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How to Use LoafNest: a Smart Way to Bake Beautiful Bread
We love kitchen tools that 1) don’t take up too much space and 2) have a good chunk of science to them that we can discuss in detail here on the website. We’re fans of our InstantPot (aka pressure cooker) thanks to the ‘magic’ of an increased boiling point of water under increased pressure. We also enjoyed testing out our air fryer to understand and explain concepts of air flow, heat capacity and heat transfer.
You can add to that list a LoafNest to bake bread. “Normally”, baking bread involves following quite a list of steps, mixing, kneading, proofing, shaping, etc. However, when using the LoafNest you can reduce that list down to mixing, proofing, baking! Of course, it’s not the only tool that allows you to do this, but it’s one that’s been well designed and doesn’t take up that much extra space!
The LoafNest has been developed by a family owned, small business in the Netherlands. They were looking for a way to make their bread baking easier and less of a hassle (while still eating delicious bread!). We got invited to their home to see talk about their LoafNest back in 2018. They shared a great story of how LoafNest and their business came to be. Even better, we also got to test the product they developed!
Please note, we have not received any financial compensation for writing or testing the LoafNest. If you want to buy a LoafNest, you can buy it through various outlets, or directly through their website!
Requirements the LoafNest had to meet
In order to bake good bread easily, the developers of LoafNest carefully tested a range of solutions. They tested several systems and formats and ended up with a design that meets the following characteristics. Setting such requirements is a must for successful product development. You need to know what you’re developing for!
Steam flow & High humidity
The LoafNest had to be able to create a high humidity environment for the bread to bake in. Professional bakers use steam in their ovens to create good oven spring and a crusty crust (as we discuss in more detail here). However, if you don’t have a steam oven, you need to create your own steam. You can do this by pouring ice cubes or water into your oven, but that is not a guarantee for success.
Instead, many home bakers will bread their bread in an enclosed pan, such as a Dutch oven or a Challenger bread pan. This way, when the bread heats up and evaporates moisture, it creates its own little steamy environment within the pan! The main disadvantage the inventors saw in current solutions was their (large) size and the fact that not all were perfectly suited for baking bread specifically.
What’s more, they wanted to make sure the steam could properly flow around the whole bread, limiting the risk of soggy bottoms.
Easy to clean & use
If you’ve regularly baked bread in an (enameled) cast iron pan / Dutch oven, you know there’s a risk of your bread sticking to the pan. Proper pre-heating can save you a lot of trouble (and messes) and so can releasing the bread quickly. However, we don’t think we’re the only ones when we say we’ve had bread stick to our pans quite horrendously on occasion…
When talking with the inventors of the LoafNest this was clearly an aspect they wanted to improve upon!
They want bread baking to be easy. As such, the LoafNest was developed to be used for no-knead breads (though other types can be made as well). No-knead bread doughs tend to be very sticky and liquid. You can’t shape most of these breads. The dough fill simply flow and spread out in the space it’s been put in. As such, you need a pan that holds onto the bread perfectly. It’s the pan that will determine the final shape of the bread. In order to get some lift (and not a flat slab of bread) the surface area of the pan shouldn’t be too large, in order for it to push up the bread!
Lastly, the product had to be user friendly. The handles had be easy to use while also being safe (you don’t want to drop a hot pan!). Also, the size of the pan should fit the average bread baker. If you only have a small family, it’s probably better to bake a smaller bread more often, than a large one once in a while. In the end, you want your bread to be fresh!
Introducing: the LoafNest
The inventors of the LoafNest came up with a design that meets all of these requirements for baking bread. It takes elements from existing solutions (e.g. using a Dutch oven) and combines them together in a smart new way to bake your bread. The final product consists of two elements:
- A cast-iron bread pan with a flat bottomed bottom and a round top. This is what creates your mini-steam-oven. It has a long shape to make cutting bread slices easy and is designed in such a way for moisture and heat to travel through the pan.
