat, rimless, perforated pizza disk is the top choice for some, as it allows the oven's heat to reach all parts of the pizza.

A typical pizza crust recipe calling for 3 cups of flour will make two thin-crust 12-inch pizzas or a thick-crust 14-inch round or 13 x 18-inch (half sheet pan) rectangular pizza or four medium-crust 6 1/2- to 8-inch individual pizzas.

Flat metal sheets designed to hold rows of baking cookies come in a variety of sizes and finishes. Purchase a cookie sheet that optimizes the size of your oven. For best heat circulation, it should have a 2-inch clearance on all sides when set on the oven rack. Make sure the sheet is substantial enough that it won't warp or buckle at high heat, or develop hot spots.

Light-colored, shiny cookie sheets will produce cookies much less likely to burn. Non-stick sheets are often black, and for this reason we don't recommend non-stick cookie sheets, unless their coating is no darker than light gray to gray. (If you already have a dark-colored, non-stick cookie sheet, and it tends to burn the bottoms of your cookies, reduce the oven temperature by 25°F.) If you have trouble with cookies sticking (and many cookies don't stick even on an ungreased pan, due to their high fat content), we recommend using parchment or a pan liner.

Insulated cookie pans make it very hard to burn the bottom of your cookies. However, since they are very poor heat conductors, they also make it hard to bake your cookies at all cookies baked on insulated pans tend to bake so long before browning that they dry out.

There is a pan made specifically for biscotti's first bake, a shallow aluminum loaf pan, 12 x 5 1/2 x 2 inches. While not entirely necessary, it helps shape the dough into a log, prior to cutting it in slices and baking it again.

Most quick loaf recipes (banana bread, zucchini bread) are written for 9 x 5 x 2 3/4-inch pans, a traditionally shaped loaf pan that's just slightly larger than a yeast bread loaf pan. Caveat emptor:

Using a yeast loaf pan for a quick bread recipe may result in batter overflowing the pan. Likewise, using a quick bread pan for a yeast loaf recipe may result in a loaf that doesn't dome. These pans, though similar in size and shape, are not interchangeable. Quick loaves also can be baked in a longer, narrower pan (about 12 x 4 x 2 1/2 inches).

Since quick loaves bake for a long time (close to an hour, or more), feel free to use a stoneware, glass, or ceramic pan, as the quick transfer of heat a metal pan gives isn't as essential as it is with other baked goods, such as cookies.

While scones are often made freeform by cutting a circular round of dough into wedges or cut with a biscuit cutter, the scone pan, with its eight wedge-shaped wells, forms beautifully shaped scones. Unless scones are very sweet (not generally the case), a dark pan will give them a lovely brown crust during the very short time they spend in the oven.

Popovers demand a pan with specially shaped cups, in order to attain their full height. Sized in regular (to make six large popovers) or mini (to make 12 smaller ones), popover pans feature deep, narrow wells, which force the baking batter to rise up and then out (rather than flatten), producing the typical popover shape. Popover pans made of dark metal will produce the best crust.

Muffin pans Flexible muffin pan

Muffins range from mini to maxi, with assorted shapes spanning the range, and pans come in a variety of shapes and sizes. A standard muffin pan has 12 wells, each measuring about 2 1/2 inches wide at the top, and 1 1/2 inches deep. A pan with wells significantly smaller than that won't hold a standard-size muffin recipe. A mini-muffin pan includes 24 wells, each about 1 3/4 inches wide and 1 inch deep it will hold a standard muffin recipe, as will a jumbo muffin pan, with six wells about 3 3/4 x 2 inches deep each.

Muffin pans are traditionally made of metal, most commonly aluminum, but can also be found in stoneware and, most recently, flexible silicone. We've found the stoneware pans don't brown muffins as well as metal as they're too slow to absorb heat. Silicone pans are naturally non-stick (but we still recommend greasing them), and their flexibility allows you to gently "pop" muffins out of the pan without damaging them. This type of flexible pan must be set on a cookie or baking sheet before being put into the oven.

Also known as pudding molds, these aluminum or tinned steel tube pans often come with a clip-on lid, to keep the baking pudding moist. The pan, which comes in 1-quart or 2-quart sizes, is filled with the batter for a steamed bread (Boston brown bread) or pudding (Christmas puffing). The lid is clamped on, and the pan is set on a rack in a kettle of simmering water a couple of inches deep, where the bread or pudding steams for 1 to 3 hours, until it's cooked through.

