When most people think of homemade sourdough bread, they think of beautiful free-form loaves – the kinds of loaves that you flip out of a banneton basket and bake in a Dutch oven. But, honestly, sourdough bread doesn’t have to be that complicated. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably asked yourself: can you bake sourdough bread in a loaf pan?
Yes, you can bake sourdough bread in a loaf pan. After the dough has gone through bulk fermentation, form the dough into an oval shape and place it into the pan seam-side-down. Let the dough proof for 2-4 hours at room temperature, then bake it at 425°F for 35-45 minutes until fully baked.
In this article, I’ll show you step-by-step how to shape your sourdough bread for a loaf pan. I’ll also give you some tips on the best way to approach baking sourdough in a pan. While there are some similarities, it’s quite a bit different than baking in a Dutch oven!
Table of Contents
– The 4 Benefits of Baking Sourdough in a Loaf Pan
– Tutorial: How to Shape Sourdough Bread for a Loaf Pan
– My 3 Tips for Baking PERFECT Sourdough in a Loaf Pan
– Recipe: Loaf Pan Sourdough Bread
4 Benefits of Baking Sourdough in a Loaf Pan
1. You don’t need to use a baking stone, but you can if you want to
The first thing to know is that you don’t need to use a baking stone if you’re using a loaf pan. When you’re baking a free-form loaf, most people baking their bread inside a Dutch oven or on top of a pizza stone. The heat from the stone or cast iron gives the bread great oven spring. The bottom of the bread gets a great crust too.
If you’re baking bread in a loaf pan, however, you don’t need to use a baking stone. The dough will already be supported by the loaf pan, so it won’t need a flat surface to sit on top of in the oven. Plus, although the heat from a baking stone gives bread a nice boost in the oven, your bread will spring up just fine if you don’t use a baking stone.
Long story short, if you have a pizza stone that lives permanently in your oven, go ahead and bake right on top of that. But, if you don’t have a baking stone yet, there’s no need to go out and buy one just for sourdough bread. Bake your bread in a loaf pan and you can slide the pan right into the middle rack of the oven. It’ll turn out fine.
2. Shaping isn’t quite as important as with free-form loaves
When you’re baking a free-form loaf, shaping is super important. If you don’t shape your dough with the correct amount of tension, in won’t hold its shape during baking and you’ll end up with a pancake instead of a loaf of bread. We’ve all had those super flat sourdough loaves from when we first started baking sourdough.
If you bake your sourdough in a loaf pan, shaping isn’t actually as important! Of course you don’t just want to dump your loose dough into the pan without any shaping at all. But, the magic of the loaf pan is that the walls of the pan support the dough as it proofs and as it bakes. So, even if you shape your dough with poor tension, it can still rise up nice and tall in the oven thanks to the pan. It’s perfect for beginners, because you’ll see success even while you’re honing your new shaping skills.
3. Loaf pans are better for sandwiches
Loaf pans produce loaves of bread that are the perfect shape for a slice of toast or for a sandwich. While free-form loaves can sometimes be wide and awkwardly shaped for sandwiches, with a loaf pan your slice of bread can have those nice straight sides and a domed top – the perfect shape for a sandwich.
Baking in a pan also keeps the crumb structure of your bread a little bit more even. That means you won’t have as many large holes in the middle of your slice of sourdough bread.
While those holes are usually a sign of good fermentation in sourdough, you don’t want your mustard or mayo slipping through a hole in your bread. So, for a sandwich, a loaf pan is the best way to bake your bread, in my opinion.
4. You can bake at a lower temperature
Finally, you can bake at a lower temperature when you’re baking in a loaf pan. Since the goal with pan bread is usually a slightly soft sandwich loaf, lower temperatures will produce a softer crust in your bread which will be easier to slice through.
So, instead of cranking your oven all the way up to 500°F, you can successfully bake your sourdough bread at 425° or 450°F if you’re using a loaf pan. This is great for people whose ovens don’t reach high temperatures consistently, and for people who don’t want overheat their home while baking – especially in the summer!
OK. Now, let’s get into the specifics on how you should shape your sourdough bread when using a loaf pan. Here’s a quick tutorial.
Tutorial: How to Shape Sourdough Bread for a Loaf Pan
Here’s are four steps to shaping sourdough bread for a loaf pan:
- After bulk fermentation, pre-shape the dough into a round ball. Let it rest for 15-30 minutes, covered or uncovered.
- Then, shape the round ball of dough into an oval shape, just like you would do for shaping a free-form “batard.” Remember to create a good amount of tension in the dough as your roll it up.
- Pinch the seam closed and then transfer the dough, seam-side-down, into your loaf pan.
- Cover the dough up, and it’s ready to proof.
3 Tips for Baking Perfect Sourdough Bread in a Loaf Pan
1. For a domed top, proof the dough longer and don’t score it
To get a nice rounded, domed-off top on your loaf you’ll need to give the dough an extra long final proof, and don’t score it. Skipping the scoring, and letting the dough proof to almost its full extent, will give you a nice domed top on your bread.
