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Is it even necessary to use a vessel for baking breads (assuming I don't care about the shape of the bread)?

In this link for (example) French bread I saw that the dough is not in liquid form, so it won't spread away if I put it straightaway in the oven wrapped in a tin foil?
http://steamykitchen.com/75-baking-the-perfect-loaf-of-french-bread.html

Can breads be baked without any vessel?
If not, then what shaped vessel should be preferred for baking breads?
If yes, then what is the appropriate method for baking it directly in oven?

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Why is the downvote? Maybe instead of asking for vessels in the title it should be edited to ask for tins? –  J.A.I.L. Jan 18 '13 at 11:21
    
I'll vote it up to balance the unexplained downvote. I think the question is fine as is. –  talon8 Jan 18 '13 at 14:12
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I don't think anyone in Hungary even knows what a loaf pan looks like, let alone owns one. Bread is baked on a baking sheet at the most. If you're lucky enough to have access to a brick bread oven, you put the bread directly on the floor of the oven. The only vessel involved is the kneading trough. –  Marti Jan 18 '13 at 15:51
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4 Answers 4

up vote 8 down vote accepted

The general answer is that you use a loaf pan if you want the common rectangular loaf shape (it's good for slicing for toast and sandwiches), and otherwise you don't need one.

For example, the link you gave for french bread completely describes how to shape and bake the loaf. There's no wrapping in foil or anything; you coax it into that shape, and it's flexible and stretchy but won't spread out or anything. I'm not sure why it refers to a "baking vessel", implying that it's something that contains the loaf. All you need is a flat baking sheet.

Once you've made bread dough this should be pretty obvious - it's not a big wet mess, it's something with structure that you can work with and shape. It's pretty much the same with all other shapes of loaves - you get them into the general shape, toss them on a baking sheet, and bake them. You can make small circular rolls, small oblong rolls, big circular loaves, big oblong loaves, whatever suits you. There are certainly traditional shapes for some breads, and you should probably follow recipes, since baking times are of course affected by size, but the general principle remains the same - you shape it how you want it.

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Depends on the dough; you can indeed make a big wet mess, and that might be better for very airy bread -- but if it's wet, it needs a tin. –  slim Jan 25 '13 at 16:23
    
If you made a big wet mess incapable of holding its own shape, you did something wrong. High hydration does not automatically result in better (or even airier) bread. Ahem, don't ask why I know this. –  rumtscho Jan 25 '13 at 17:57
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After taking a glimpse at the website, I think I know what she is talking about.

I keep my pizza stone in the oven at all times. I bake my bread directly on top of it. I makes for even baking, and a wonderful crust on the bottom. The same principle applies with a Cast Iron Dutch Oven. I'm assuming that she is talking about the type you would use camping, over a campfire, that are massive. You would put your bread inside of that "vessel."

That being said - You can bake French Bread without one of these things. The crust won't end up the same, but it is worth taking a chance.

However, I really suggest getting a pizza stone. They can be found rather inexpensively, and they really improve many different breads. I put either my loaf pans or baking sheets directly atop the pizza stone. Another plus I've found with the pizza stone, is that it keeps the heat of the oven better distributed. It is well worth the investment.

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thanks for the answer. –  TheIndependentAquarius Jan 18 '13 at 15:38
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Sometimes the vessel serves other purposes besides shaping. For example, in the book I'm currently working through, Tartine Bread, they suggest baking the shaped loaves inside a dutch oven to increase the humidity of the air immediately next to the bread -- the dutch oven will capture escaping steam and hold it near the bread, resulting in a better loaf. This appears to be the same theory espoused in your link.

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thanks to you too. –  TheIndependentAquarius Jan 18 '13 at 15:38
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Where I come from (Switzerland) it is indeed very uncommon to use any vessel. Indeed the various shapes of bread even set them apart. You can image-google for "Butterzopf", "Krustenkranz", or just plain "brot" to get an inspiration if you feel like baking a shaped bread.

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thanks for the helpful keyword. –  TheIndependentAquarius Jan 25 '13 at 14:56
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