The Fugue Counterpoint by Hans Fugal


Sourdough in Bread Pans

A lot of people will tell you you shouldn't put sourdough in metal. Some even go so far as to say you shouldn't use a metal spoon to stir it. That's all nonsense. It's not hydrochloric acid, it's food.

However, when you leave sourdough in a vessel for an extended period of time, and that vessel is not non-reactive, it will react. (The same as tomato sauce will.) It turns out, aluminized steel is one of those substances, and my precious Chicago Metallic pan is ruined from a few very long and sour proofs (10+ hours). Also a lot of scratches from metal knives trying to release stubborn loaves, have taken their toll. As it turns out aluminized steel is steel coated with an aluminum-silicone coating, so you should probably treat it as you would non-stick, even if it claims to be "uncoated" (meaning it doesn't have a non-stick coating). Use plastic utensils to wage war with your stubborn bread.

I'm not sure whether regular non-stick coatings are non-reactive or not, but I'm not a fan of tiptoeing around my cookware so I avoid non-stick.

So I'm buying a Stainless Steel Loaf Pan. I considered silicon too, but I hear horror stories of bad smells at high heat and not keeping their shape with a heavy loaf. And I'm not sure if they'll brown well (stainless is supposed to be less-good for browning that aluminum or aluminized steel, but oh well).

If you already have aluminized steel pans I'm sure you can bake sourdough in them, just watch out for long sour proofs, and use plastic.


Loaf Sizes

So I recently got fed up with making the wrong amount of dough for the intended loaf pan. I did some looking and didn't really find a definitive guide for loaf pan sizes and bread recipes. But I did find an underlying mostly-unwritten consensus, which I will share with you now.

A "standard" loaf here in the states is about 1lb and baked in a 8.5x4.5 pan. At Wal-Mart yesterday here in Las Cruces, there were no metal pans of this variety, some foil pans of the right size but labeled 2lb (2 lb of what? I have no idea), and pyrex pans of this size. (I have one of those and I don't like it, although this is my preferred loaf size to make). The most constant property of a standard loaf seems to be that it uses 3 cups of flour. This of course seems ludicrous when you consider that measuring flour by volume is ridiculously variable, but I suppose it gets you in the ballpark. For the record, that's approximately 15 oz of flour, i.e. just shy of 1 lb flour alone. In my experience this is the appropriate size loaf for this pan.

An "oversized" loaf loaf is supposedly about 4 cups of flour (so about 20 oz). The pan is 10x5 or thereabouts. My jury is still out on this, but I find that a 2lb loaf actually fits better in my oversized pan. Maybe I just like lofty crests. So I'd go 5–6 cups flour (25–30 oz). Wal-Mart had several of these in metal, labeled loaf pan or meat loaf pan.

My favorite pan is longer, about 4x12, and probably a tea loaf pan. This also makes 1.5–2lb. I found, surprisingly, that it takes about the same amount of dough as the oversized pan.

(Note, I own none of the linked pans above, but my pans are similar in size. Those are more like my wishlist pans, with the exception of the last where I already have the perfect tea loaf pan)

Now how do they compare in volume? Well assuming you want similar height (all these pans are roughly the same height), we can just compare the area. Standard pan is 38 square inches, oversized is 50 square inches, and tea pan is about 48 square inches. So the oversized loaf is 1.3 times as large as the standard loaf. Why then do I find 1.5 times as much dough even lacking? I don't know, this is a true mystery. I think it has to do with aesthetics and me wanting a higher crest for a wider loaf. Even more mysterious to me is the tea loaf, which is narrow, seeming to swallow the dough. But when we look at how it is fairly close to the same size as the oversized loaf, it makes sense.

So there you go. How about a recipe for a standard loaf? Ok.

15 oz flour (abt 3 cups)
10 oz water (1.25 cup)
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 oz sourdough start