I have a huge collection of loaf pans, and for a long time the clay loaf pan was my favorite just because it was so earthy and bread-like looking. Also, the clay absorbed moisture yielding an extra crisp crust, But one day I noticed that the crumb toward the bottom of the loaf was a little dense which meant it was not getting enough, what is known in the industry as, oven spring. As I started thinking about it, I realized that even though I was placing the pan on a well-preheated, thick oven stone, the clay did not conduct the heat as quickly to the dough as does metal. Assuming that there might be a difference even between two different brands and types of metal, I decided to test the same exact bread dough side-by-side in two different metal pans: my favorite All Clad metal pan and my new USA pan. Both pans yielded excellent results and had oven spring superior to the clay pan. I also discovered that the USA pan had a slightly superior oven spring and, because it was less wide, a higher rise and, to my taste, a more attractive shape. Jenny Yee, my dear friend and colleague in New Zealand, who is a food scientist, advised me many years ago, when I was writing The Bread Bible, that the most accurate way to analyze the crumb of bread or cake is by photocopying it rather than photographing it so here are both the photocopy and the photograph to illustrate the difference between the final loaves.
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