I was visiting family recently, and they had this crazy all-metal pan with steam holes in the bottom (where I thought incorrectly that dough could clog it up or leak out) and a lid that slid on and off. I was told it was a Pullman Pan.
Forgive me if you know all about these, but they were invented for Pullman Porters to use on trains to bake bread for the dining cars. If you get the exact right amount of dough, you can bake a perfectly square loaf. Or, like in the recipe below, you can get it nearly to the top and have a beautifully domed sandwich loaf.
As an added bonus, the bread they baked was as exciting as the pan. A sourdough loaf with a touch of molasses. It stays moist for days after cutting thanks to the hydrophilic powers of molasses and the very wet dough.
Time: 6:45 (2:45 if using yeast instead of starter)
Makes: One 20cm or 8" loaf
115g active SOURDOUGH STARTER
300g AP FLOUR
1 - Feed your starter 6-8 hours before beginning, and leave to do its thing. If yours is logy, I suggest putting it in the oven with the light on to encourage it. It should be bubbly and spongey before you bake. (NOTE: I like it to be just past its max bubblage. I think it's a bit more sour.)
2 - In a large bowl bring together EVERYTHING but the SALT. Stir with spoon or hand just until everything is combined. Cover and leave to hydrate for 30-60 minutes. (Up to a couple hours would be OK.)
4 - Add SALT. Stretch and fold the dough. I.e., reach into the bowl, grab an edge and pull like mozzarella on pizza. Wiggle it around a bit, and fold it over the remainder of the dough. Rotate 90 degrees, and do it again. Keep on going until you've done this maneuver 6-8 times. Cover.
5 - Stretch and fold again three more times with a 20-30 minute rest between each stretch and fold. It's amazing how this works. (I resisted for a long time, but it's consistently better than straightforward kneading.)
6 - Cover and rest for 2 hours. Dough should double. If it's cold, use the oven light method. Meanwhile, spray the inside of a Pullman Loaf Pan with cooking spray.
7 - On lightly floured surface (less than 1/4 cup), gently remove with bowl scraper. Walk your fingers over the dough into whatever shape blob it wants to form. (Don't punch it down! Sourdough yeast isn't as quick and hardy as the store stuff. Try to maintain some of the lightness you've achieved.) Divide the dough into three equal parts.
8 - Shape each of the three chunks of dough into balls and place along the bottom of the pan. This may take some maneuvering as they want to spread out as soon as you place them. Just push them back and get the next one in. Leave to rise for 2-3 hours or until roughly doubled in size.
9 - Preheat oven to 450F
10 - Bake with lid on for 30-35 minutes. Remove lid and bake for another 10 minutes until the crust is golden brown. Remove from pan to cool on a wire rack. Allow to sit for at least 20 minutes before cutting.