A shallow, flat-sided sauté pan is helpful in making crêpes. Most crêpe pans are made of cast iron, heavy aluminum, or carbon steel, as these metals heat evenly and quickly, without hot spots. Crêpe pans can be non-stick, but it isn't crucial crêpes cook in a film of butter and slide out of whatever pan you choose. Sizes range from about 4 inches to about 10 inches, with the smaller crêpes suitable for dessert, the larger ones perfect for entrées.

Nearly all cake pans are made from light-colored aluminum, as cakes need quick, steady heat to rise correctly. Some cakes (pineapple upside-down cake, cobbler) were traditionally baked in a cast iron "spider," a round, medium-depth skillet. Cast iron is still a useful way to make any type of cake that includes a melted or cooked layer atop which batter is poured cast iron is very happy to go from stovetop to oven, unlike many types of cookware.

Baking a birthday or wedding cake? You'll probably want a set of round layer cake pans our material of choice is light-colored aluminum. Layer cake recipes nearly always call for 8- or 9-inch pans to assure batter won't overflow, choose pans that are at least 2 inches deep, and fill them with no more than about 5 to 6 cups of batter.

When you choose to bake a single layer sheet cake, you'll nearly always use a 9 x 13-inch pan. Some smaller cake recipes call for a 9 x 9-inch pan. Again, either one should be at least 2 inches deep. For best cleanup, look for pans whose inside corners are slightly rounded, to avoid trapping crumbs in crevices. A 9 x 13 x 2-inch pan shouldn't be filled with any more than 12 cups of batter 10 cups is safer, though you can go to 12 with dense cakes that don't rise much.

A typical cake recipe will fill two 9-inch round pans two (thick layers) or three (thin layers) 8-inch round pans a 9 x 13-inch pan or make 24 standard-size cupcakes. If you've got a collection of odd-sized pans, and don't know how they match up to these standards, just do your math. A 7 x 11-inch pan (77 square inches) or 10-inch round pan (79 square inches) are both roughly equivalent to a 9 x 9-inch pan (81 square inches), assuming all are the same depth.

For delicate tortes and cheesecakes, streusel-topped cakes, or any time you want to remove a cake from its pan to serve (but not upend it in the process), the springform pan is your best solution. They are usually round, and available in lots of sizes, from about 4 1/2-inches in diameter to 12 inches. The flat bottom is surrounded by a 2 1/2- to 3-inch tall removable locking sidewall. Less expensive springform pans are prone to leaks. When purchasing one, examine how tightly the walls lock onto the base when fastened into position.

Bundt-style, tube, and angel food pans

These pans are the choice for angel food cake, or to bake a cake that looks fancier than a layer or sheet cake. Generally 8 1/2 to 10 inches in diameter, and featuring an 8- to 12-cup capacity, bundt-style pans are usually non-stick aluminum or aluminum-steel, with the occasional glass or tinned steel pan available as well. For single-serving cakes, plaques featuring four or six small bundt-style wells are available. The similarly sized tube pan has plain (rather than embossed), slightly flaring sides.

An angel food pan is a tube pan with some special features: it should not be non-stick and it should include either "feet" (small posts attached to the top rim be sure they're at least 2 inches long), or a tube wide enough to fit comfortably over the top of a glass bottle, such as a wine bottle. Angel food cakes attain their maximum height by cooling upside down, either on the shoulders of a bottle, or resting on the pan's feet. While not as intricately shaped as bundt-style pans, these pans come in various shapes, including round, square, and flower. Choose one that's at least 4 inches deep, 9 to 10 inches wide, and has a minimum 10-cup capacity.

Want to bake an Easter lamb or bunny, a jack-o'-lantern, or Santa? These shapes and many more are available as cake pans. While classic two-piece Easter lamb or rabbit pans are made of heavy cast aluminum, without a non-stick coating, most other specialty pans are lightweight aluminum the more intricately designed they are, the more you'll appreciate them having a non-stick coating.

To make filled "tunnel" cakes, use a set of pans specifically designed for that purpose. These come in various shapes, usually round.

