Keys to a harder crust for a WW pain au levain boule?
Hi everyone, I'm new to the forums, but have been lurking around for a while. I've been baking exclusively 100% whole grain bread for a couple of years now, and I'm very happy with my sandwich loaf, but I'm always tweaking my rustic boule (which I make with a sourdough starter). I use Peter Reinhardt's forumula as a start for a boule/hearth bread from his Whole Grain Breads book. This recipe calls for a pre-ferment + a soaker overnight, and when the final dough comes together, I do not add any fats (no oil or sugar), and I do not add any commercial yeast (I let the natural leavening starter do its thing).
I am happy with the rise, the crumb, and the flavor of my whole wheat sourdough bread, but I always wish the crust were harder. The entire bread feels beautifully light on the inside (not the heavy/chewy door-stopper type of weight that a lot attribute to WW), but I think that the crust should be harder and maybe even thicker. When searching hard or soft crust on this forum, it looks like the trend is how to get a softer cruster instead of harder... well, I need tips on harder crust.
I experiment baking two ways: 1) on parchment paper directly on a fibrament baking stone pre-heated for 1 hour to 550 deg F (temp reduced to 450 deg F after 2 minutes) with a steam pan and a spritz of water sprayed directly onto the boule; and 2) inside of a pre-heated cast-iron dutch (with parchment paper again for ease of transport) oven pre-heated to 550 degrees (lowered to 450 degrees after first 2 minutes), boule spritzed with water, and covered with a lid for about 75% of the baking time. The results are somewhat similar, with the crust browning more on the stone (and maybe slightly tougher just on the bottom).
Recently I am scoring the loaf, and I'm happier with the oven spring, but look for your tips on a tougher and harder crust out of the oven. I know that after a day or so in a plastic bag, the crust will soften, but I'm hopeful for the day 1 crust!