The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Crust

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BlueDevil0206's picture
BlueDevil0206

Crust

I've made bread about a dozen times.  It always turns out well.....good texture and flavor.  However my crust is never hard and crusty.  I do the water spraying, I have the oven at like 550 and bake on a stone.  It seems to be crusty when it comes out of the oven, but after cooling it isn't anymore.  I use King Arthur flour (half bread flour, half whole wheat).  Any words of wisdom?  Thanks.

fthec's picture
fthec

I suggest you open the oven door a tiny bit (prop it open with a steel spatula or something similar) after about 1/3 of the baking time has expired, typically by the time the bread has just started to take on some color (usually 10-15 minutes).  This allows the excess moisture in the oven to escape, effectively helping the crust to dry and firm up.  Also, make sure you are keeping it in the oven long enough, particularly with high hydration doughs like Ciabatta.

 Hope this helps,

 thefranceman

Cooky's picture
Cooky

I've run into a similar crust issue with bread made from very wet dough -- it comes out looking crunchy, but softens up too much as it cools.

The best way I've found to get past it is to turn the heat down (sometimes off completely, depending on the size of the loaf and how high a temp I'm using for the main bake) and leave the loaf in the oven for an extra 5 to 10 minutes. That usually pulls out enough moisture to ensure a nice crunchy crust. 

Worth noting: I have managed more than once to overdo this technique and end up with a crust so hard it's painful to eat without some sauce or soup or something to sop up. It takes a bit of trial and error to get the results you want.

 

 

 

 

 

 

"I am not a cook. But I am sorta cooky."

breadnerd's picture
breadnerd

In my experience, when a crust softens up once it's out of the oven, it means I took it out a little too soon.   It's hard to tell because it looks and feels right when it's so hot.

 

Give it another 5-8 minutes next time, and see how it works.   

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Those of us in cooler climates enjoy a lower overall humidity most of the time. Even at 42 degrees North however my crusts do soften up after a while on the counter. Perhaps Tomsbread will comment on how he manages this gift of nature. I believe he lives near the Equator and is all to familiar with Hot and Humid.

Eric

tomsbread's picture
tomsbread

Hi Eric,

I suppose living in a sauna is a blessing if you don't ever have earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, floods, drought and other gifts of nature.  

This is the kind of heat and humidity we are talking about:

TEMPERATURE:
Diurnal range: Minimum 23 to 26 deg C and Maximum 31 to 34 deg C
Extremes: Minimum of 19.4 deg C and Maximum of 35.8 deg C

RELATIVE HUMIDITY:
Diurnal range in the high 90's in the early morning to around 60 % in the mid-afternoon. Mean value is 84%, During prolonged heavy rain, relative humidity often reaches 100 %.

I discovered recently that I don't really need to steam my oven. My oven with built in steam injection is actually an overkill.  In fact, the breads turned out better without the steaming!. The crust turns soft quickly over here and its a pain(not French) giving bread to friends, especially those who have eaten breads from France. The comparision is inevitable.

I overcome the soft crust problem by heating the bread in my counter-top oven. The crust gets crispy enough to shatter when cut but then, how many times can you reheat a loaf before the crumb deteriorates. Most of the time, I just eat it as it is. Guess I have gotten used to it. I usually eat my bread with some butter and coffee, nothing fancy. If I want fancy, 99.9 % of all breads found in Singapore are fancy Japanese styled buns made with pork floss, squid ink and whatever exotic that strikes the imagination.

Tomsbread 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Thank you Tomsbread. I guessed you would share some high humidity perspective with us. As I read your post I was thinking you could escape the wilting of your crust if you were in air conditioning. Am I correct in thinking that most HK residents accept the environment and don't try to keep the temp artificially cool? The cost would be crushing to do so I would think.

 Good to hear from you Tom.

Eric

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

I was worried the first couple of times about my crusts. They came out nice and crispy and not overly thick (I've been baking very wet doughs as yet). Then once they cooled, they crust became soft and chewy.

But on reflection, this isn't a bad thing since I always warm my bread up prior to serving it. I warm it on 400 until I start to smell it. I don't serve it as "slices". I cut "hunks" off the bread and serve each person a "hunk" that allows them to break the bread in bites with their fingers. The resultant crust is just right from a crunch and thickness perspective. If it was any thicker I'd have whopping dentists bills.

 So i no longer worry about the crust. I think the secret is reheating before serving!

Happy baking!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

a cut open end drying out, cover just the end with aluminum foil.  Mini Oven

Susan's picture
Susan

Ex-Raleigh, to be exact.

Perhaps 550 is too high, and you are browning the outside before cooking the inside. Preheat at 550 if you like, then turn it down to 500 or 475 and see what happens. Bake your loaves until they're almost burnt. They'll taste better that way, too. Keep pushing the envelope until you're there.

