Andrew yes the loaf pans should help get a more uniform brown crust on top. The stone pans are sort of expensive and I think the metal ones with the cover are better if you can find them, or just order some.
For sour loaves like baguette, just stretch them out, cut slits across the top at a diagonal. With a spray bottle you can mist the tops with a light lager beer, the malty sugars will caramelize the top nicely...a couple sprays not super duper wet...Or carefully brush it on, but a spray works nice because sometimes when brushing you will indent the dough.
Just mess around with water and flour ratio, you'll find one you like then adjust to whatever it is that you are supposed to adjust to. Heck you can even download a fancy dough hydration calculator app, while you submerse your 600$ smartphone in dough
Have fun, if smells stinky and sour your on the right path.