A French bread pan is a cooking pan which is specifically designed for cooking baguettes and French rolls. The pan is intended to promote even browning of the bread, which will lead to a crispy, chewy crust and a delicate inner crumb. When baking French bread and baguettes at home, a French bread pan can be a very useful tool, yielding more dependable results than more traditional pans. Some kitchen supply stores carry the pans, and they can also be special ordered through purveyors which focus on baking and bread tools.
The most typical design for a French bread pan looks like an oversized piece of corrugated steel. Each corrugation can hold a single loaf, with a basic pan having enough room for two loaves. Larger pans are also available for more industrial applications. In many cases, the manufacturer perforates the metal of the pan to allow air to flow all the way around the bread. These perforations also create the familiar browned divots which often appear on the bottoms of loaves of breads.
Baguettes are considered by many bakers to be the quintessential French loaf. These breads are characterized by being long and skinny, and when they are well made they are dense and crusty with a faint hint of sourness. The crusty, flavorful breads are a common accompaniment to picnics, and they pair well with a wide range of cheeses and spreads. While it does take time to learn to make baguettes at home, freshly baked bread is considered by some cooks to be well worth the effort.
Several different materials can be used to make French bread pans. The best material is metal, since it will help the bread to develop a good crust. Many companies make nonstick pans, which can certainly be helpful, although they are not required. Other companies make pans from silicone, which unfortunately is not a very good choice, since it will not allow the crust to develop fully.
When picking out a French bread pan, look for sturdy pans which can stand up to serious wear. You may also want to consider how easy the pan is to clean. In the case of a perforated pan, for example, you should find out if the pan is dishwasher safe, or if you can use a heavy scrubbing brush on the pan. If you have to treat the surface gently because it is covered in a nonstick layer, the French bread pan may ultimately end up soiled.