The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

The Challenger Bread Pan - has anyone tried it other than our own Trevor Wilson?

the hadster's picture
the hadster

The Challenger Bread Pan - has anyone tried it other than our own Trevor Wilson?

I was just glancing through Trevor Wilsons Instagram and I came across this bread pan, and I want it.

My problem with the Lodge Combo Pot for baking bread is the size, its small and so the loaf can only be so big...

THIS bread pan looks fabulous.

I was wondering if any of you were on the advanced distribution list and what your thoughts were.

Hadley

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

I went to the website and was pretty disappointed that there was no info on price, or even any details on size or what is was made of.  I have the original fourneau oven, though I just checked, and version 2 is sold out https://www.fourneauoven.com/collections/fourneau-bread-oven/products/fourneau-bread-oven-2-0  .   The fourneau has worked very well for me, though like a combo cooker, which I also have,  it works best for a particular size and shape. The bread I have made with the Fourneau has come out better than the combo cooker, though in part because I sized the loaf so that it just fits in the Fourneau, and I use the the combo cooker in a convection oven, and the fourneau does not fit in that oven, so I use it in a different oven, and that may be the cause of the difference.  

the hadster's picture
the hadster

I found this when I was running down the Internet Rabbit Hole.  The cooking surface is about 12 inches by 10 inches, and its about 5 inches high.  I have no information on the price.  Hopefully it won't be ridiculous.

https://player.fm/series/the-sourdough-podcast/jim-challenger-of-challenger-breadware

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

Before you buy it ,  you might want to read what Dan says  http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/56822/cast-iron-cooker-vs-graniteware-thermal-data  

trailrunner's picture
trailrunner

 

 

jimchall's picture
jimchall

I invented the Challenger Bread Pan somewhat accidentally, but due to my frustrations with the Combo Cooker and trying to add steam to my oven while baking on a Baking Steel – I broke my oven three times doing this. I met a copper cookware craftswoman on Instagram who was also familiar with making cast iron skillets. I described my idea to her of making something larger, bigger, and better than the combo cooker. She mentored me through process, and I was just going to make a few for my baker friends on Instagram. The Instagram community went crazy for it. Trevor Wilson and I then worked hard for many months to redesign it and make it perfect for baking bread. It radiates heat really well due to its thickness. It traps steam perfectly with a well-designed seal between the cover and the base. And we went through many iterations of handles to get them in all the right places. It also gives you a little over 5” of height so that you’ll never hit the top – a problem with the Fourneau.

The first production run sold out in two months with pans going to over 45 different countries. We partnered with a second foundry, and our pans are now back in stock. By the end of next week, we will finish shipping out all our backorders.

If you really want to bake better bread every time, this pan is for you. Let me know if any of you have questions. There is also more information on our website.

chelseasf's picture
chelseasf

Are you planning to make a more compact size?  My issue is that with high-hydration loaves it's better to have a pot is the same size as the dough - it helps the rise. Thanks.

TopBun's picture
TopBun

I am very, very happy with my Challenger pan. I strongly prefer oblong loaves to boules (round loaves) and the shape of this pan is perfect. The sturdy handles on the upper part make it so much easier to safely lift it off mid-bake, and the quality of the cast iron is superb. Crusts are as good or better than any other cast iron DO or combo cooker I've tried. Worth every penny. 

jimchall's picture
jimchall

I'm so happy that you love your Challenger. Everyone who's used it tells me that their crusts are better than ever. Thank you for telling how well it's working for you too.

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

I seem to get a Tim-the-tool-man "Argh! Argh! Argh!" kind of feeling when handling big iron cooking pieces.  I have a Lodge 3.2 qt combo cooker, Lodge 8", 9", 10", 12", 15" skillets, 9" wok/bowl, 9" round griddle, 10" round griddle,  a couple 9" handle-less griddles/platters, and a Lodge 14" pizza pan.  (All purchased at deep discount on Amazon or Walmart.)

But I think I am maxed out.  Now  I *might* get the Lodge 14" Cook-it-All, which is a combo grill/griddle and shallow wok/bowl, as it is on sale for $109, normally $129.

But I can't see $225 for the Challenger.  If I had kids/grand-kids to pass it along to, maybe.

I wish them luck though.  I'm retired, but if I were a lot younger, and thought I'd get 35 years use out of it, then yeah.