- A perforated silicone/fiberglass liner. This liner is inserted in between the two cast iron pans. It’s what makes the risk of bread sticking to your pan virtually zero, ticking of that requirement! These liners themselves aren’t new, they’ve been around for years, but most weren’t suited for baking bread, or were only available to professional bakers.
Testing the LoafNest
Of course, we wanted to get to work and test this new tool for making some freshly baked bread!
Making no-knead bread
The first advantage of LoafNest is that you can make bread with it using a very simple baking process. Whereas the most common bread baking method consists of 6 steps (1. mixing; 2. kneading; 3. proofing; 4. shaping; 5. proofing; 6. baking; see more details here), the LoafNest only requires 3 steps (mixing, proofing & baking). Since the shaping and kneading of the bread tend to be the most difficult steps here, it really is a big benefit if you’re able to leave these out. It’s also what makes this method suitable for any novice bread baker!
That said, this method takes time and some planning in advance. No-knead breads tend to need at least 18 hours of proofing. The extended time makes up for the lack of work you have to put into your bread! Whereas normally you’d use kneading and thus energy to help form that gluten network, in this case time will take care of it!
Never baked bread before? Start with a no-knead-recipe. These are (almost) foolproof!
Of course, you can also use this simplified method without using the LoafNest. There are several similar no-knead bread recipes out there (e.g. this famous one from the New York Times). The LoafNest just happens to work really well for baking these types of bread, no matter where your recipe comes from.
Baking the bread
We found that prepping the dough to be baked was truly as simple as the inventors had said and the simplicity just continued going strong. We pre-heated our LoafNest and simply poured in the dough once it was ready to bake. No hassling with parchment paper or oiling the pan. Nope, we just poured the dough into the liner, placed the lid on top and let it do its thing. Because of the liner being there, the dough doesn’t immediately touch the hot cast iron surface when you pour it in. This is a good thing since it gives you time to add the dough without parts immediately cooking through.
Because of the closed top, the bread got a lot of oven spring during baking (it’s the final rise the dough makes in the pan, the last efforts of yeast doing their thing!).
Easy clean up
Probably the biggest advantage of LoafNest, in my opinion, is that silicone liner. It’s what truly makes baking the bread peanuts. Once your bread is finished baking, you simply open the pans, and gently tear off the silicone liner. It’s non-stick so comes off really easily. Apart from maybe a quick rinse, there’s really no other clean up it needs before being ready for its next use!
Being science lovers, we greatly appreciate the fact that this LoafNest has really been thought through quite extensively. Every part of the kit serves a real purpose. a well thought out through piece of kit that serves a purpose. The fact that you can close the LoafNest off during baking, thus capturing all moisture of the dough, results in a great oven spring. (Because of the high moisture content the dough will remain flexible for longer, it’s why you create steam in an oven as well.)
When starting to test the LoafNest I was quite sceptical. Wouldn’t this be just another gimmick that doesn’t really provide any benefit? However, once I used it, I was convinced it isn’t. It actually works and there’s a real benefit over other existing solutions. So who do we think this is best suited for:
- If you’re a no-knead bread fan and make it all the time. If you want bread baking to be as easy as possible. You might be using your Dutch oven (which of course, works as well), but the LoafNest will make it even easier!
- If your oven isn’t that big. A big disadvantage of using (large) cast iron pots and pans is that you might only be able to fit one in the oven at a time. Whereas most folks living in North America tend to have quite large ovens, this is less so the case for Europeans for instance. We can easily fit two LoafNest in our oven, whereas we can’t fit two of our Dutch oven!
- If you like well thought out products, made by a small family owned business. It’s unique and a great story to tell to others when you pull that freshly baked bread out of your own LoafNest.
Where to buy a LoafNest
Want to buy a LoafNest (or panache)? You can find it on Amazon, but Shrivalli & Narasimha have also recently launched an online web store where you can order it as well! Yet another step in their product development journey!
