I baked bread for many years when decent bread was almost impossible to get in Australia (my husband's German and was horrified by the bread when he first came here) but gave up baking my own and bought sourdough when it became freely available. However, a visit to Graham's bakery in Oatlands, Tasmania last year inspired me to start making my own sourdough. I have been doing this for several weeks now with quite good success but I use tins rather than free-forming the loaves. Is there any real advantage in free-forming them over using tins - other than the aesthetics?
Free Form creates a lovely chewy crust that many people love over using a bread pan for baking. Free form baked bread is more eye appealing for many people, too. Hope this helps answer your question. M
Thanks for the tip. I do seem to get quite a good crust even with the tins (I grease them with Coconut Oil - don't know if this makes a difference or not) but I will try a free-form one and see how it goes. Do I need to use a Banneton? A
Hi Annel, I answered this type of question on another bread blog, so if you don't mind, I've copied it below for you. Banneton baskets are also known as Brotform or proofing baskets.
"I've used a brotform - long oval which, of course, is very well floured. So, when I plop the dough into the clay baker there is just so much flour that I have not had a problem with sticking. For bread stickies, guess I'd soak it for a few minutes then use a scraper to loosen the rest. These clay bakers will discolor naturally with use. If you are concerned about this, then use the parchment paper method. I'm the only one in my HBin5 group that doesn't line the baker & this baker is used, exclusively, for bread.
I have heard of using the crockpot insert for bread baking. No experience, myself, since I don't have one of those. I'm remembering someone who tried this & they used parchment paper(PP)too. The reason is the bread needs to come out for cooling immediately & having PP or PP strips as handles worked quite well. This method can be used for dutch ovens too. Just remember any utensil that can survive a 500 degree oven for 30 minutes can be used for bread baking, even your Pyrex bowls. And any container can be used as a brotform, even your garden straw hat! :-) Yep, someone I know has tried it and it worked!"
So, to properly answer your question, no, you do not need a banneton. Any ?'s, let me know. M
re "Is there any real advantage in free-forming [sourdough] over using tins - other than the aesthetics"
This depends entirely on the kind of bread you want to make.
Basically, sourdough bread baked in tins results in a softer crust and a more even interior (e.g. no visible holes in the interior). The shape of the loaf is convenient for sandwiches. Baking bread dough in tins is easier to do in many ovens as the required heat is lower and the tin helps preserve the shape of the dough as it bakes.
Sourdough bread baked freeform on a baking stone produces, if properly done, a marked contrast between a crisp crust and a softer interior. The interior of the bread tends to be more open (e.g. more holes in the baked loaf). For a home baker, making successful freeform loaves demands a better quality oven and/or a well-honed understanding of how to achieve this result in the oven you own.
As far as aesthetics goes, IMHO, a well risen and well baked loaf baked in a tin is as attractive as a well risen and well baked freeform loaf. I do, however, realize that this goes against popular opinion.
I've been baking bread successfully for a few years & I've never had good results baking freeform - it always ends up flat & dense. I've tried numerous suggestions: using a baking stone, in a Dutch Oven etc. so far no success, so personally, since I bake bread to eat rather than to look at, I always go for a tin.
I think the reason your bread is flat and dense might be about the proving. The dense crumb might come from when you over prove it. When you over-prove, the gluten bond in your dough not strong enough to hold the air in the dough. We were studied in Physics that when the air heat up, it will expand and that why you will she your bread puff up when you prove and bake it in right way.
_ The second reason I would think about is the heat you use to bake the bread. If the crust cook before the crumb, the bread will have densed crumb as well. When your bread come out, it will flat as time as it cool down. Like I bake croissaint first couple time, I get densed crumb, not honeycomb like the real croissaint.
_ The third reason is the hydration in your dough.