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Baking Bread Without a Loaf Pan (It’s Easier Than You Think)

Baking Bread Without a Loaf Pan (It’s Easier Than You Think)

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You’re scrolling through Instagram and stumble upon the perfect bread recipe. Flour, yeast, sugar, butter—you’ve got everything to bring the recipe to life, and you’re excited to make it happen. But as the reel continues, the baker effortlessly transfers their dough…into a loaf pan. 

You feel your smile turn upside down. A loaf pan? You don’t have a loaf pan! Is this the end of your bread-making dreams (until you buy a loaf pan from Amazon or Walmart)? 

Nope! You can totally bake bread without a loaf pan, and I’m here to show you how!

Give the ideas below a try, then move on to my other bread-baking tricks!

Boules (AKA Round Loaves)

Bread Boule

Here’s the thing about making homemade bread without a loaf pan: getting a perfectly rectangular sandwich-style loaf is near-impossible. But who needs a boring square loaf of bread when you can get a rustic, artisan-style loaf that’s just as aesthetically appealing, if not more so?

A round loaf of bread is also called a boule. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather call my bread “boule” than “rectangular” any day of the week. It certainly sounds fancier!

Artisan breads are often shaped into boules not only for their rustic charm but also for their superior baking properties. 

Since boules are round, the heat bakes the bread evenly inside and out, making it soft and crumbly. Plus, all that roundness means more surface area for a super crispy crust!

Here’s how to make bread boule: 

  1. Line a sheet pan with a piece of parchment paper and let your bread dough rise one time. 
  2. Divide the risen dough into your desired bread size. Keep in mind that as the bread bakes, it gets about 40% bigger than when it is in raw dough form.
  3. Roll each dough piece into a tight ball and place it on the parchment-lined sheet tray. Leave about 4 to 5 inches around each boule on the pan. You may only be able to fit one or two larger loaves on each sheet pan.
  4. Lightly cover the sheet tray and boules with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for a second time. 
  5. Remove the plastic wrap and then egg wash the boules. 
  6. Slice the tops of the dough to help release steam as they bake. You can make a simple “X”, a few dashes, or even a pretty design on the top of the dough pieces.
  7. Bake the dough in a high-heat oven, following your bread recipe. 

Once cooked, let the bread cool before slicing, and then enjoy warm. 

If enjoyed with soup, scoop out the middle and turn it into a soup bowl. You can’t do that with a boring rectangular bread from a loaf pan!

For storage tips, check out my article about properly freezing and defrosting bread.



A baguette is a long, skinny bread rolled into its iconic shape by hand. 

You don’t need a loaf pan when making this bread because the shape is all about that signature, crusty length. A pan would just cramp its style!

Baguettes are easy to form once you’ve practiced a few times. And once you taste freshly baked bread, you’ll be making these all the time!

  1. After the first rise, place the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. 
  2. Form a rough ball with the dough, then push it back and forth on the work surface like a rolling pin.
  3. As you roll, the dough ball should begin to get longer and thinner. Move your hands up and down the dough as you roll to keep the baguette uniform in size and shape. Forward and back, left and right until you have a nice long baguette!
  4. Place your rolled loaf on a parchment-lined sheet tray and slash the top with a sharp knife. You can use a knife to make pretty designs or keep it simple with one long slice down the center. Just make sure you don’t cut through the dough, only about 1/4 of an inch down.

And that’s it! Bake the baguette and then slice and serve warm, maybe with a nice cheese plate or as a side to a saucy pasta where you can use the bread to sop up the sauce.


Braided Bread

If you like thick, long loaves of bread, similar to what a loaf pan produces, you can simply braid your bread dough. This will make a nice, wide bread that’s much prettier than anything a loaf pan can make. It’s super easy to make, too! Here’s how: 

  1. Cover a sheet pan with a piece of parchment and set it aside. 
  2. After your bread dough has risen once, punch it down to deflate and then divide it into three equal pieces.
  3. Roll each dough piece into a long log, making them all the same size. Try to keep the width of each log nice and even. Think about making one long hot dog with your dough—uniform in size, long and thin!
  4. Place the logs on the prepared sheet tray and pinch the tops together at one end. Braid the dough as you would braid hair, picking one rope up at a time, crossing it over the others placing it down in between the two, and repeating the process.
  5. Pinch the bottoms of the rope together. Egg wash the bread if you’d like a nice shine on the final loaf and bake as directed. 

Once done, a perfect, gorgeous loaf awaits! Here’s a nice video that shows some more advanced bread-braiding techniques:

Close to Rectangular

Okay, so maybe you aren’t such a fan of fancier bread shapes and are really looking for a standard, almost rectangular loaf. Can that be done with no loaf pan? Of course!

While you’ll never get those perfect straight sides without a pan, you can get close.

