We frequently get asked, “what is the best think to bake bread in?” and the answer we always give is: it depends.
Depends what you have. Depends what you are trying to achieve. Depends what your dough it like. Depends what you like!
If you want square sandwiches, better bake in a tin with straight sides. If you want fancy pants swirly whirly marks on the top of your loaf, better use a rising basket made of reeds that is put together in a coil. If you want a ciabatta like shape, a disc, a cob, buns, or anything else more “organic” in shape, better just bake on a baking tray. It’s ok to bake anything in or on anything although wetter doughs are easier to handle if they are contained in a tin – and there is no shame in that – all over Germany (Land of Bread) there are square loaves proudly marching off master bakers’ shelves. You can read more about the tin vs basket debate here.
There is no right answer and remember that different materials became available over time. First we just had flat stones in an oven (flatter bread that you still find in Southern Europe, Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia); then we could weave (rising baskets came into being) and only much later could we forge metal and shape it (tins of all shapes and sizes). So bake in or on whatever you have or whatever you can get. Like we did recently in Sweden when we had on bundt cake tin and one cast iron pot. The finished loaf baked in the cast iron pot is in the photo at the top of this post. It looks good. It was good. It’s all good.