Can you bake sourdough in a loaf pan? Absolutely! Using a sandwich loaf tin is a great option for baking sourdough bread. It creates a uniform loaf of bread that’s perfect for sandwiches and doesn’t require a Dutch oven!
Why I love tin loaf sourdough bread
Free form sourdough loaves are undeniably beautiful! But not all loaves need to be baked in this way. In fact, baking sourdough bread in a loaf pan has a few unique advantages:
Sandwich loaf pans provide structure, dough won’t spread and flatten out like free-form loaves. While you can bake any type of bread in a sandwich loaf pan, it's especially great for dough that has a weaker structure like high-hydration bread, or bread made with a higher proportion of spelt, rye or whole wheat.
Makes even slices of bread. Freeform loaves are beautiful but the slices rarely match up. Breads baked in a loaf pan are perfect for sandwiches!
No need to move the dough after the second rise. Final proof, scoring, and baking are all done in one container, so there’s no need to fiddle with your dough after the second rise.
Eliminates the need to invest in specialty tools, most home bakers already have a loaf pan, so there’s no need to purchase specialized bread equipment such as bannetons, Dutch ovens, or an expensive Challenger Bread Pan.
Great for newbies! Using a sandwich tin is a great way to bake sourdough for new bakers who are not as comfortable with shaping since the loaf pan provides support and structure for the dough.
Importance of steam in bread baking
Steam is a vital part of bread baking because it helps maximize oven spring.
Bread bakes at extremely high temperatures and without steam the crust hardens too quickly preventing the dough from rising completely. Without steam, bread will bake up compacted with a dense crumb and a very hard, thick crust. Steam keeps the crust soft and elastic, allowing the dough to expand completely. This helps bread develop an open crumb and a beautiful rounded shape.
How to create steam without a Dutch oven
Bakeries and industrial kitchens are injected with steam, however, most conventional home ovens do not have this feature which requires home bakers to exercise more creativity.
The easiest way to create steam while baking is to use a Dutch oven. As bread bakes, water in the dough evaporates creating water vapor.
The heavy duty cast iron or enamel lid of a Dutch oven provides a seal that naturally traps water vapor in. This mimics the humid environment created by steam-injected ovens. However, you can still introduce steam in your oven and bake homemade sourdough bread even without a Dutch oven!
To create steam, all you need to do is add a water pan while your bread bakes. Ideally a metal baking pan or loaf pan filled with water. This will create a moist environment that's ideal for bread baking. You can even add ice cubes into the water pan which will generate extra steam in your oven.
What you need
- You can bake any sourdough bread in a loaf pan (try my basic sourdough recipe)
- Pullman pan or loaf pan
- Water pan
- Ice cubes
- Baking stone or pizza stone (optional)
- Make the dough and complete first rise
- After bulk fermentation, shape dough into a long cylinder
- Place shaped dough into a loaf pan lined with parchment paper with the seam side down
- Cover pan with plastic wrap or plastic bag and place it into the refrigerator overnight
- The next day preheat oven to 475 F with racks in the bottom and middle positions
- Place a water pan filled with about 1 inch of water in the bottom rack
- Score the top of the dough and transfer to the oven on the middle rack
- Add ice cubes into the water pan and close the door
- Bake bread for 20 minutes
- Remove water pan, lower temperature to 425 F and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes
Questions about scoring? Check out my Sourdough Bread Scoring Guide.
How to shape a sandwich loaf
Shaping is extremely important for the look and structure of freeform loaves. You’ll need to create enough surface tension so that your loaf can maintain its form and not collapse as it bakes.
Since a loaf pan provides support both during proofing and baking, your shaping technique becomes less important. The loaf pan also causes the loaf to rise higher. So if you get your proofing right, you’ll have a taller loaf that won’t flatten out.
1. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured work surface
2. Form a rectangle and fold the top left corner towards the center
3. Fold the right corner to meet the left
4. Fold the top down
5. Fold the sides towards the middle
6. Roll the dough towards yourself
7. Pinch the ends of the dough
8. Place the dough into a prepared pan with the seam-side down
How to bake sourdough in a loaf pan
Unless you have a steam oven, you’ll have to use a water pan to bake sourdough bread in a loaf pan.
How to use a water pan for baking bread:
- Position wire rack in the middle and bottom of the oven. Place pizza stone on the middle rack, if using.
- Preheat oven to 475 F.
- Place a water pan filled with 1-inch of water on the bottom rack.
- Score the surface of the dough.
- Transfer loaf pan to the middle rack (on top of baking stone, if using)
- Add ice cubes to the water pan and quickly close the door.
- Bake the bread dough for 20 minutes.
