The Fresh Loaf

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The crust is too thin

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mitjak's picture
mitjak

The crust is too thin

I'm trying out variations of no-knead recipes, and the one thing I can't seem to nail down is the crust.

Last time I've made it, I used only whole wheat flour with half a teaspoon of east with about 6 hours fermentation and 2 hours proofing time. I don't use a dutch oven and bake the loaves free-standing. The crust came out on the medium side. Today, I tried 1.5 cups all-purpose and 3 cups whole wheat flour, with same times for fermentation and proofing and 1 more S&F than last time. After about 30 minutes in the oven at 425F with the steaming pan and spraying the oven walls with a spray bottle a few times in the first 10 minutes, the crust came out a bit hard on top but mostly paper thin on the sides and bottom.

What variables affect crust thickness? I noticed most no-knead bread recipes ask for 40+ minutes in the oven, but I'm assuming I have to decrease the time since I'm not using a dutch oven. The bread came out a darker brown with the topmost point moving towards dark brown. It registered about 205F inside. Is the temperature alone enough to judge readiness of a bread?

richkaimd's picture
richkaimd

Crumb doneness is determined by its reaching the right temperature.  Your bread should be done if internal temperature is 195-205 degrees F.

Crust thickness is improved by the length of time the crust is in contact with steam, keeping the oven temperature constant.  That's why a covered Dutch oven gives no-knead bread a superior crust.  The Dutch Oven is very hot when the dough goes in.  The water vapor coming out of the baking dough becomes trapped steam.  You are describing two things which lessen both temperature and amount of steam which comes into contact with your dough's outer surface.  You have to open the oven door every time  you add the water you want to become steam.  The oven volume you need to have steam permeating is much larger (it's the whole oven) than in the Dutch oven method.  In the Dutch oven method you never have to add water because ALL the water coming out of the baking dough is trapped inside the covered pot if it seals well.

I think that I once heard that an opened oven door costs the oven temperature something like 25 degrees F per SECOND!

If you don't have a Dutch oven, you'll have to bake at a higher temperature and try to add your water amazingly quickly.  You should remember that crust formation happens in the early part of the bake, hence opening the door during that time is to be avoided.  Yet with your technique it seems you must open it. 

I recommend finding a Dutch oven to work with.  Either that or bake on an unglazed surface covered with an unglazed large flower pot.  You can seal the hole in the flower pot with metal pieces easily purchased at the hardware store where you might find the flower pot.  A large bolt to put down through the up-turned flower pot's hole, held in place by washers and matching nuts, has worked for me.   An unglazed flower pot stand with a diameter just larger than the upper diameter of the large flower pot could serve as your baking surface.

Good luck!

 

 

booch221's picture
booch221

I use a cold dutch oven or cast iron skillet for my no knead bread and get excellent results. 

I preheat the oven to 450º F for 30 minutes. Put the dough on parchment paper and put it in a cold dutch oven or cast iron skillet, covered for 1/2 hour.

I take it off for 10 minutes until the bread is golden brown and 205-210º  F.

I find this to be much easier than trying to place the dough in a hot dutch oven.

It comes out with a nice uniform crust and airy crumb.

 

mitjak's picture
mitjak

Thanks for your and richkaimd's input! I'll try to apply the tips to my next loaf and report back.

MickiColl's picture
MickiColl

that's the way I do it, too .. plopping it into a screaming hot dutch oven just never did work for me. I find that cold bread into a cold cast iron pan and covered makes the perfect crust. and parchment stops it from sticking.. ever.

copyu's picture
copyu

What a great, thorough response to the original question! [I believe in giving credit where it's due...]

Well done, so thank you for that very pleasant and informative read.

Best wishes,

Adam

richkaimd's picture
richkaimd

Thanks for the kind comment about my Crumb and Crust note.  It's good to know when one is being read and actually seems to make sense to someone.

As to the issue of the too-hot Dutch oven:  I've never thrown my dough into the Dutch oven the way I've seen it done in the videos.  I always found it too risky.  Sometimes I would miss.  Boy, did that feel stupid.  For a long time, years and years, I've been making all sorts of breads with the hot Dutch oven and have never been burned.  This is how I do it:  my doughs rise in a parchment paper-lined bowl.  I pick up the risen dough by pulling together the corners of the parchment paper to lower it into the Dutch oven.  Works like a charm!  I might add the this process is safer when I wear oven-proof GLOVES, never mitts.  Gloves give me more dexterity.

copyu's picture
copyu

I made pain au levain last night and decided, at the last minute, to use a cold, cast-iron dutch oven for the bake...I followed the 'usual' no-knead bread protocols—30min with lid on and 15min with lid off. Fool that I am, I gave no consideration to the lower hydration of the loaf I was baking, compared to Lahey's NKB.