Let us know how it goes.

Susan

BlueDevil0206's picture
BlueDevil0206

So this time, I made more like free form 'loaves' as opposed to baguette-esqe loaves (reason being, I can cook them longer since they are thicker, hopefully getting a thicker, crisper crust). I also put the bread directly on the stone from the get go as opposed to on the parchment paper and then remove paper when the crust starts to form. I cooked at 475ish until the internal temp was ~207. The crust looked and felt amazing out of the oven but as it cooled it went soft. I cooled them upside down so the steam inside would rise to the bottom so the top stayed crisp, but that didn't work either. The color is excellent and I can get nice crust by warming the loaves back up but I just thought it would stay crisp after it cooled. Thanks for the replies though.

 

Also, do you spray the water directly on the bread or just in the oven (bottom, sides etc)? 

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

I have found that the crispy crust does soften as the bread cools but if I leave it on the rack for a long time even after it feels completely cool on the outside (like overnight or at least 8 hrs) it can crisp up again. Not 100% reliable, but does work sometimes.

BlueDevil0206's picture
BlueDevil0206

Is the interior texture still the same as when it's freshly cooled?

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

if you're asking whether the bread stales a little in the interior, no, it doesn't.

in a high hydration bread - like the NYT no-knead - you don't get that "gummy" interior that some ppl complain of (b/c they cut into it too soon)

i hope this answers your question 

BlueDevil0206's picture
BlueDevil0206

Can over proofing cause lack of crustiness and color?

mkelly27's picture
mkelly27

In my opinion, yes.  As the yeasts have used up more of the sugars from the fermentation process, less is available to carmelize in the "Malliard" process. 

 

  Overproofing is not the only reason for this as many other components can cause those symptoms 

Two wrongs don't make a right. Three lefts make a right

kjknits's picture
kjknits

Two wrongs don't make a right. Three lefts make a right.

Haha!  And so true.

Katie in SC 

BlueDevil0206's picture
BlueDevil0206

So I've been busy playing the sourdough starter game the last week, but I got around to making some yeasted bread and boy, the subtle changes I made worked wonders.  First, I got "Crust and Crumb" and tried retarding after shaping instead of during the primary fermentation.  Second, I let it cook until the crust is almost burnt regardless of the internal temperature.  And third, I made sure not to overproof (ie.  bench and shape soon as it had doubled).

 It's my improvised recipe, borrowing things from here and there.  75% hydration. 2:1 AP:WW with a WW poolish.  Bit of gluten....I want to find KA bread flour, but they only have AP and WW.

 

The loaves were beautiful.  First time I got that crackly, blistered crust.  It was nice and amber brown and not dull powdery brown like usual.  Hopefully it stays relatively crisp after cooling. Next time I want to use some diastatic malt powder now that I finally found it too.

 

If I get motivated, I'll post pictures. 

kjknits's picture
kjknits

Bluedevil, I'm excited to see your loaves!  Just finished my second batch of sourdough loaves...isn't sodo fun?

Katie in SC 

BlueDevil0206's picture
BlueDevil0206

Here they are:

 

breadbread 2

 

Susan's picture
Susan

So happy for you.

Susan from San Diego

kjknits's picture
kjknits

They're gorgeous!  Did they stay nice and crisp after cooling?

Katie in SC 

browndog's picture
browndog

They are beauties, doesn't success taste great? Thanks for the photos and details. I'm curious also about how long the crackle held. I don't think even perfect crust can stand up over a couple days' time without help from the toaster, assuming that it lasts that long.

BlueDevil0206's picture
BlueDevil0206

Yeah, this morning (say 7 hours after coming out of the oven) the crust wasn't too crispy.  Not as soft as it has been in the past.  I mean it still has a thicker texture than the crumb but not crispy.  Oh well.

BlueDevil0206's picture
BlueDevil0206

Will adding a bit of sugar or malt powder/syrup make a crispier crust or does that just help color?

 

Also, maybe a tad off topic, would you think that an organic malt syrup would still contain active enzymes like a diastatic malt powder? 

browndog's picture
browndog

I think sugar and malt function pretty much as tenderizers along with being yeast stimulants and coloring boosters, so I wouldn't look to them to achieve a crisper crust. As to whether or not barley malt syrup has active enzymes, I think the answer is no or the makers would be bragging about it, I couldn't find it addressed in any of my books though.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Nice job BD, the color is a nice shade. I think the crispy crust is a tease luring you to cut the loaf while it is still warm! Unless you live at high altitude where the moisture in the air is very low, you can expect that great crispy crust to be a temporary visitor. As stated above the toaster or oven is the only way to dry out the crust again.

So, knowing this, if you can get proficient at steaming effectively you can learn how to create a thin crispy crust. That way when you re heat the bread it will crisp up quickly without becoming tough.

Eric