Pie & tart pans Standard metal pie pan

For variations in size, shape, and composition in the world of baking pans, there's not much that beats the pie pan. From tiny tartlets to "mega-pies" (think four and twenty blackbirds), from aluminum, tinned steel, or hand-painted ceramic to unglazed stoneware, clear glass, or flexible silicone, pie pans cover a lot of ground.

Traditional pie pans Deep dish pie pan

Most pie recipes are written to fit a 9- or 10-inch wide, 1 1/2-inch deep pie. Beware pie pans that are much shallower than 1 1/2 inches while 1 1/4 inches is barely acceptable, a 1-inch-deep pie pan will not hold a typical size pie filling. For deep-dish pies, choose a pan that's 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches deep, with 2 inches the preferred depth. A 9-inch pie pan should hold 4 to 10 cups of filling. Why the wide variation? Because while 4 cups of pumpkin filling will expand just a bit, 10 cups of raspberries will shrink enormously. Both amounts (or anything in between) can make a nice-looking pie.

Smaller diameter pans (4 3/4 to 5 inches) are ideal for individual serving or savory "pot pies." Pot pie pans, usually ceramic, have more gently sloped walls than individual pie pans (usually made of aluminum, and sold in sets of 4), which flare from bottom to top quite dramatically. The straighter walls of the pan give pot pies a greater ratio of filling to crust.

Dark-colored metal pie pans tend to become hotter, and transfer heat better, than ceramic pans, and for that reason brown crust more quickly, a plus in pie-baking (where a pale, soggy bottom crust is the inexperienced baker's nemesis). However, most pie pans will brown a crust thoroughly, given enough time and, in the case of many pies (e.g., fruit pies), extending baking time beyond what the recipe says isn't a problem, so long as you cover the pie's exposed edges with a crust shield to prevent burning. We've forgotten pies in the oven sometimes, and even after 2 hours they've emerged happily bubbling and beautifully browned.

The advantage of stoneware or ceramic dishes (pans) is their beauty. Thanksgiving, a dinner party, or anytime you're seeking a fancier touch, choose a handsome colored or painted ceramic pie dish instead of utilitarian metal. Clear glass dishes, the ones so many of us grew up with, allow you to see when the bottom crust is sufficiently browned.

Tart pans and quiche dishes Large round tart pan

Tart pans, usually fluted, shiny tinplate, shaped round, square, or rectangular, often feature a removable bottom, very handy for removing the tart from the pan without harming the appearance of the crust. Because they're usually only 1 inch deep, tarts will have a greater ratio of crust to filling, an appropriate balance considering tart fillings often include pastry cream or some other very rich confection.

Mini-tarts or mini-quiches are easy to make with a tartlet plaque, akin to a muffin pan but with 1- to 3-inch shallow wells, sometimes fluted. Pastry is pushed into the wells with a tart tamper (a wooden dowel with a flattened ball at one end), then filling is added. Some tartlet plaques are made of flexible silicone, which is a big help in turning out the tartlets, but the pastry doesn't brown as nicely as it does in a metal pan.

The classic French quiche dish is usually round, ceramic, and about 10 to 11 inches in diameter, 1 to 1 1/2 inches deep. Most quiche dishes have fluted sides, and unlike pie pans, the sides are straight, not slanted.

While you can make yeast bread dough using nothing more than a bowl, measuring cup, and your hands, there are a number of tools to make your life much easier. Choose the ones you feel will help you the most.

Yeast Bread Tools

While you can make yeast bread dough using nothing more than a bowl, measuring cup, and your hands, there are a number of tools to make your life much easier. Choose the ones you feel will help you the most.

The non-stick surface of a silicone kneading mat makes dough-kneading easy, and cleanup a snap. Mats range in size from 8 x 11 inches to about 16 x 24 inches the larger the mat, the more room you have to let the flour fly. Caution: be sure to use only a plastic dough scraper on these mats, as metal will cut their surface.

Baker's bench knife

Use a bench knife, a 6-inch long rectangle of stainless steel with a handle across the top, to divide dough into pieces, or to scrape bits of dried dough from your countertop.

Shaping baskets and couche

European-style hearth loaves are traditionally given their second rise in shaping baskets, before being turned out onto an oven stone to bake. The French banneton, a willow basket lined with linen or canvas, comes in the same shapes as French breads, including boule, batard, and baguette. The cloth lining, which is floured before use, draws moisture from the dough as it rises, making the baked bread's crust chewy. Most times, when making baguettes French bakers let their shaped loaves rise in a linen couche, a rectangular piece of cloth that can cradle multiple rising baguettes in its folds.

