One reason bread dough doesn’t raise satisfactorily is that the bread pan it’s in is too large.
Unless your bread recipe calls for more than four cups of flour, you may be using a bread pan that’s really too big for the size of your loaf.
Why does the pan size matter? A small amount of dough in a large pan will push out sideways as it rises rather than pushing up. That means a flat loaf, which may taste okay, but it won’t look like you want it to. It may not rise as fully as it would in a smaller size pan and may be heavier than you would like.
The ideal size bread pan for a two-pound loaf (recipe calls for between 3 and 4 cups of flour) is 8.5 x 4.5 inches. That forces the dough to rise high instead of wide!
It may sound picky, but even using a 9x5 pan to bake a 2-pound loaf can give you less-than-satisfactory results.
If that means you need to look for a new bread pan, the good news is that this size pan is often available for less than $5 (online). As you search for a new pan, know that 9x5 is a very standard size. If that size worked for your mother or grandmother, they were probably making a larger loaf.
Another solution to using the right size pan is to find a bread recipe for a larger loaf. Look for one that calls for between 4 and 6 cups of flour. If your dough recipe calls for more flour than that, you’ll probably need two pans.
Another consideration when selecting a bread pan is the type of pan. I avoid non-stick pans due to concerns about the absorption of chemicals into my dough.
On the other hand, I also avoid glass pans because bread readily sticks to the bottom and sides when it bakes, no matter how well you coat the pan.
The Wilton company makes a stainless steel pan that’s 8.5 x 4.5 inches. My personal favorite is the USA aluminized steel loaf pan. While it costs more than a stainless steel pan, it’s corrugated surface “facilitates air circulation for evenly baked goods and quick release.” This pan is constructed of recycled steel.
I coat my pans and my bread doesn’t stick to the pan. Since the USA pans are heavy gauge, commercial grade pans, I’ll be able to use them for years.
A word about silicone pan inserts – I tried a set of these and was very disappointed in the result. Perhaps I wasn’t using them correctly. Whatever the case, I don’t use them.
There are numerous brands of loaf pans on the market. Once you determine which size and type you want to use, you may want to consider buying two or three. If you bake multiple loaves of bread at any time, having at least one spare pan is very convenient.
I’ll also add that I’m not saying you can’t use a 9x5 loaf pan or a glass pan to bake bread. Just know that, if you do, the results may be different than what you expected.
Longtime journalist Loretta Sorensen is the author of, “Secrets To Baking Your Best Bread Ever!” and regularly shares recipes and information about bread baking on her website, www.bakeyourbestever.com.
You’ll find her book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and at www.bakeyourbestever.com. Her weekly bread baking posts are featured at “Mother Earth Living,” “Grit Magazine,” Facebook (Secrets to Baking Your Best Ever), Twitter @bakeyourbestever and Pinterest at “Secrets to Baking Your Best Bread Ever.”