- Remove the water pan
- Continue baking for another 10 to 15 minutes without the water pan
- Remove your bread from the oven once center of the loaf registers at least 190 F when probed with an instant read thermometer and the crust is golden brown or has reached your desired level of color.
No. You can bake the dough straight out of the refrigerator. Fermentation continues in the refrigerator at a very slow rate, but it’s enough for the bread dough to rise for baking. Cold dough is much easier to score and helps with oven spring.
As dough bakes, heat speeds up fermentation. This causes carbon dioxide production to go on overdrive, and results in a dramatic rise in your bread during the first moments of baking. This is why an extremely hot oven is important for baking bread, a baking stone intensifies the temperature which results in better oven spring.
Yes! Simply shape your loaf into a cylinder shape instead of a boule or batard. Then proof your dough in a loaf pan instead of a banneton and use a water pan during baking.
The high heat required for bread baking is usually too hot for most glass loaf pans. Using one to bake sourdough bread is not ideal and not recommended, as your glass pan could crack and shatter in the oven. The same goes for a terra cotta bread baker. I would recommend using a metal or aluminum pan.
The size of the pan you need depends on the weight of the dough for your recipe! Pullman pans and loaf pans come in all sizes. Around 600 grams of dough will fit in a 9 by 4-inch loaf pan.
Yes! Scoring creates a weak point in your dough, this gives steam a place to escape as your bread bakes. If it isn’t scored, your bread could burst in random places resulting in an uneven loaf.
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Sourdough Sandwich Loaf Recipe
- 9 by 4-inch Pullman pan
- 28 grams sourdough starter mature, unfed
- 56 grams water
- 56 grams all-purpose flour
- 270 grams bread flour
- 30 grams whole wheat flour
- 200 grams water
- 100 grams sourdough starter active
- 6 grams salt
- Activate your starter: Mix the unfed starter, water and all-purpose flour in a small container. Let your starter ferment until doubled or tripled in volume (about 4 to 6 hours).28 grams sourdough starter, 56 grams water, 56 grams all-purpose flour
- Mix your dough:In a large mixing bowl, combine water and active sourdough starter. Stir until the starter is almost completely dissolved. Fold the whole wheat flour into the starter mixture. Add all of the bread flour and salt. Stir using a wooden spoon or your hands until no dry traces of flour remain.270 grams bread flour, 30 grams whole wheat flour, 200 grams water, 100 grams sourdough starter, 6 grams salt
- Fold the dough:Complete a set of stretch and folds by picking up one side of the dough and folding it over itself. Repeat until all sides are folded. Transfer the dough to a lightly-oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 1 hour.
- Strengthen the dough and bulk ferment:As your dough ferments, perform 3 to 4 sets of coil folds inside the bowl at 30 minute intervals, cover your bowl with plastic wrap after you complete each fold. Your dough should appear smooth and pass the windowpane test after the last fold.
- Bench rest:After your last fold, let the dough rest for 1 hour untouched in a warm place. Your dough should look puffy and should increase in volume during this period.
- Shape the dough:Prepare your Pullman pan or loaf pan by greasing it with olive oil or butter, or lining it with a piece of parchment paper.
- Turn your dough out on a lightly-floured work surface. Lightly flatten the dough out into a rectangle (be gentle so you do not pop the air bubbles build up during fermentation).
- Fold the left and right corner of the dough towards the center.
- Fold the tip down towards the center.
- Roll the dough towards yourself into a tight cylinder.
- Pinch the ends of the cylinder. Place the dough into the prepared pan with the seam-side down.
- Cold proof:Cover the pan with plastic wrap. Place your dough inside the refrigerator and proof overnight.
- Prepare for baking:Preheat your oven to 475 F with the wire racks positioned in the middle and bottom. Place pizza stone in the middle (if using). Allow oven to heat up for at least 1 hour.
- 15 minutes prior to baking, place a water pan filled with at least 1-inch of water on the bottom rack of your oven.
- Score:Cut a long slash on the top of the dough with a sharp knife or a lame.
- Bake:Transfer the loaf pan into the middle rack (on top of the baking stone, if using).
- Add ice cubes into your water pan and quickly close the door. Bake for 20 minutes.
- Remove the water pan and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes or until the center of the loaf registers at 190 F when probed with an instant read thermometer and the crust reaches your desired color.
- Cool: Transfer the sandwich tin to a cooling rack. Let the dough cool for at least 15 minutes before turning it out of the pan.
- Serve:Allow the loaf to cool for at least 2 hours, before slicing.
- Store:Store any leftover slices in a ziplock bag for up to 5 days at room temperature.