The German brotform, made of a coil of wood, gives German bread its classic beehive shape the basket is heavily floured, and when the risen loaf is turned out onto a stone or pan, it retains the circular marks of the flour.

Often bakers let dough rise in a lidded rising bucket, a 4- to 6-quart acrylic or plastic bucket with measurements on the side, making it easy to judge when the dough has doubled or tripled in size. The lid keeps the dough moist, allowing it to rise fully.

A curved razor blade set into a handle is called a lame (lahm), and French bakers use it to slash the top crust of risen country loaves (most famously, baguettes). The slash allows the bread to expand fully to its proper shape as it bakes. A small, very sharp paring or serrated knife can be substituted.

Also known as a pizza peel, this beveled-edge square of flat wood with a handle (or square of aluminum, with a wooden handle) transfers large, flat loaves or pizzas from work surface to hot baking stone. If your dough sticks to the peel, put a piece of parchment paper on the peel, place the dough on the parchment, then slide both parchment and dough onto the stone the parchment won't undermine the stone's ability to produce a crisp crust.

A baking stone, placed on the bottom shelf of your oven, is a wonderful surface for baking pizzas and hearth breads. The porous stone draws moisture away from the crust as it bakes, yielding a crisp, crunchy crust. The immediate contact between dough and hot surface helps bread with its oven spring. Select a baking stone that's at least 1/2 inch thick thinner stones may crack. The stone's dimensions should mirror your oven rack's, leaving 2 inches of clearance on all sides for heat circulation.

Kitchen Gadgets

Also known as a rolling pizza cutter, this sharp wheel, with handle, makes short work of cutting bread sticks from a rectangle of unbaked dough. It's also useful for cutting crackers, the strips of pastry for a lattice pie crust, fettuccine from fresh pasta dough or, of course, slices of pizza.

Choose heatsafe metal tongs, with a heatproof handle, that lock closed they're easier to store. If you're turning bagels or doughnuts in boiling water or hot oil, choose tongs with a flat, smooth underside many tongs are manufactured in a folding process that leaves a perfect channel for water or oil to funnel through. When you lift this type of tongs, boiling oil or water is delivered directly to your wrist. OUCH.

Sifting aerates flour, giving many types of cake a head start, and making the measuring process more accurate. When a recipe calls for sifted flour, it's important to sift the flour before measuring it. When "flour, sifted" is called for, the flour should be measured first, then sifted.

Canister flour sifters, the most familiar kind, come in a variety of types and materials, including crank, shake, and electric, and aluminum, stainless steel, and plastic. Since sifters don't need to be washed-any spills or smears on the outside can be easily wiped off-there's no need to worry about dishwasher safeness. Choose a flour sifter with a minimum 3-cup capacity any less than that, and all but the smallest amount of flour will tend to overflow when you start to sift it.

Many bakers no longer bother to sift flour. But even though the flour bag says "pre-sifted," that doesn't mean the flour shouldn't be aerated before using. Flour in the bag has settled during shipment, and to measure correctly it needs to be fluffed up. A flour scoop-cast aluminum, wood, stainless steel, or plastic-is used to stir and fluff the flour, then gently sprinkle it into a measuring cup. Choose a flour scoop with a straight edge long enough to sweep the excess flour off the top of your dry measuring cup in one even motion.

Potholders and oven mitts

When you're pulling hot cookie sheets and cake pans out of the oven, it's critical to protect your hands. Don't rely on a handy dishtowel, because at some point you'll pick up a wet towel, grab a hot pan, and drop the pan on the floor as soon as the water in the towel turns to scalding steam.

Potholders or mitts are made from quilted cotton (least protection), suede or thick terrycloth (better protection), or a pricey combination of heatproof fabrics, with or without steam-proof liners (best protection). Flexible silicone mitts and holders are also available they're a snap to wash, and their protection is comparable to that of terrycloth. But don't think because they're waterproof you can plunge your hand into boiling water and leave it there it's OK to snatch a simmering bagel or steaming ear of corn out of the pot, but prolonged exposure to boiling liquid will heat the silicone (and your hand) to uncomfortable levels.