  1. Place your pre-risen bread dough on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle a little flour on top of the dough and roll it out, working toward making it into a rectangular shape.
  2. Try to keep the bread dough as uniform and square as possible. Roll it to be about 1/2 an inch thick with straight sides. You want it longer than it is wide.
  3. On the side closest to you, begin to roll the dough upward as if you were rolling a jelly roll cake or a sushi roll. Once the dough is completely rolled and is a nice uniform loaf, pinch the seam of the dough to seal it all the way down the loaf. 
  4. Place the loaf on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper with the seam side down. Bake as directed.

Once baked, the loaf will look a little more round than if you have baked it in a loaf pan but it’ll be long, thick, and uniform in shape! Perfect for slicing for sandwiches or just serving with some butter.

Quick Breads

Banana Bread

Shaping a loaf of bread is easy with dough, but what happens when you’re craving, say, banana bread, and all you have is a bowl full of batter and no loaf pan?

First option: scoop the batter into a muffin tin. Quick breads are great as loaves but they’re even more perfect as muffins! Not only will the bread batter bake faster but, once cooked, everyone will have their own “slice” in the form of a muffin.

Don’t have muffin tins? No problem. Bake quick breads in a cake pan for a nice round loaf or use a casserole dish to make a longer, thinner bread.

Keep in mind that if you’re baking with a casserole dish the baking time will be shorter as the batter will be much thinner in a larger pan.

Got a cast iron skillet around? Pour your quick bread batter into that and bake it in the oven for a picturesque loaf. Place the baked bread in the skillet on a table and take a picture—it’ll look as though it came straight out of a magazine cover!

Maybe you have a bundt pan you’ve been dying to use. Grease it up! That will work as a “bread pan” as well!

Frequently Asked Questions 

How do I keep the dough from spreading too much?

When baking bread without a loaf pan, you’ll often run into the issue of the dough spreading too much as it proofs or bakes. 

To prevent this, properly knead the dough to strengthen the gluten. The higher the gluten, the better the dough holds its shape. 

You can also try using less hydration (milk, water, butter, etc.) in the dough, as wetter dough tends to spread more. 

Another option is to shape the dough into a tighter ball or loaf before proofing.

My bread went a little flat after baking. What went wrong? 

There are a few potential reasons why your bread went flat after baking. 

One possibility is that the dough wasn’t strong enough to hold its shape due to under-kneading. 

Another could be under-proofing, or not letting the dough rise enough. In warm environments, dough rises within 30 to 45 minutes. In cold environments, it may take up to an hour and a half. 

Can I still achieve a crispy crust without a loaf pan?

Absolutely. In fact, baking bread without a loaf pan often results in a crispier and more rustic crust—perfect for dipping into a warm and creamy bowl of soup! 

To make a crust, brush the surface of the dough with an egg wash or spray it with water before baking. You can also bake the bread at a higher temperature and then lower it later in the baking process. 

Another technique is to create steam in the oven. Steam prevents the bread from solidifying too soon, allowing the crust to develop a deeper golden brown color and a satisfying crackle. 

While the oven preheats, place a sturdy pan on the bottom rack. Just before loading your dough, pour around half a cup of hot water into the pan to create a burst of steam while your bread bakes. 

Final Thoughts 

Pretty much any pan that can go in the oven can be used instead of a loaf pan for quick breads. Get creative; all that will happen is your bread will come out delicious and more interesting than if it was baked in a loaf pan.

Loaf pans are beneficial and, if you like that uniform look, you may want to look into getting one. But do you really need it? Nope! In fact, your bread will be more artisanal without a loaf pan.

So skip the loaf pan even if you do have one on hand. Your bread will be just as tasty but a little more fancy without one anyway!

If you somehow end up with leftover bread, be sure to try some of my ideas for using leftover bread!

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Monday 15th of November 2021

Does baking without a tin change cooking times? I've never baked bread before so I’m not really sure what to expect, but all the beginner recipes I can find assume that I’ve got a pan handy

Hannah Flack

Wednesday 8th of September 2021

I’m on a very low carb eating plan that allows real, natural fats and meat protein, but does not allow garlic, milk or flour. I’ve discovered since starting this just after Easter that I have a bit of a gluten sensitivity, too, as gluten causes inflamation and achiness in my joints. I’m willing to “cheat” just a smidge by using a very small amount of garlic powder, and I can certainly substitute heavy cream for milk, but I’m not sure what to do to replace the flour. Can it be omitted completely? Regards Hannah Flack


Saturday 7th of May 2022

@Hannah Flack,


Tuesday 5th of May 2020

you look different in your blog bio and in the comment username. fascinating and cute.


Saturday 2nd of February 2019

I've recently been baking bread in a 9 inch round non stick cake pan and works ok.

Sarah | Baking Kneads

Sunday 3rd of February 2019

Thanks for sharing!