 

TopBun's picture
TopBun

Yep, it's not something everyone needs, that's for sure. And yes it's a hefty piece. I'm redoing my kitchen and one of the reasons I'm switching from a range to a wall oven is because loading and unloading heavy things into the oven will only get harder as I get older.  Given my fondness for cast iron dutch ovens, heavy roasting pans, and yes, this new bread pan, I think I will thank my past self in 20 years!

jimchall's picture
jimchall

I'm so glad to hear you like baking in the Challenger TopBun. It is heavy, but I leave mine in the oven almost all the time. We found that bread really needs the radiant heat from thick black cast iron, and we wanted it to be able to bake so many different shapes of loaves including two baguettes, fougasse, pizza, and more.

jimchall's picture
jimchall

I know that feeling too! I cook almost everything except for scrambled eggs on cast iron though I don't have as many options as you! It's the best. I keep mine in the oven all the time, but I try to bake bread as often as I can. You can bake good bread in other pans, but if you're looking for great bread, then the Challenger is what you want.

jimchall's picture
jimchall

That last comment was for you @idaveindy

jimchall's picture
jimchall

I left you a comment below, but I forgot to reply when I wrote it....

BMB's picture
BMB

Hi All

like the idea of it and congrats on who ever you are.

But i see lots of problems with it. #1 real estate - you can only fit one i the oven. #2 real estate inside - you can only bake one standard size bread in it. 2 small ones but i wouldn't call them breads, buns. #3 price - $295.00 ? what is this used car ? at 22 lbs and size of it shipping will be another $50.00, plus taxes you will be close to $400.00 ?????

2 lodge dutch ovens will run you about $80.00 at walmart.

jimchall's picture
jimchall

It is a big pan. We sized it so that you can make breads of all shapes and sizes, unlike the combo cooker that so many bakers use. I am able to fit two in my Wolf oven here in the U.S. I have even seen bakers whose oven racks are in the right place, and they can get 4 in their oven! I have also seen several bakers who have baked two 450g-500g loaves in it at once, and they came out beautifully. If you look at a Le Creuset dutch oven of a similar size, it is more expensive. Except for Lodge, our pan is cheaper than all the other Dutch ovens that I've seen of a similar size. Our is also heavier, and the handles on the cover were designed for bread bakers along with the shallow base for ease of loading and scoring. You'll bake better bread every time if you ever decide to try it.

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

BMB: The $295 price includes domestic shipping, according to their shopping cart.

jimchall's picture
jimchall

Yes, the $295 price does include domestic shipping.

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

Hans:  I've never inspected a piece of Bayou Classic iron-ware, so I can't speak to that particular brand.

But I only had to buy two cast iron pieces of made-in-a-certain-country-of-origin "junk" before swearing off cast-iron from that certain-country-of-origin.  Now I only buy Lodge, and happily pay the premium price, or rather the discounted Amazon or Walmart price. (And sometimes the bozos in Amazon's and Walmart's shipping dept create defects through improper packaging.)

There is a rare defect with Lodge equipment purchased through Amazon or Walmart.  But the factories in that certain-country-of-origin just don't cut it, in terms of casting defects, and how they grind off casting-errors, and cheap seasoning that flakes off.

I'm definitely a Lodge Made-in-America snob now.

The economies of niche-market and scale also come into play.

Net: It's just not a valid comparison.    (Now, once the development and start-up costs are covered, and if sales volume ramps up, and additional distribution channels are penetrated, price could/should come down.)    I wish them success. 

HansB's picture
HansB

The Bayou Classic, it is indistinguishable from my Lodge products.  Actually, you're correct, at 6 times the price it is no comparison at all. Bayou Classic wins hands down...

breadyandwaiting's picture
breadyandwaiting

As a fellow cast-iron snob, if you're open to buying non-USA I would encourage you to look at Staub and Le Creuset as well. Quality is certainly on par and while MSRPs can be high I've found a few great clearance buys. 

While I love a discount as much as the next person, cookware quality is something I will not compromise on. Not only because of concerns about reliability, but safety. Food + high heat exposure is not the time to put trust in unproven materials / assembly processes. 

The Challenger introductory price was around $US190 and I assume they weren't selling at a loss, so there should be plenty of room for it to come back down. 

jimchall's picture
jimchall

I agree with you about the quality of American made cast iron. It's far superior to cast iron made in other countries. I wish I could say that we're going to be able to bring the cost down, but the manufacturing costs on our pan are high. It's good heavy and thick cast iron, and the handles we put on the cover for bakers mean that there's some hand finishing that has to be done. Comparisons are always, and everyone just has to find what works for them.

BMB's picture
BMB

I wish them as much luck as you do.