After removing the 'blazing-hot' lid, there was nowhere to put it, safely, in our tiny Japanese kitchen. I popped it on top of the pile of our metal baking and roasting trays (which usually live inside the cold oven, but were languishing on the so-called 'bar'...) The metal trays flexed rather suddenly once they heated-up...the D-O lid fell onto our expensive, beige leather sofa. I picked it up with two fingers...OUCH!

It's the first time I've ever burned myself on cast-iron cookware and I've been using the stuff for almost everything for about 35 years...we live, but we never learn! ;-)

Adam

PS: The bread was one of the best I'd ever made and the VERY best pain au levain I've managed...real 'grigne'! Another first-time experience! It was worth the burnt fingers!

booch221's picture
booch221

How did the leather couch fare?

mitjak's picture
mitjak

Oh no!! It's all indirectly my fault hah

EvaB's picture
EvaB

I feel for your poor fingers, and the couch as well! I hate the crowded kitchen bit, am trying to get mine expanded. It isn't as small as yours, but probably smaller than you would like!

I gave up iroing clothes because everytime I did it, I burned my fingers on the iron, EVERY TIME, it just seemed that the iron was attracted to my fingers! I can live with a bit of wrinkles, and besides most of the stuff on the market these days is no iron anyway.

I've burned myself many times on cast iron, and other cookware, but its usually because I didn't think about what I was doing before hand. I love my cast iron though, it cooks the best!

Eva

copyu's picture
copyu

Thank you all for your kind responses to my 'misadventure'. You guys are great! I'm very sorry for the delay, but it's so busy here at home! My wife and I are working two jobs each, at the moment. (The things we do just to pay our taxes!) I'm talking about the 'Poll Tax' or 'Residential Tax' that Japanese city governments levy on every adult resident. They doubled the poll tax and reduced income tax, slightly, to "compensate"...YEAH, RIGHT!

@booch221: The couch is marked (almost branded?) permanently, but no scorching. I apparently dropped the lid, one more time, after first trying to pick it up. After switching the position of the two affected cushions, you'd hardly notice, though.

@mitjak: Would you mind, very much, if I had my lawyers sue you for "vicarious liability"? Heheheh! It can wait until after Easter, of course. Let me know; I'll leave it up to you! 

@EvaB: You're too kind! I got ice onto my fingers very quickly and the skin is already back to normal. My kitchen in Australia was about 170 sq feet, had a cast-iron "Welcome Dover" coal/woodstove, next to the gas range and had a separate, walk-in pantry. Back then, I used 100% Chinese cast-iron cookware, which my mother bought for me for AUD $16!—2 saucepans, 2 skillets, a dutch oven and 3 lids. Total bliss! Nowadays, I have only 4 cast-iron pots, but am looking for more. I have a rice-cooker and 3 D-Os in different sizes, which do "double duty" as skillets/bread-forms...

Best to all!

Adam

DrBenji's picture
DrBenji

Maybe a silly question, but why bake no-knead in a dutch oven instead of on a stone with steam? And why not, conversely, bake traditional bread in a dutch oven?

mitjak's picture
mitjak

I've follewed richkaimd's advice after his post, and it really does apply in practice: a loaf I made in the Dutch oven turned out to have crispy thicker crust than the freestanding loaves I've attempted before. Perhaps others' ovens are better than mine, but the cute looking early 80s swamp green monster my landlord supplied me with excells at radiating the heat out of itself away from the bread and into the kitchen. Can't complain with sub-zero temperatures outside, I suppose. Water filled cookie sheet and spray bottle or not, I can't seem to produce enough steam to thicken up the rust on m own, but the Dutch oven does do the trick. Any other crust thickening tricks I'm not aware of?

copyu's picture
copyu

The way I inderstand it is: that it's steam that prevents the crust from forming 'too early' in the bake. The hydration of NKB is certainly 'a bit higher than average' for bread dough. The higher hydration of NKB dough makes it pretty hard to handle and it's the extra water in the dough that creates the steam that many of us find hard to generate (especially in vented gas ovens.)