Spatulas are used to scrape cake batter off the sides of the mixing bowl, spread filling onto cinnamon bun dough, or any number of baking tasks. They are made of heat-resistant silicone so they also can be used to stir custard, scramble eggs, or turn doughnuts in a deep fat fryer. A spoonula is simply a spatula whose blade has been made spoon-shaped not only can it be used as a spatula, it can also be used as a spoon, to beat batter, or scoop (rather than scrape) it into a pan.

Dough or bowl scraper Bowl scraper

With one straight edge and one curved (it looks like a squared-off circle), a flexible plastic bowl scraper is useful for everything from sweeping all of the batter out of the bowl in one scoop or cutting cinnamon bun dough to scraping bits of piecrust off the counter, crumbs into the wastebasket-or ice off your car windshield. Choose one that's flexible enough to curve easily to the shape of your bowl.

One way to aerate flour, besides sifting or fluffing, is to gently beat it with a wire whisk, a series of looped wires fastened into a handle. A dough whisk, also known as a brodpisker, is a long, wooden handled, stainless steel whisk ideal for mixing bread dough, even stiff ones.

A cake whisk has a flow-through blade that beats a lot of air into cake batter but can also be used for mixing muffins just enough to moisten the batter.

Pastry brushes are essential for brushing a loaf of hot bread with crust-softening butter brushing egg wash onto breadsticks or bagels egg white onto the edges of turnovers, or milk onto a pie crust.

Parchment paper is the traditional pan liner made of silicone or vegetable-oil coated paper, it's greaseproof and non-stick. It can be used more than once, but isn't as long-lasting as silicone or flexible fiberglass pan liners, which can be washed and reused hundreds of times. Parchment comes in sheets sized for half-sheet (13 x 18-inch) and full-sheet (18 x 26- inch) baking pans in rolls and in sizes and shapes for particular pans, such as 9-inch rounds for layer cake pans, or rectangles for quick loaf pans. Pan liners come in fewer sizes and shapes.

Parchment also comes pre-cut in triangles to make pastry cones, used for piping decorations onto cakes.

Why is it important to cool fresh-from-the-oven baked goods on a rack? Because if cooled on or in a pan, the crust can become soggy, due to condensation. Racks are also helpful when you're drizzling icing or chocolate atop pastries, and don't want them to end up in a sweet puddle.

Handy innovations include racks that fold for storage, and tiered racks, set atop one another, which save counter space.

The baker's most constant friend is her bowl. Bowls range in size from tiny, 1-tablespoon ingredient bowls, to 2-gallon (or larger) bowls perfect for mixing up a triple yeast bread recipe, or holiday fruitcakes.

Consider a variety of factors when choosing bowls. Will you be melting butter or warming milk in a microwave? Choose a microwave-safe bowl. Whipping cream in a chilled bowl? Choose stainless steel or copper (copper is especially good for whipping egg whites into meringue). Making a lot of yeast bread? Choose a crockery bowl, which will stay warm as the dough rises.

A final factor to consider is weight. Extra-large crockery bowls are very attractive, and are usually oven-safe, but before purchasing decide whether you're strong enough, and have a good enough grip, to maneuver them around the kitchen. Acrylic bowls come in fun colors, and they're lightweight and easy to handle, but some aren't microwave-safe. Stainless steel bowls are a good all-around choice, but if they're lightweight enough to handle easily, they'll also dent just as easily. Whatever material you choose, a set of bowls-approximately 2-, 4-, and 6-quart-is most useful. Add a larger bowl, if you like, for the occasional big baking job.

A good bread knife should be a part of every bread baker's arsenal of tools. A bread knife should be serrated, and will work best on anything from a chewy-crusted hearth loaf to soft white sandwich bread. The blade should be 8 to 10 inches long, made of high-carbon stainless steel (which sharpens better than regular stainless steel), and should feel balanced and comfortable in your hand. To preserve the knife's blade, hand-washing is a good choice particularly if the knife has a wooden handle, drying it after washing is also good practice.

An offset bread knife, shaped like an offset spatula with the blade set below rather than even with the handle, allows you to slice all the way to the bottom of the loaf without rapping your knuckles on the breadboard. While not critical, it's a handy design feature.

Remember Mom pulling a straw out of the kitchen broom to poke into the center of her baking cake, to see whether it was done? If the straw came out clean, the cake was ready. Choose one that's thick enough that you can easily see whether or not it's coated with batter after withdrawing it from the cake but not so thick it leaves a noticeable hole.

