When proofing sourdough or allowing it to ferment, you must select a suitable storage container. In this article, I’ll discuss whether using a loaf tin for sourdough proofing is a wise idea.
Can you proof sourdough in a loaf tin? You can proof sourdough in a loaf tin, but double-check that your tin is new and has no rust or pockmarks. Using a tin for fermentation is beneficial since the tin provides shape and a greased tin makes it easy to get your sourdough out after fermenting.
If this will be your first time proofing sourdough in a tin, this article is for you. Ahead, I’ll talk about the pros and cons of sourdough fermentation using this method as well as how it’s done in full detail, so keep reading!
Should You Proof Sourdough in a Loaf Tin?
When working with a sourdough starter, the proofing time is the most integral part of the dough’s success. Sourdough must proof for upwards of 24 hours, so the vessel you choose for it to ferment matters.
That brings us to loaf tins. To some bakers, the humble loaf tin seems like a viable proofing vessel for sourdough. Others prefer baskets.
You can choose whichever you like, but please don’t shy away from a loaf tin if that’s what you want to use.
Bakers who decry using loaf tins for sourdough proofing do have a valid point–which I’ll get to in just a second–but the issue they complain about is completely preventable.
What is that issue? According to some bakers, the reason you shouldn’t use a loaf tin is that the acidic sourdough can begin degrading the metal. At that point, if the metal contains any chemicals, they could leach out.
At the very least, this would impact the flavor of your sourdough. At worst, your health could be affected, although admittedly, that would depend on what’s being leached out and in what quantities.
As I said though, this issue is completely preventable. If you use a loaf tin that’s brand new or relatively new, you should have no problems.
An old loaf tin you have lying around with pockmarks throughout or even signs of rust should not be used for proofing sourdough or any dough.
What Are the Benefits of Proofing Sourdough in a Loaf Tin?
You’re intrigued by the idea of proofing sourdough in a loaf tin, but admittedly, you’re not yet completely sold. That’s alright. Let’s next discuss the benefits of proofing sourdough in a loaf tin.
A Tin Shapes the Loaf for You
Everyone knows that as much as the flavor of sourdough bread, how it looks is very important.
You want your sourdough loaf to look rustic, but shaping loaves is not exactly your strong suit yet.
If this is your first or second sourdough loaf, that’s okay. These things take time and practice, and you’ll get there eventually.
In the meantime, you can fake it until you make it by using a loaf tin. The tin will naturally provide shape to the sourdough starter.
Your bread will have straight sides and squared edges. When you post photos of your sourdough loaf to social media, everyone will ask how you managed to get your bread to look so perfectly angular.
No Basket Marks
Speaking of the sourdough’s aesthetics, one of the biggest downsides by far of using a basket for sourdough proofing is that the basket can leave marks.
Granted, the material of the basket does play a huge role here. If you use a wicker basket, then the weave lines etched into your sourdough starter will not be as evident compared to a metal basket with thicker bars.
And yes, if you hate the basket marks after proofing, you can always shape the dough after the fact with your hands and some water.
This is one extra step to add before finally putting the dough in the oven though. You can skip all that extra work with a loaf tin.
Easy to Track Dough Rising
Using a loaf tin for sourdough fermentation is also sort of foolproof regarding when the dough is ready.
Once the dough reaches the top of the tin, voila, you can consider it fully proofed. Now it’s time to preheat your oven and finally bake your sourdough (more on this in the next section).
Just do make sure you let the dough rise only to that level. If your dough is under-proofed and you bake it in a loaf tin, the bread will split during baking.
The sourdough bread will still taste fine, but it won’t be as Instagram-worthy as you had been hoping for. If you just put more than 24 hours of hard work and effort into preparing and proofing your sourdough, this can be very disappointing.
There’s also such a thing as over-proofing. You’ll know you did that if the top of the dough has developed bubbles. Baking the bread at this point will cause it to collapse and lose its shape.
Fortunately, it’s easy enough to fix over-proofed dough. Remove it from the loaf tin, add some flour, knead, and then put the sourdough back in the loaf tin.
