I love making mini loaves. They’re cute, fun to serve and easy to pack up as gifts for friends and family. The other bonus is that they have a shorter baking time than full sized loaf cakes and breads, so you will be able to eat your favorite baked goods with a much shorter wait time. Most recipes intended for 9×5-inch loaf pans can be modified for mini loaf baking, as each mini loaf holds about 1/4 to 1/3 of the amount of batter in a full sized pan. In a recent issue, the Cook’s Illustrated test kitchen set out to see if all mini loaf pans were created equal, or if some stood out from the pack to produced better breads.
The test kitchen looked for pans that would produce tall, nicely domed and evenly browned loaves – the same characteristics that they look for in full sized loaf pans. They tested a variety of pans that included both stand-alone mini pans, which are typically sold in sets of three or four, and tray style mini pans. The test kitchen found that many of the pans baked and browned evenly. All of the pans released their contents cleanly, though the testers found that the individual pans were easier to unmold than tray-style pans simply because they were so easy to handle. The main differences that the test kitchen uncovered were in the shapes of the finished loaves and the pans that produced the most even bake and the most even golden-brown coloring ended up rising to the top.
The winner was Chicago Metallic Set of 4 Mini Loaf Pans, which are easy to handle and produce outstanding looking loaves at a very reasonable price. The Williams-Sonoma Goldtouch Nonstick Mini Loaf Pans, the USA Pan Mini Loaf Pan and Wilton Recipe Right Mini Loaf Pan Set also all received a “Recommended” rating from the test kitchen and only missed out on a higher rating due to a few minor inconsistencies with browning that the winning pans did not have.