For flipping flapjacks or transferring cookies from pan to cooling rack, a good turner is essential. Choose one with a wide enough blade to handle your favorite size pancake on the griddle, but not so wide that it's not maneuverable around cookies lined up on a cookie sheet around 3 inches is a good compromise. A bevel on the end of the blade is useful for getting underneath thin cookies.

Graters Microplane grater

Looking very much like a wood rasp (in fact, that's the design they're based on), the plane grater does an excellent all-around job on cheese, chocolate, garlic, citrus peel, or anything else you can "grip and grate." Ranging from long, thin, fine-blade graters to wider graters with blades ranging from extra-fine to coarse, these graters are easy to use, sharp and efficient, and easy to clean. We prefer them to the standard box grater.

Another option is the rotary grater, a rotating drum gripped inside two handles. Just insert bits of chocolate, cheese, or nuts, and crank. The advantage of this grater is its safety and speed the disadvantage is its small capacity.

When you need just a teaspoon or two of fresh citrus zest, use a zester, a simple stainless steel rod with a series of sharpened holes across one end. Simply scrape the zester across the orange or lemon with the same motion you'd use with a paring knife.

Storage

Storing bread at room temperature is best refrigeration stales bread quickly. A plastic bag sized to fit your loaf is most efficient, and works best. For bread with a crisp crust, try to purchase perforated plastic bags they protect the bread while letting it breathe. Plastic-lined cloth bread bags are attractive and reusable.

Ingredient storage Flour canister

Flour and sugar are usually stored in lidded canisters. Choose canisters with an opening wide enough to dip a scoop into, and to hold a cup over to sweep off the excess.

Whole grains should be stored in the freezer, for best shelf life. Plastic jars with screw-on lids are a good option here be sure to mark the jar with what's inside, or someday you'll find yourself trying to identify something brown and grainy by looks alone.

Cutters

Christmas and holidays such as Thanksgiving, Halloween, and Independence Day are marked by shaped cookies ranging from angels and trees to shooting stars, turkeys and black cats. These cookies are made by rolling out cookie dough (sugar or gingerbread are the traditional flavors), then cutting it with a shaped cutter.

Most cookie cutters are made of tin, plastic, copper, or copper-plated aluminum. All work equally well, though the tin ones, if particularly flimsy, will bend out of shape easily. Many bakers keep their copper cutters on display in the kitchen when not in use. Be sure any cutters you purchase are at least 1/2-inch deep, and that they have a sharp side (for cutting), and a dull side (for holding).

Pastry cutters are similar to cookie cutters in all respects except one: they're usually very small, ranging from 3/4 to 2 inches in size. They're used to cut shapes from pie crust (leaves and stars are typical) to decorate the top and edges of a pie.

Biscuit cutters

Biscuit cutters are key to producing high-rising biscuits biscuits cut with a dull cutter won't rise well, as their sidewalls have been compacted rather than cleanly cut. Round biscuit cutters, made of tin, stainless steel, or plastic, usually come in nesting sets ranging from 1 1/2 to 2 3/4 inches in diameter. Be sure they're at least 1 inch deep, in order to cut through your thickest biscuit dough. Biscuit cutters (which also come in linked hexagons) can double as cookie cutters. In addition, we like to use biscuit cutters to cut small rounds out of a sheet cake, which we then ice and decorate to make tiny individual cakes.

A circular cutter with a smaller cutter in the center, the doughnut (bagel) cutter is used to cut standard-size (3 1/2-inch) doughnuts or bagels. Make sure the cutters are aligned when you press the cutter down on the dough, both should cut all the way through. Less expensive cutters may be out of alignment, making them frustrating to use.

Pastry Tools

The distinctive thin, parallel lines decorating the sides of a fancy iced layer cake are made with a cake comb, a comb featuring numerous thin, sharp saw-like teeth. The baker holds the comb in place against the side of the cake, then turns the turntable (just below) to make lines.

For easiest cake decorating, invest in a turntable (akin to a lazy susan). Turntables come in expensive cast aluminum, or less expensive plastic. Some are elevated, some nearly flush with the counter the elevated turntable raises the cake so it's easier to work with.

Also known as a disher or depositor, the cookie scoop is simply an ice cream scoop sized to deposit a traditional (“1 teaspoon” or “1 tablespoon”) ball of dough onto a cookie sheet, quickly and cleanly.

