The Fresh Loaf

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No Knead Dough Crust Hard?

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kap1492's picture
kap1492

No Knead Dough Crust Hard?

So I just want to start out by saying that this site and all the contributing information is awesome and overwhelming (in a good way). So I recently baked a no knead bread they way that Mark Bittman describes by using a dutch oven. Everything about the final product is awesome except for the crust. My finish product had such a beautiful color but the crust was just too thick and hard especially the bottom. The bottom has a very smooth texture and almost tooth cracking crunch. Any though of what I might have done wrong or how to improve? I honestly think that the baking time 30 min covered and 15 min uncovered is too long, however I have not reduced baking time nor have I took a temp. Would a baking stone with homemade steam injection prevent this? Looking forward to your suggestions.

SCruz's picture
SCruz

Several factors will affect the hardness of your crust.

First of all, I agree that you may have baked it too long. Having an instant read thermometer will help you. You want to remove the bread when the internal temp is around 205 degrees. When I made no-knead bread it was usually done in 35 minutes. You baked yours for 45 minutes.

The placement in the oven makes a difference. Try putting it higher in the oven.

And finally, you may need to reduce the temperature. You didn't say at what temp you baked yours, but when I use a dutch oven, I pre-heat it to 500, but reduce it to 450 while the bread is baking. I know some recipes call for 465-475 degrees. Ovens vary in their accuracy, if it is a persistent problem you might want to get an oven thermometer.

One more thing. Usually the bread is covered for 15 minutes and uncovered for the rest of the time. I think you reversed it.

Your fifth loaf will be better than your first. Imagine how good your 25th loaf will be.

Good luck.

Jerry

kap1492's picture
kap1492

Jerry, I am howling at your title and believe you me it was hard as titanium the following day. The recipe that I followed was a repost of the original....so you know what happens as info gets passed down. Since I cooked it in a dutch oven, I am restricted on how high I can put the rack, albeit I placed it close to the middle. I think my wife will kill me if I get one more gadget/appliance, I am running out of room to hide them. Thanks for the comments and suggestions, I will definitely take them into consideration. Even the NY post recipe states to bake 30 min covered and 15-30 uncovered so I guess the recipe has to be adapted to oven temp, bread temp and personal preference. When you bake your free formed loafs/artisan break, do you use a baking stone or dutch oven? 

SCruz's picture
SCruz

I bake all my boules in cast iron dutch ovens.

An instant-read thermometer is the size of a ballpoint pen with a 50-cent piece on top, and it only costs $7. Put it in your desk drawer with your pencils. Your wife will never think of looking there.

The NY Post may say 30 minutes covered/15 uncovered, but all the posts on TFL will say the opposite. Now who are you going to believe?

Lower the oven temp to 450 and take the bread's temperature after 35 minutes. Your teeth and your wife will thank you.

Jerry

 

kap1492's picture
kap1492

Unfortunately I had already made these before I uncovered this wonderful site. I do have a cheap digital thermometer but have my sights set on a thermopen and maverick digital oven thermometer that monitors your oven temp and internal food temp. Does your bottoms have a really smooth texture or do you get a rough cornmeal texture?

lumos's picture
lumos

Is there any possibility you can post photos of your bread, both the outside and sliced?  Without it, it's a bit difficult to know if your crust is really thicker/harder than the original recipe meant to or it is actually right degree of thickness/hardness but it's just thicker/harder than sort of breads you've been more accustomed to.  I'm asking this because I (and many other people on TFL) regularly bake bread for 40 - 45 min in a Dutch oven/pot/pyrex (usually 20 min with lid and another 20-25 min -depends on size and hydration  without lid for me) and are quite happy with how it turns out ..... and my late MIL, who mainly ate factory-made bread from supermarket   always commented how hard the crust of the bread I bake. Just wondering.....

kap1492's picture
kap1492

When I baked these loafs a few months ago, I only took a picture of the loaf as a whole, not the crumb. I am going to make it again today with the suggestions that I have read along with monitoring the internal temp. I am definitely used to eating more rustic breads with hearty crusts but this was just not one of them. Dont get me wrong, it was very good the first day fresh, albeit a little more thicker than what I would want. The next day this bread gave a whole new meaning to day old bread. The first time I made this recipe I was making them for the intent of using them for bread bowls which I did, however they were a little flat and not round like I would of liked. Flavor and crumb had a light sourdough taste which I enjoyed. I did notice that the crumb had a somewhat shiny appearance lik it was almost underdone. Second time I did the same except I added more flour that took the dough from sticky to slightly tacky as one would do with a quicker dough that was kneaded a good bit. Interestingly, the crumb was much tighter (expected) but that light sourdough taste was not apparent. Could kneading it remove the taste, I dont think so but who knows?

dwfender's picture
dwfender

Well, if you added more flour and changed the hydration of the dough, wouldn't you essentially be changing the percentage of sourdough starter mixed into the final loaf? Taking away some of that sourdough flavor that is...