The Dough Comes Out of the Tin Easily (Provided You Grease It)
Speaking of removing the sourdough, that’s among one of the biggest perks of using a loaf tin for proofing.
If you grease the loaf tin first with cooking spray or olive oil, the sourdough should slip right out. It’ll be no muss, no fuss.
That’s rarely the case for a basket, especially wicker baskets.
How to Make Sourdough Bread – Proofing and Baking
If you’ve decided you’d like to undertake the time-consuming yet rewarding venture that is making sourdough from scratch, this is the section to read. I’ll tell you recipe quantities, proofing times, and baking techniques to make your best sourdough ever!
Many bakers who make sourdough use a starter and others a levain. Yes, there’s a difference, so allow me to explain now.
- A sourdough starter includes a combination of wild yeast and bacteria. The starter adds flavor and leavening to the dough.
- A levain uses some fresh starter as well as water and fresh flour.
I’ll talk about sourdough starters for the rest of this section, not levains. At its most basic, a starter requires filtered water, all-purpose flour, and whole-wheat flour.
Maintaining a starter though is a time-consuming process. Some bakers liken it to having a pet, and that’s not an unfair comparison.
This starter recipe will require five days of prep. Allow me to tell you how it’s done.
Day One: On the first day, make your starter. Combine water (50 grams), all-purpose flour (25 grams), and whole-wheat flour (25 grams). The water should be lukewarm and filtered.
Begin stirring. If the ingredients take on a paste-like consistency, then you’re finished stirring.
Put a cover on the jar with the starter ingredients inside and then leave the starter in a warm environment for the next 24 hours.
What constitutes a warm environment? That’s a good question, especially considering that the temperature can seriously affect the outcome of your sourdough starter.
Keep the starter in a room that’s 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
Day Two: As you wake up to check on your sourdough starter the next day, you might notice that it’s developed some bubbles. If so, that’s fine. And if not, that’s okay too.
Split your starter in half and put the other half in a jar, adding the same quantity of ingredients as yesterday into the jar. Stir again and let the jar stay in a warm environment over the next 24 hours.
Day Three: If you didn’t see bubbles from your sourdough starter yesterday, you certainly will today. Accompanying the bubbles will be a sour scent. This is normal, so don’t panic.
As you did yesterday, divide your sourdough starter in half. Put half in a jar but change your recipe quantities for the day.
This time, you want only water (50 grams) and all-purpose flour (50 grams). Stir as you did and keep the jar at the same temperature as you have for the past two days.
Day Four: By the fourth day, your sourdough starter should be bubbling up considerably. Its volume also should have grown. Follow the same instructions as you did yesterday.
Day Five: When you wake up on the fifth day, the smell from your sourdough starter should be very strong. The starter should have at least doubled in size with plenty of bubbles throughout.
This starter is ready!
On the fifth day or after, it’s time to bake your sourdough starter.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Inside the oven, add a cast iron pot with a lid.
Even when the oven beeps to indicate that it’s preheated, let your oven get nice and toasty for an hour.
You’re probably wondering why you put a cast iron pot in the oven, right? It’s to generate steam when the sourdough bakes. This is one of the best ways to replicate the steam injectors that professional bakeries have.
The introduction of humidity and steam when baking can produce sourdough with a crisp, golden crust and a beautiful shine.
After the 60 minutes are up, take your sourdough out of the loaf tin and put it on a sheet of parchment paper.
With your sharpest knife, make an X shape on the top of the loaf. The slashes prevent the bread from tearing as it bakes.
Before the bread begins baking, you need to pull out the cast iron pot. Please wear oven mitts as you do this. The pot will be incredibly hot. Carefully put it on your stovetop.
Take off the lid of the cast iron pot and put the sourdough on the parchment paper into the pot. Then restore the lid and place the whole thing in the oven.
Close the oven door and lower the temperature to 475 degrees. Let the sourdough bake for 20 minutes at that temperature, then insert a temperature probe and set it to 200 degrees.
Let the bread continue baking without the cast iron pot lid. Once you hear your temperature probe go off, the bread should be about done.