Testing Loafnest: A smart way to bake beautiful bread

If you’re one of those people scared of baking your own bread because of the hassle and trouble involved, this post is for you. If you’re also interested in reading about a smart, science-based, innovation in the world of bread baking, please continue reading. I am very excited that I can share a both simple and smart innovation in the world of cooking and baking and that I can help you bake better bread more easily!

A little while ago I was contacted by the inventors of the LoafNest. LoafNest is a kit they developed and produced themselves for baking bread at home. They asked me if I could partner up with them, but here at FoodCrumbles we are a bit skeptical when it comes to new smart tools for cooking and baking. Won’t they just clutter up your cabinets? However, I actually got to test the LoafNest and am very excited about this new concept. It’s a smart kit, well designed and thought through and really does what it says it will!

LoafNest can be bought through a Kickstarter campaign only which was funded very successfully in March 2018.

Please note, we have not received any financial compensation for writing or testing the LoafNest.

What is LoafNest?

Before diving into our test of the LoafNest, let’s properly introduce it to you. LoafNest is a bread baking kit that makes bread baking a lot easier and cleaner to do. LoafNest consists of two elements:

  1. A cast-iron bread pan with a separate top and bottom: these create a sort of mini oven inside your oven and hold on to heat very well.
  2. A perforated silicone/fiberglas liner: this is what makes the kit virtually non-stick, it comes out very clean without any dough or bread stuck to it.

These two tools together make the bread making process a lot easier and faster. Of course, I was curious to see whether these would actually give any benefit to using other tools we have in the kitchen for baking bread.

Less steps to bake 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 (no. 1, 3 and 6). 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.

That said, you can also use this simplified method without using the LoafNest. There are several similar no-knead bread recipes out there (e.g. this one from the New York Times). However, when using these methods you will always need a proper vessel pan to bake the bread in and LoafNest solves that problem very well.

LoafNest - dough ready to bake
The dough, 18 hours old, ready to bake in the pre-heated LoafNest

Easy clean up

The biggest advantage of LoafNest therefore is, in my opinion, the silicone liner. The silicone liner is what truly makes baking the bread peanuts. You heat up the cast iron pans without the liner, take the pans out and place the liner inside. This makes it easy to pour the dough into the cast iron without it starting to bake immediately when it touches the sides.

You then bake the bread and once fully baked the bread comes out of the liner perfectly. The liner is completely clean, apart from a little rinse there’s truly nothing to clean since the cast iron will remain bread and dough free as well. Ideal! If you’ve ever tried baking bread in cast iron pans with parchment paper (or without the paper) you know about the risk of it sticking to the pan, of paper not wanting to come off, etc. This liner solves all of that.

Loafnest steam principle
Graphic demonstrating that all heat and steam will stay inside the LoafNest and will be able to circulate.

Well designed

FoodCrumbles being about science, we greatly appreciate a well thought 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.)

The silicone liner is made of silicone + fiberglass and is formed in such a way that it doesn’t touch the cast iron pan. This leaves  very little space in-between the liner and the pan allowing steam to pass through. By being very close to the pan though, heat transfer is still very efficient and the whole bread gets heated very evenly. These liners are commonly used in the industry and can be bought as flat cookie sheets. However, they can’t be properly used for baking bread in a pan, until now.

Baking bread with the LoafNest

As you can see in the recipe below, baking a simple bread with the LoafNest doesn’t require a lot of work. The most important thing is some patience and planning since you have to prepare the dough well in advance. However, because you don’t have to knead, just mix, this actually goes very fast.

A white LoafNest bread
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: bread
Serves: 1 loaf
Ingredients
  • 500g plain flour
  • ⅛ tsp dried yeast
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 400g water
Instructions
  1. Take a regular mixing bowl and add the ingredients. Mix the ingredients with a spatula. It is important they're homogeneously mixed, but it doesn't need any further mixing or kneading than that.
  2. Leave the mixture at room temperature for 18 hours. After 18 hours the mixture should contain a lot of bubbles and have risen significantly but it should have dropped down yet.
  3. Pre-heat the cast iron pans in the oven at 230C for 45 minutes (the actual duration will depend on your oven).
  4. Take the pans from the oven. Place the silicone liner in the bottom pan and pour in the dough.
  5. Place the top on the pan and place back in the oven for 45 minutes.
  6. To get an extra crusty crust, remove the top half and continue baking for another 10 minutes (if the bread is already quite brown at this point, turn the oven temperature down by a few degrees).
  7. Remove the pan from the oven and leave to cool before cutting into slices.

There are of course a lot more recipes you can make with the LoafNest. All do build on the fact that you use a slow, pretty wet dough to follow the same methodology. That said, I’m quite convinced that you can use the LoafNest for very different recipes as well. In the end, it’s a smart non-stick liner in a cast iron pan that can be used in various ways. This is a great advantage since it will allow you to continue to experiment and improve.

bread comparison Loafnest vs regular
Comparing a LoafNest bread with one baked in a cast iron pan (both covered with another pan for the first part of baking). See the difference in ‘oven spring’!

Overall evaluation

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 certainly isn’t. It actually works and I think it’s a great solution for people who want to bake bread but just don’t want to spend too much time in planning and execution.

When testing the LoafNest I directly compared it to baking bread in a cast iron pan of a similar size, lined with parchment paper and cover with another pan to imitate the LoafNest. However, the oven spring of this bread was clearly less pronounced and the overall airiness of the bread was less. Also, it was a lot more hassle to get the parchment paper in the pan and off the bread again.

Overall, if you’d like to bake more bread without a lot of effort, LoafNest is a great solution. I you know someone who would like to bake bread, but doesn’t seem to get a hang of that kneading and shaping of bread, recommend LoafNest. If you’re slightly more advanced, it is still a worthwhile investment if you currently do not have any proper loaf pans.

Want to read more? Have a look at the Kickstarter campaign with plenty more information!

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