Putting the dough into a pre-heated cloche, Roemertopf, dutch oven, etc, reduces the volume of your oven's air-space dramatically. The water from the wet, shaggy dough forms steam immediately, which is trapped inside the container and slows down the hardening of the crust, which also allows nicer, bigger 'oven spring'. More steam, at the right time (early in the bake) in less space = nicer crust! That's also why they suggest pre-heating the containers for NKB.

With a 'regular' formula that needs steam, where the hydration is probably lower, it's often fine to use a cold dutch oven, which will heat up very quickly in a pre-heated oven, with excellent results. You can also help by spraying the loaf with water just before baking. (I don't know if it works as well with clay containers...Sorry!)

Is this helpful?

Best wishes,

Adam

   

Mukoseev's picture
Mukoseev

Here's a No Knead rye bread that I bake using Jim Lahey's method.  I sprinkle some corn meal on the bottom of a hot dutch oven, gently place the loaf into the pot and bake covered for 10 minutes and 35 minutes uncovered. 

copyu's picture
copyu

Really good job, there, Mukoseev!

The corn-meal on the bottom of the D-O is the best non-stick solution I've ever found...

Cheers,

Adam

Mukoseev's picture
Mukoseev

Thanks.  It looks great doesn't it?  I'm not boasting but I've been baking this bread for years and everytime I take it out of the oven it looks, smells and tastes so good, it just amazes me.

MickiColl's picture
MickiColl

where can I find the recipe please ?

copyu's picture
copyu

Where  can WE find the formula, please?

Adam

Mukoseev's picture
Mukoseev

3 1/2 c.       AP  460g

   1/2 c.       Rye  61g

1 1/2 c.       Water  300g

   1/2 c.       Bass Ale  122g

2. tps.         Salt

1/2 tsp.      Yeast

2  Tbs.        Caraway seeds

 1                Egg white (for wash)Incorporate dry Ingredients then wet. Mix thoroughly. Let forment 18 - 24 hours. Stretch and fold several times.  Let rest for 15 mins.   

 

Shape and let rise for 1 hour.   

 

BAKE
 Pre-heat oven and dutch oven to 500

10 mins. @ 435 covered

35 mins. @ 435 uncovered Brush with diluted egg wash immediately after baking.N.B.  I use a 4 qt. oval cast iron dutch oven and I slash the loaves at the 10 minute mark when they are uncovered.
copyu's picture
copyu

Beautiful rye bread formula (and extra thanks for the metric measures!)

This goes to the top of my "must-bake-list."

Thank you very much, Mukoseev!

Adam

Lauraclimbs's picture
Lauraclimbs

Hi Mukoseev, thanks for the beautiful photos! I just had a quick question about your recipe as I am not familiar with the no knead recipes but have been encouraged to try the one you posted due to your lovely loaf. You let the loaf ferment for 18-24 hours at room temperature? And then you wait 15 minutes inbetween your stretch and folds?

 

Thanks for the advice!

 

Mukoseev's picture
Mukoseev

Let it rest 15 minutes before shaping.

 

richkaimd's picture
richkaimd

I agree with most of what you've distilled from this discussion.  I have a couple of defiinitional issues however.  They are these:

1.)  I define crumb as everything that's inside the crust.  The crust may be thick or thin, but it's still all crust.  A crackly crust itself may be thick or thin. 

2.)  You put together the words "wet" and "shaggy".  Unless I'm mistaken, "wet" refers to a dough that's of higher percent hydration that the lower hydration doughs.  I think of this as low hydration = c. 33% and high hydration = c. 75%.  I use  "shaggy" to mean a dough that is not fully mixed and the gluten form, may still have some dry flour showing, and hence has a lot of obvious tears in it.

I make this comment in the attempt to learn from readers whether there's a widespread difference of opinion about the meanings of these terms.  Maybe I've got it wrong.

 

 

copyu's picture
copyu

I agree with your definitions. Sorry for the slip. Mea culpa!

I had a post that was WAY too long and the stupid editor (yours truly, of course!) missed the 'shaggy' reference. I understood it to mean 'stringy, sloppy dough...' which describes my early NKB experiences perfectly. (I learned to do 2-3 stretch and folds with the Lahey method before I was really happy with it...)

It appears that "shaggy" in reference to bread dough, is a [US] American expression with no British English equivalent...I could be wrong, of course!

Thank you and all best wishes,

Adam

 

 

 

 

 

 

richkaimd's picture
richkaimd

I've fired my editor many times just this morning.