2. To avoid your loaf ripping on the sides, proof the dough longer than you’d expect
My sandwich breads always used to rip somewhere along the side of the bread pan. I tried scoring the dough differently, but nothing seemed to keep the bread from ripping. Then, I realized what the problem was – I wasn’t proofing the dough for a long enough time.
When you bake sourdough bread in a loaf pan, the pan creates a natural weak spot in the dough along the edge of the pan. If your dough has A LOT of oven spring in the oven, it will most likely rip somewhere alongside the pan during the bake. So, to avoid your bread ripping on the sides, proof the dough longer during the final proof.
Assume your dough will rise a certain amount during the final proof and in the oven. Let’s call this amount “100% risen.” To keep your bread from ripping while it bakes, you’ll want to proof the dough until it’s about 90% risen. Then when you put it in the oven, it will only have about 10% left to rise. In theory, the small amount of rise won’t be enough to cause the bread to rip. It will just puff up to its full extent, and then stop – leaving you with a perfectly risen loaf of sourdough bread.
3. Extend the baking time by 5-10 minutes more than what you’re used to
If you’re used to baking sourdough bread in a Dutch oven or in something like the Challenger Bread Pan, you might notice that bread baked in a loaf pan takes a little longer to bake.
For example, I usually bake my regular sourdough for 20 minutes with steam (Dutch oven lid on) and 15 minutes without steam (lid off). This usually gets my sourdough bread to an internal temperature of 190dF or higher.
But, for my loaf pan sourdough breads, I usually need to let them bake for an additional 5-10 minutes at the end of the bake time to reach the same internal temperature. Part of this is due to baking at a lower temperature, but it’s also because the dough is somewhat blocked from the heat by the pan. So, don’t be surprised if you’re bread needs a few extra minutes to be fully baked.
Sourdough Bread for a Loaf Pan – Recipe
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Additional Time: 8 hours
Total Time: 8 hours 55 minutes
- Bread Flour - 450 grams
- Water - 300 grams
- Salt - 10 grams
- Sourdough Starter (active) - 100 grams
- Feeding Your Starter: Feed your starter 4-8 hours before you want to make your dough. I usually feed it the night before. Take 25 grams of starter and mix it with 50 grams of bread flour and 50 grams of water. Let the mixture rise on the counter for 4-8 hours or until doubled in size. Then, it's ready to use.
- Mixing the Dough: In a large mixing bowl, combine the water, active sourdough starter, and salt. Stir it all together until the starter and salt dissolve. Then add the flour on top of the wet ingredients. Stir the flour into the water until a shaggy dough forms and there aren't any dry bits of flour left. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
- The First Rise: Now, give the dough one set of stretch and folds. Grab the north edge of the dough and fold it over towards the south. Then fold the south edge of the dough over towards the north. Then fold the east end of the dough to the west, and fold the west end of the dough over toward the east. Cover the dough and let it rest again for 30 minutes. Repeat this stretch and fold process until you've completed three sets of stretches and folds with 30 minutes of rest in between each. After the third set, let the dough continue to rise for 3 1/2 to 6 hours. You're looking for the dough to roughly double in size.
- Pre-shaping: When the dough has increased in volume (almost double in size) and jiggles a little bit when you shake the bowl, it's ready to shape. Shape the dough in a smooth ball. Cover it, and let it rest 30 minutes.
- Final Shape: Half an hour later, uncover the dough and form it into an oval or log shape that's just a little bit smaller than your loaf pan. Pinch the seam of the dough closed and transfer the dough gently into the loaf pan with the seam side facing down. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and let it rise at room temperature for 2-4 hours.
- Preparing the Oven: 30 minutes before you're ready to bake, preheat your oven to 425°F (218°C). Place metal pie pan or cake pan on the bottom rack. This will act as a steam tray later.
- Proofing: If you have proofed your dough on the shorter side (for around two hours) you can score it across the top with a bread lame or razor blade before baking. If you have let the dough fully proof (for around 3-4 hours) there's no need to score the dough at all.
- Baking with Steam: Slide your bread pan into the middle of the center rack of your oven and pour some hot water into the steam tray below. This will add steam to your oven during the first half of the bake. Close the oven door and let the dough bake for 20 minutes.
- Baking without Steam: 20 minutes later, lower the oven temperature to 350°F (180°C). Carefully remove the steam tray from the oven and let the bread continue baking for another 20-30 minutes until the internal temperature of the bread reaches at least 190°F (88°C).
- Cooling: Remove the bread from the oven and carefully slide the bread out of the pan. Move it to a wire rack to cool for at least one hour before slicing.
With a few tweaks to the process, it’s really easy to bake a standard sourdough bread in a loaf pan. Give this recipe a try, and while you’re at it, check out my ebook, No-Nonsense Sourdough. There are 18 creative sourdough bread recipes that I can’t wait to share with you. Check out the ebook here!