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A French bread pan is a cooking pan which is specifically designed for cooking baguettes and French rolls. The pan is intended to promote even browning of the bread, which will lead to a crispy, chewy crust and a delicate inner crumb. When baking French bread and baguettes at home, a French bread pan can be a very useful tool, yielding more dependable results than more traditional pans. Some kitchen supply stores carry the pans, and they can also be special ordered through purveyors which focus on baking and bread tools.
The most typical design for a French bread pan looks like an oversized piece of corrugated steel. Each corrugation can hold a single loaf, with a basic pan having enough room for two loaves. Larger pans are also available for more industrial applications. In many cases, the manufacturer perforates the metal of the pan to allow air to flow all the way around the bread. These perforations also create the familiar browned divots which often appear on the bottoms of loaves of breads.
Baguettes are considered by many bakers to be the quintessential French loaf. These breads are characterized by being long and skinny, and when they are well made they are dense and crusty with a faint hint of sourness. The crusty, flavorful breads are a common accompaniment to picnics, and they pair well with a wide range of cheeses and spreads. While it does take time to learn to make baguettes at home, freshly baked bread is considered by some cooks to be well worth the effort.
Several different materials can be used to make French bread pans. The best material is metal, since it will help the bread to develop a good crust. Many companies make nonstick pans, which can certainly be helpful, although they are not required. Other companies make pans from silicone, which unfortunately is not a very good choice, since it will not allow the crust to develop fully.
When picking out a French bread pan, look for sturdy pans which can stand up to serious wear. You may also want to consider how easy the pan is to clean. In the case of a perforated pan, for example, you should find out if the pan is dishwasher safe, or if you can use a heavy scrubbing brush on the pan. If you have to treat the surface gently because it is covered in a nonstick layer, the French bread pan may ultimately end up soiled.
So that's what that thing is. When I moved into my current apartment, it came with a lot of kitchen equipment. Well, I don't cook, so I have no idea what half of the things are for. I've been gradually stumbling on the names and descriptions of different things in my kitchen over the past year, and this article led me know that the thing I thought was an avant-garde silverware sorter is actually a perforated french bread and baguette pan.
Who knew? I always thought that bakers just had some sort of magic that made the buns turn out that way. And as for the little holes in the bottom...well, I just assumed that they were to
let any water fall off of the silverware after you washed it.
Now that I know though, I might try and turn my hand at baking bread -- I recently found out from a friend that I also have a "bread bowl" (again, I thought it was a fruit bowl -- see how cooking incompetent I am?)
Very interesting article, though -- I'll have to page through the rest of the "Food and Cooking" section to see if I recognize any more of my kitchen equipment!
Fascinating article! I had no idea that you could actually get a pan that would shape your baguettes for you.
I had always tried to make French bread on just a normal baking sheet (like a jelly roll pan), and I could never figure out why I couldn't get the same results that you see on traditional French bread and baguettes.
Now I know -- I've been using the wrong equipment the whole time! I will definitely have to go out and get a French bread pan now that I know the perfect baguettes and loaves are within reach.
Thanks for cluing me in wisegeek!
Wait, I'm a little bit confused. Why would a French bread pan be easier to get dirty than any normal baking pan?
I know that it's got the little holes and divots, but surely that can't make it that much more difficult to clean?
And besides, it's just bread dough that's going on the pan, not something just ridiculously sticky. Maybe I'm over reading the article -- but I've never had any problem with cleaning my perforated French bread pan, and it's not any kind of specially designed one.
Did I just get lucky and get a really great pan? Does anybody else reading this have trouble cleaning their pan, like the article says? I'm really curious about this now -- I'll have to ask my other baking friends if they ever have trouble keeping their French bread pans clean.
Thanks for an informative and interesting article!