SCruz's picture
SCruz

"The first time I made this recipe I was making them with the intent of using them for bread bowls..."

Not sure I understand your concern. Sounds like you got your bread bowls: bread that is as tough as wood. : - )

Jerry

kap1492's picture
kap1492

So after doing some reading on the forum, I think I have figured out where I went wrong. First and foremost I baked them entierly too long. The second time I made them, I was going for a more rounded loaf so I decided to knead the hell out of it while incorporating more flour to prevent it from being such a wet dough not realizing that in doing so it was altering the taste. Most importantly I went from bulk fermentation to dropping them in the dutch oven, not realizing that I needed bench rest and do a final rest shaping in between rests. I am so looking forward to doing it again with the right technique. Just started a Tartine starter so I am really excited to add so much depth to my future baking endeavours. Lets just hope the starter takes life. 

MickiColl's picture
MickiColl

like you I experienced a hard crust on the nk breads. I tried everything from baking in a dutch oven to baking on a stone. sadly it just didn't/doesn't work for me .. so I quit trying. my crust was always the "turtle" crust. not at all crunchy ( I would have loved that) but just tough. very very tough.  wish there was a way to correct it .. if you find it please let me know.

kap1492's picture
kap1492

So today I decided to do an experiment to see how I could improve from my previous unsuccessful attempts at baking a good no knead loaf. I decided to try two different approaches one being a DO and the other a 1/4 in cheap round baking stone. Placed the stone and DO on the second lowest rack in my oven. Dough was mixed using the standard no knead recipe. Dough bulk fermented for 12ish hours. Loafs were shaped and allowed to proof for an hour and a half. Since I do not have brotforms I had to improvise. I ended up using an 8in plastic colander and a 6in stainless steel mixing bowl each liberally coated with flour and some cooking spray to help flour adhere to proofing bowls, which failed. One thing is for certain, I must invest in some broforms because as you can see below, the loafs flattened out as soon as they hit the parchment paper. Oven was preheated to 500 for 45 min. One of the many thing I did differently than in past attempts was bake both loafs on parchment paper. With both of my previous attempts I really did not care for how smooth the bottom of the loafs were when using my enamel DO's and wanted to see if a cornmeal dusting baked on parchment changed the texture. First up was the DO. I really adjusted the baking time which gave me the results that I was aiming for instead of the rock hard loafs that resulted in past attempts. Instead of baking for 30 min covered and another 15-30 min uncovered as the recipes states, I baked for 15 min covered and 25 uncovered for both the DO and baking stone. When the DO loaf was done, I removed it and allowed the already hot stone to reheat while I prepared the second loaf. Since I was baking the second on a stone, I wanted to try and incorporate some steam so I placed baking dish on the next rack and allowed it to get hot. When ready, I placed the parchment lined loaf on the stone and added a cup of water to the baking dish. This loaf was baked for probably 2-3 min less because I could smell the loaf starting to over brown. Surprisingly both loafs were cooked to the same internal temp of 208.  I learned a few thing that will become invaluable for my future baking. First, I really prefer the DO because it gave me a golden brown crust and decrease my chances of over browning. It also allowed for a better shaped loaf. The parchment paper dusted with cornmeal really gave me the bottom texture I was looking for. While both loafs resulted in identical crumb, the baking stone method gave me a slightly less desirable loaf due to the flatter shape and the slight over browning. Here are some pictures.

 

SCruz's picture
SCruz

So you're concerned about the flatness of your bread.

A brotform is not necessarily your best solution.

Try decreasing the amount of water. You haven't told us exactly how much flour and water you're using, but when I made no-knead bread I used 15.5 oz flour (8.5 AP, 7 WW) and 11 oz water. The drier dough held its shape better in the final proof.

The other thing you can do is to put the dough in the fridge for a few hours after the initial rise, take it out to shape it, and have the final proof take place overnight in the fridge. It shouldn't sprawl at the waist as much. You can put the cold dough in a preheated oven in its DO and just plan on baking it for an additional 10 minutes or so. Again, 205 degrees is your friend.

Good luck.

Jerry

 

kap1492's picture
kap1492

Thanks for the suggestions Jerry. While I have improved this recipe significantly when it comes to taste and texture by changing up the cooking time and monitoring the internal temp. I now understand that a dough with a high hydration is not going to keep its shape well. After my final proof I was excited to have a well rounded dough to be baked but before my eyes my dough had fallen flat like a balloon that was poked with a pin. Oh well, live and learn from mistakes.

dwfender's picture
dwfender

What is the hydration of your dough? I make my ciabatta with 80-90 percent and a do a pugliese at 78 percent and I still get a nice rise and shape out of my doughs. Maybe it's your gluten development and shaping technique that is affecting you more than your hydration level? 

Farmpride's picture
Farmpride

i think you hit it,  mainly with the  dough development of gluten,  you can't cut that short especially baking without a mold.

albert/farmpride.com