Choose a cookie scoop that's easy for you to squeeze it'll keep your hand and wrist from tiring when you're making lots of cookies. If dough starts to stick in the scoop, simply wipe the interior clean, spray with a non-stick baking spray, and continue.

Looking like to a very small (3- to 4-inch) spiked rolling pin, the dough docker cuts even rows of holes into cracker dough, or thoroughly pricks the bottom of a tart or pie shell in a few easy swipes. Unless you're very particular about how your pastry looks, or you're doing lots of pastry that needs docking, a fork can easily substitute for the docker.

This old-fashioned tool is used to dust a work surface (or the top of pastry or bread dough) with flour. A ball of coiled metal is filled with flour, then the handle is squeezed to let just a bit of the flour sift out, exactly where you direct it. It's simple, accurate, and perfect when you want just a dusting, rather than scattered handfuls, of flour.

Icing spatula Offset spatula

For icing cakes, use an icing spatula, a long, narrow, flexible stainless steel turner, one that follows the curve of the cake as it smoothes frosting around the sides, or can bend to create artful swirls on top. Icing spatulas are available straight, or offset, in an array of lengths rounded on the end, or tapering to a wide point (for fine work). Choose a medium-size spatula that feels comfortable in your hand.

Big brother to the cookie or ice cream scoop, a muffin scoop dishes out 1/4 cup of muffin, cupcake, or pancake batter, easily, evenly, and quickly. Cupcakes or muffins will have smoother, rounder tops (and pancakes will be evenly sized) when they're deposited into the pan with a muffin scoop.

To shape the dough for éclairs or cream puffs, or to decorate a cake, use a pastry bag, a cone made of plastic-lined canvas, or single-use parchment or plastic. Batter or icing is spooned into the bag, then squeezed out through a decorative chrome-plated or stainless steel metal tip. Tips come in a huge array of designs and sizes the beginning cake decorator does well to purchase a basic kit, which will include a bag, and about a dozen different tips and accompanying paraphernalia (couplers, cleaners, etc.)

To combine flour and fat quickly and evenly when making pie crust, use a pastry blender, a series of parallel stainless steel wires or thin stainless blades shaped in a half-moon, with a handle on top. The baker gently chops down on the fat and flour (think of mashing potatoes with a hand masher) until the fat chunks are the desired size—large for flaky pastry, small for crisp pastry. A pastry fork, which resembles an oversized dinner fork with larger, thicker, wider-spaced tines, performs the same function.

A pastry wheel is used to cut strips of pie pastry for a lattice-top crust, cut circles of turnover dough, or for any kind of dough-cutting chore. A standard pastry wheel resembles a miniature pizza wheel, with a circular blade that's only 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. A deckle-edge wheel lends a zig-zag pattern to the edges of cut pastry dough. A sealing pastry wheel (also called a ravioli cutter) is designed to both seal and cut dough in one motion, useful for making ravioli or turnovers.

A pie crust shield—a round, flat piece of lightweight aluminum—replaces the crumpled strips of foil our mothers used to shield their piecrusts. Sized to fit a standard 9-inch pie, the shield sits very gently atop any fancy fluted edges just be sure not to put it on till the edge has had a chance to set, 20 minutes or so into the baking time. Also, don't wait until the edge of the crust is perfectly browned before adding the shield even with the shield it will continue to brown, albeit slowly, so add the shield while the crust is still a light golden brown.

The rolling pin is a critical tool for shaping all kinds of baked goods, so it's important to have one that works well, and that you enjoy using. A good all-around size, for rolling dough on a counter or board, is a pin with a 10-inch barrel.

The most important part of a rolling pin is its barrel. Barrels are made from stainless steel, marble, non-stick aluminum, nylon, wood, composite, or even glass (an empty glass pin, designed to be filled with chilled water). Our favorite is heavy wood, or stainless steel the weight of either takes much of the effort out of rolling. A pin that can be chilled before using (e.g., a marble or metal pin) will help keep the fat in piecrust and puff pastry from melting as you roll.

Another factor to consider is the pin's rolling mechanism. In some pins, the barrel simply rotates on a thin rod inserted through the center on others, ball bearings help the rolling motion along. Ball-bearing pins give you a smoother “ride.”


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