I am very happy for the guy.

but for that price I would never consider buying it.

like I said for same price you can get few of lodge dutch ovens. So you can bake two breads and cook a killer beef stew at same time and make music with few other ones you have on hand. And maybe pick up a six pack of beer and stil have money left over. 

I apologize to the person. I don’t diss the product, I just think it’s for a person that bakes 1 or 2 breads a week.

jimchall's picture
jimchall

I know you're not dissing our pan. I can tell you that I sure wish that I could manufacture a pan for the price that Lodge can. It would be incredible.

HansB's picture
HansB

I think that your product is likely a good one, albeit in the high-end range and wish you the best!

jimchall's picture
jimchall

Thank you so much! I really appreciate it.

mvdmdms's picture
mvdmdms

Can someone help me? I've been baking from "Tartine" but when I invert the rising bowl over my preheated Challenger bread pan, the loaf spreads out over the entire surface, so I end up with a very large flat loaf. Delicious, with beautiful crust, but it looks terrible.

What am I doing wrong?

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

mv: Welcome to TFL.

If you create a blog post with your formula (recipe and procedures), I'm sure several people will come forward to help you out.

jimchall's picture
jimchall

I'm not sure why your loaf would be spreading out all over the surface. It could be due to being overproofed or possibly not enough strength or structure in your dough. Do you loaves back properly in other vessels or on a baking stone/steel?

mvdmdms's picture
mvdmdms

Hi there! When I bake the bread in the vessel in which I did the final rise, I don't have an issue. The problem is my transfer from the bowl onto the pan - it kind of splats. Is there something in my technique? Is the dough too delicate (over proofed) to weather the transfer? Maybe it's too hydrated?

I follow the Tartine recipe pretty much to the letter....

Any help would be appreciated. 

ciabatta's picture
ciabatta

start a new post and put up some photos along with your process/timing,etc.  could be a number of things.

you need to adjust a recipe to suit your temperatures, flour type, humidity, water, oven, and starter.

mvdmdms's picture
mvdmdms

OK  but arggh

jimchall's picture
jimchall

When you say that you normally bake it in the vessel you proofed it in, what vessel are you using?

mvdmdms's picture
mvdmdms

Before I got my Challenger, I raised the bread in a cast iron dutch oven and baked it in same. 

Whenever I try to raise the bread in a banneton and transfer it to a hot pan, I lose a lot of the rise in the flip. 

chelseasf's picture
chelseasf

Don't flip your dough into the hot pan.  Put parchment paper on a plate, put it on top of the banneton and invert it. Then just lift the dough in the parchment and put it in the pan (so it bakes on parchment.)  Much less trauma to the dough that way.

jimchall's picture
jimchall

I designed the base of the Challenger Bread Pan to be really low so that you absolutely can flip the dough right out of your banneton into the base of the pan -- without burning your hands or degassing your dough!

jimchall's picture
jimchall

I would agree with @ciabatta that it could be many things. A "free standing" loaf needs to have more strength in the dough in order to not go flat when you turn it out of the banneton. I think Chad talks about it in Tartine. It could be as simple as a couple of more folds. You could even try reducing the water which will give you a stronger dough. Constant learning is why we're home bakers, right?

chelseasf's picture
chelseasf

That's why I asked if they were going to make a smaller one.  For high-hydration loaves you especially need a pot that holds the bread's shape.

Your answer might be doubling your bread recipe, then maybe it will it the Challenger!

 

jimchall's picture
jimchall

Although my skills aren't good enough for high hydration loaves yet, bakers bake unsupported high hydration loaves in our Pan all the time. It's 100% possible.

amateurbreadbaker's picture
amateurbreadbaker

I'm seriously considering the Challenger pan, but have noticed that the price escalated by more than $100 since last year.  Why the 50% jump in price?  Also, would other cast iron ovens work as well?  Unless I'm wrong, the benefits to this over other cast iron are the size and the handles.  If I can live without that as the occasional baker, should I just invest in a Lodge dutch oven?  That price point is hard to justify.  Thoughts?

jimchall's picture
jimchall

The price did go up after its introductory price last August. You can certainly use other pans, but they’re just not as versatile as our pan. It’ll let you bake all different shapes and sizes of bread, and it also makes killer pizza and focaccia. It’s an investment, but will last a lifetime. I also use the base as a skillet all the time, and it’s extra large size is awesome. You might enjoy this thorough review that I just read this morning: https://www.brooot.de/the-challenger-breadpan-meine-erfahrungen. You might need to read it in Chrome which will translate it from German for you if you right-click anywhere.