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!
- 500g plain flour
- 1/8 tsp dried yeast
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 400g water
- 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.
- 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.
- Pre-heat the cast iron pans in the oven at 230C for 45 minutes (the actual duration will depend on your oven).
- Take the pans from the oven. Place the silicone liner in the bottom pan and pour in the dough.
- Place the top on the pan and place back in the oven for 45 minutes.
- 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).
- Remove the pan from the oven and leave to cool before cutting into slices.
Saltiness of breads can be very personal. Some like their bread salty, others not so much. This recipe works just as well with 1/4-1 tsp of salt, it's just the flavor that's different!