Where do I buy a loafnest
Hi Peg, you will see that the Kickstarter campaign has been canceled for this session, but there will be a relaunch, keep following along with the Kickstarter.
Hi Peg, You can only get a LoafNest by support the currently ongoing campaign on Kickstarter which will help them fund the actual product. The good news is, they’ve reopened the campaign and already raised enough money for the project to continue! You can support them here.
Do I have to buy special bread making flour
Hi Heather, for this LoafNest you don’t need anything special than what you would use normally to make bread at home.
When baking bread (whether you’re using a LoafNest or not) it’s always good to use bread flour. This is a plain flour (no pre-mix) and can be bought in most supermarkets (and definitely online). That said, you could use regular all purpose flour as well, it will just be less strong.
What type of yeast do I use – I am in Uk
Hi Heather, I use instant yeast, this is yeast that has been dried and can be used almost instantaneously. I looked it up and in the UK it also seems to be called instant yeast (this article may help you). Since you take your time with this recipe you can also use dried but non-instant yeast, it will just need to be activated, it’s best to follow instructions on the pack for this type of yeast. Hope that helps, good luck!
Do you put the LoafNest in a cold oven and preheat it with the oven or heat the oven first to desired bake temp and then place LoafNest in for an additional 45 minutes?
Great question! You can do both, but I find that placing it in the cold oven is easiest (you don’t forget putting it in later). Those 45 minutes are more of a guarantee that your LoafNest is really warm, it doesn’t have to be exact 45, so just placing it in the cold oven will work perfectly fine.
Can you use a bread mix in the Loafnest? I purchased a Loafnest recently, and I love it!
Glad you’re enjoying the LoafNest! I enjoyed testing with it as well, it’s so convenient. The Loafnest is optimized for use with pretty liquid bread doughs and makes it very simple to get a simple bread without kneading. I haven’t tried a bread mix myself, but if your bread mix is a mix of yeast + flour you will likely have to adjust the proofing time to just a few hours instead of the 18hours given in the recipe. The higher amount of yeast will proof the dough faster. As such, you might also knead the dough slightly before letting it proof.
That said, I’m pretty sure you can use the LoafNest for a wide variety of breads, just the fact that it’s an enclosed area for the dough to proof will always help to create a well risen and crispy dough. All you’ll need to do is a little experimentation to optimize your bread!
Retired & living in the Philippines. Starting to bake sourdough and have been deciding what direction to go in regard to a Dutch Oven…Have just ordered my LoafNest and I am excited. I anticipate it being a great fit. One of the things that swayed me was reading in reviews how customer friendly & responsive their customer service was.
How can I make the inside softer … I have the Loafnest and the inside turned out too dense. Ideas?
To make the inside softer you might want to have the bread to puff up a little more. It could be that your mix did not contain enough yeast, or wasn’t proofed for the ideal amount of time. If it proves for too long it will collapse again, if it doesn’t prove for long enough, not enough air bubbles will be formed.
The Loafnest recipes generally are made up of quite wet batters that shouldn’t allow for ample expansion, so that generally shouldn’t be a problem.
Hope that helps!
I suggest you fluff your flour first to aerate it (not sifted, just stirred to fluff it up) before you scoop it into your measuring cup. When you weigh settled flour it will weigh about 125-130 grams per cup, verses 120 grams if it is aerated first. So what? Your dense bread may be due to too much flour! That extra 5-10 grams more per cup changes the density of the bread. Try it- and I hope it helps!
How do I measure an 1/8 tsp?
I personally own a 1/8 tsp, so it works just like a regular one. If you don’t but do have a 1/4 and an accurate scale. You can weigh how much fits in a 1/4 and then split that in half. Or, alternatively, eyeball filling half of a 1/4 tsp, it is not necessary to be super accurate with this recipe.
Hope that helps!