Lately I’ve been baking bread in a loaf pan for variety and also pragmatic reasons. Kid’s lunches are more easily made with rectangular slices of bread, and when the kid himself suggests it, it’s always a good idea to listen. The semi-random fluctuations of flour types in the pantry have made for some interesting variations lately: a wheat/spelt/triticale mixture, and more recently a whole wheat/rye blend where the only white flour came from the starter. Both were very good eating; the spelt has a nice nutty flavor, and triticale is subtle, combining aspects of its parents wheat and rye. The whole wheat and rye loaf is a thing of fragrant beauty–it tastes amazing–though really more of the inner beauty variety. These rectangular loaves are practical, yes, but they lack the compellingly oblate topography of a boule.

To fit nicely in the loaf pan and get good height, I’ve been making a batch of dough that’s 50% larger than the single recipe. Using different proportions of different flours in almost every loaf is helping me slowly understand some of the finer points of this whole baking thing. Besides the very many variations on grilled cheese and smoked meat sandwiches I’ve been enjoying (I had a reuben for breakfast yesterday) the bread also came in handy for a meal we had here on Sunday where Rich from Elephant came over to cook a mess of offal for my next article. Among the things he brought was a wonderful chicken and pork liver terrine that was sexy as hell with the fig jam (figs, raisins, port, sherry vinegar) he made to go with it. Having crusty, chewy, whole-grain bread on hand to use as a substrate definitely contributed to the perfection of this bite.

I was going to post this yesterday, but the power went out and today was another snow day (Woo-hoo! Five-day weekend!) So it’s been busy. Tomorrow I’ll have something nicer, I promise.

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  1. Andrew
    January 20

    Teach your kid to think outside the rectangle! The loaf pan walls do help keep the dough contained when it’s rising though. The boule can get a little flat and wide if you’re not using a banneton or something to keep it from acquiring that sexy muffin top look. So using a loaf pan doesn’t make you less of a man. I like to use them to make the most of limited oven space when I’m baking six loaves at a time. The loaves are also easier to store efficiently if you’re freezing them.

    Have you ever tried converting your starter to 100% whole wheat? It’s easy and works very well, to the point that I smeared my white starter out to dry and sporulate and ground it up into granules to give to friends and keep in the basement in case my whole wheat starter explodes or walks out on me.

  2. January 20

    I had to smile that the suggestion came from the kid. He’s no dummy. And my guess is that people came up with loaf pans in the first place for a reason, perhaps all the reasons Andrew cited.

  3. January 20

    Eh, that loaf has plenty of topography, rectangular base or no.

    I’ve been reading Raising Cain lately, and I always wonder how my son’s eventual anti-mom backlash will rear its ugly head. I assume it will be against the “weird” lunches I pack him. I hope Milo can rise above the pack’s requirement of status quo brown bags, ’cause brother, that is one lucky kid.

  4. Peter
    January 21

    Andrew: He seems to like squarer sandwiches better, but he also loves baguettes. I have a banneton, too. I should probably make a ww starter too; thanks for reminding me. I like the idea of drying some as a reserve as well. Thanks for your comments.

    Zoomie: Yes, they’re very practical.

    Blanche: Just remember the most important thing about parenting: if you do it wrong, your child will hate you and/or die. It’s vitally important that you lie awake nights grinding your teeth in impotent terror at the inevitability of this outcome.

  5. January 24

    I am with Andrew: I use loaf pans just so I can make more bread (mostly in the masonry oven). But! I have all sizes of pans: the sandwich one is a loaf pan that’s nearly 20″ long. And yeah, my starter has switched to ww over time.

    fwiw my kid doesn’t rebel on the lunchbox issues. In point of fact, she brings bread and goat cheese to share with her peeps. Thus, the 20″ pan.

    What on earth was on top of that terrine to be orange? pig fat?

  6. Peter
    January 24

    Yup. It does a body good. There will be a recipe in the article.

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