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Chef Matthew James Duffy

Why Chef Matthew James Duffy Swears by The Challenger Bread Pan

Chef Matthew James Duffy gives us a breakdown of what makes our Challenger Pan the perfect vessel for making bakery quality bread at home, and explains why our pan is his go-to for all of his sourdough baking needs — and beyond!

Photo taken by Alex Nirta.

I have been baking sourdough bread for over 15 years and baked in commercial kitchens for the first decade of my career. So, when I first started baking at home, I found myself constantly trying to recreate a commercial oven with very little success. I tried just about every method and didn’t see the results I was after. That was until I was introduced to the Challenger Breadware Bread Pan. 

Challenger Breadware Founder, Jim Challenger and I have known each other since well before the Bread Pan was released. From speaking with Jim, hearing his passion for baking and vision to create a pan that would help bakers make amazing quality bread at home, it was inspiring. I knew from the moment he told me his idea for the pan that it would revolutionize baking at home and that’s exactly what it did. 

Commercial deck ovens rely on a thick stone that has taken on the thermal mass from the ovens heat output combined with steam injection. The bread hits the hot deck, and the oven floor and internal temperatures don’t change much due to the thick stones. The Challenger Bread Pan recreates this process allowing bakers to achieve deck oven quality results. In fact, in many ways, bread that I’ve baked in the Bread Pan has outperformed ones I’ve made in a professional deck oven and this is why.

The Base of The Pan Is Flat

The Bread Pan has a flat base that allows you to load the bread directly onto the hot base without lowering the bread into the pan. This helps to avoid any potential burns – believe me I’ve had my fair share of burns with other Dutch Ovens in the past – that may happen during this process.

Its flat base also makes it easier to properly score the bread while it sits on the base of the pan. Whereas, with other Dutch Ovens you have to score the bread before lowering it into the bread pan. This helps to achieve the perfect score for the desired opening and forming of the ear. This is crucial, because scoring plays a huge part in the appearance of the bread, the way it rises, and the crumb opens.

The Shape is Perfect for Baking Bâtards

Most of the available Dutch ovens are round so you can really only bake boules inside of them. However, the shape of the Challenger Bread Pan allows you to bake two bâtards at once along with boules and almost any shape of bread that you want. This is key for me because of the amount of bread I bake daily. I can bake multiple bâtards with a better crust to crumb ratio.

Designed to Trap Steam

When it comes to baking sourdough, steam retention is essential to achieving the perfect rise, crust and crumb. That’s why the shape of the Challenger Bread Pan is crucial for my baking process. The pans are well-sealed to trap steam from the dough itself as the loaf expands. This form of steam retention gives the perfect finish to my sourdough bread that rivals that of a commercial deck oven injected with steam.

Longer Thermal Mass 

When the Challenger Bread Pan is in the oven, it holds the thermal mass, similar to the floor of a commercial deck oven. This helps me to get the proper rise when the loaf first goes in the oven while also holding the heat long enough to bake multiple loaves without losing quality. 

The lid of the Challenger Bread Pan is also able to hold the heat from the oven. This allows it to radiant heat and surrounds the dough to help achieve the perfect bake.

Extremely Versatile

Bagels. Focaccia. Demi Baguettes. Bâtards. Pizza. Chicken. Vegetables. The shape of this pan makes it super versatile so you’re able to cook and bake an ever-growing list of dishes and get the job done right.

Photo taken by Alex Nirta.

At the end of the day, when I’m baking or cooking at home, it’s important for me to bake that bakery-style crusty loaf or perfectly roasted chicken and the Challenger Bread Pan makes it possible. No other pan has been even close to performing as well as this one and it’s been invaluable to my learning and development. 

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