I have two long slim loaf pans, vintage pans from the 1950's, which are my very favorite pan for baking 1-lb sized loaves of quick bread. My mother used this kind of pan for her cranberry bread, and her loaves always turned out perfectly. Several years ago my father came across some identical pans and mailed to me for my birthday. When I unwrapped them I began to cry because I thought that they were hers. Luckily, Mom hadn't quite given up baking yet! But now she has, and her pans are going to my sister-in-law, who's an amazing cook.
The straight sides of these pans are perfect for molded terrines, frozen or layered desserts, or even cakes. The slices are very square. You can get a sense of the proportions in the pictures of my Yogurt Cake.
As luck would have it, I also have a pair of similar vintage pans that are just over half the capacity of the long ones. If I had to grab something on the way out of a burning kitchen, it would be these 4 pans!
What's even cooler is that one of these pans has a slide-on cover. It can function as a Pullman pan, although it has some rounded edges and corners where a Pullman's are quite square. I've seen some beautiful-looking recipes for Pullman yeast loaves, but when I was paging through Dan Lepard's The Art of Handmade Bread; Contemporary European Recipes for the Home Baker and saw Rice Bread, which he cooked in a Pullman pan, I just knew that was the one I had to try in my covered pan. (Dan's book was published in Britain as The Handmade Loaf)
- The dimensions of most Pullman pans are larger than my pans, so I figured that I'd need to scale the recipe. I did my best to compare my pan size with the one Dan specifies and scaled the recipe accordingly.
- Things got a little tricky when I had to convert from fresh yeast to instant and then scale the amount.
- Dan's bread-making method is absolutely fascinating; it borders on a no-knead bread. First you mix entirely by hand - using your fingers. Than you knead it on an oiled surface ever so briefly: for 10 seconds every 10 minutes or so, letting the dough rest and develop in between. After a few rounds, the dough rises in its rising bowl or bucket.
- After the bulk rise and the proofing, I was left with a little ball of dough that was nowhere near big enough to fill that loaf pan. So I grabbed one of the shorter pans. I figured I'd bake the loaf uncovered (an option listed in the recipe) but then I noticed that the same sliding cover actually fit on the smaller pan.
- The theory of the Pullman is that the bread will try to rise as it bakes, but the lid will constrain it, forcing the dough into every corner of the pan and producing a dense, tight crumb.
- The cover is placed on the pan for the second rise (proofing). Once it was in place, it was hard for me to gauge how much the bread had risen in the pan and to guess how much more it might want to rise in the oven. Finally it seemed to be at a good baking point. I let it bake over half the time undisturbed, then was able to slide the top (you want to generously grease every part of a pullman pan) to test for doneness.
- Even though the pan was smaller and the lid kept the top flat, the loaf didn't rise to fill the entire pan, so it ended up with rounded top edges - which happened to match the bottom edges! The pictures don't really show it, but this was a diminutive loaf - so cute! Each slice was smaller than a deck of cards.
- I loved how the rice grains were still visible in the crust (see, in the picture above?)
- I was actually amazed that this bread turned out!
Soon after the bread cooled, I cut a piece off to taste (well, OK, I cut it to photograph, but then we had to taste it!) The first thing my husband said when he took a bite was, "this bread tastes European." Bingo! How did he know?
I eat white bread so seldom that I forget just how good a good white bread can be. Although truth be told, I don't think I've ever had white bread that tastes this good! The rice adds a chewy, dense and moist element to the texture, and the underlying flavor will differ depending on the type of honey used and even the oil that's used for the kneading.
As good as the bread was plain - and it was really good plain - it was even more wonderful toasted. It crisped up on the outside but remained dense, chewy and moist inside. It was about as substantial as a white bread could get. A big punch from a little loaf!