The Fresh Loaf

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How do I get a softer crust?

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DavidEF's picture

How do I get a softer crust?

I am trying to bake a soft sandwich loaf from sourdough, using this recipe: but I don't have any powdered milk, so I leave that out. Also, I usually am scaling the recipe to make more than it calls for, and using a slightly higher hydration. The recipe makes about a 64% hydration dough, and I usually keep mine at about 70% hydration (counting only the flour and water, because I don't know how to calculate the other ingredients for hydration). It almost always turns out wonderful bread, but the crust is thick, and when I store it, it turns tough. I was wondering if there is a way to get a lighter (as in thinner) crust on my bread, or at least a crust that is not tough. Is that little bit of milk powder the magic ingredient that does that? I know I've read that milk does make the bread softer, because it inhibits some of the gluten formation. Help me out here, please! Susan, if you happen to be around, tell me what I'm doing wrong with your recipe!

One thing I have already tried is baking at a lower temp for a longer time. I've also tried baking with and without steam.

Ford's picture

To get a soft crust, brush the dough, just after shaping, with melted butter, and, after it has risen, spray with water before putting it in the oven.  Use steam in the oven, (a pan of boiling water under the baking shelf).  Whe the loaf is baked, brush the crust with melted butter an cover with plastic wrap as it cools.  When coo,l package it in a plastic bag.

If you add butter to the recipe and use milk instead of water, the crumb will also be wonderfully soft.  If you wish, I'll send you my recipe.


Milanns's picture

Hi Ford --

I know this is an old thread, but I'm going to make an attempt at reaching out!

I too am looking for a softer, sandwich like crust.  My son is getting braces tomorrow and he won't be able to eat my super crusty attempts at sourdough bread.  I work full time and don't get to do a lot of experimenting.  A recipe to follow would be fantastic! Is it possible for me to get a copy of your recipe as well?

Thanks so much!



Viri Baker's picture
Viri Baker

Hi Ford!

im new in the bread baking world and I'm trying to make my own bread for my whole family but I haven't got good results on the recipes I've been following.

Is it possible for me to get a copy of your recipe as well? I know it's been a long time since you posted this mess Thanks!

Viri Baker's picture
Viri Baker

i meant message, not mess!! I'm sorry my cellphone it's crazy!

Ford's picture


White Sourdough Bread 

 [19 sl./lf., 1/2" sl., 47 g, 110 cal, 3.3 g prot, 2.0 g fat, 19.3 g carb.]



3 cups (27 oz., 255 g) refreshed sourdough starter (100% hydration), at 70 to 80°F

3 3/4 cups (32 oz., 907 g) tepid scalded milk (skim ©)

11 to 11 1/3 cups (46.8 to 48 oz., 1327 to 1361 g) bread flour*

1 1/2 Tbs. (1 oz., 28 g) salt

1/4 cup (2 oz.. 56 g) butter (or corn oil ©)

1/4 cup (2 oz., 56 g) melted butter (or corn oil ©) to brush dough, to grease pans, and to brush bread

water in a sprayer



*Note: for part of the bread flour, you may use 1/2 cup (2.1 oz.) whole-wheat flour, and/or 1/2 cup (1.7 oz.) oat meal (rolled oats), pulverized to a flour, to modify the flavor and texture of the bread. Decrease flour appropriately, say by 1/2 cup (2.1 oz.).

~75% hydration.  3 loaves @ ~36 oz. unbaked, ~34 oz. baked.


For the poolish, combine the refreshed, room temperature starter with the milk, half the bread flour, and, if used, oat flour and/or whole-wheat flour.  Let this sit for about thirty minutes for the flour to absorb the water and to ferment.  Long fermentation time is not required for sourdough.  Over fermentation can mean the loss of structure by the acid attacking the gluten.

For the dough, mix in the quarter cup of melted butter, salt, and as much of the remaining flour as can be mixed with a spoon.  Turn out on to a floured surface and knead in as much flour as it takes to make a soft, non-sticky dough.  The stretch and fold method of kneading will work.  Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover, and allow it to double in volume.  With stretch and fold the dough has already doubled by the last rest.

Brush melted butter around the inside of three 5”x 8” loaf pans.  Again, turn out the dough on to the floured surface and divide into three equal parts.  Shape the dough into loaves and place them into the loaf pans.  Brush each loaf with melted butter.  Cover with plastic wrap and let them rise until the dough comes well above the top of the pans, about 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 450°F.  Place a broiler pan of boiling water on the shelf below the baking shelf.  Slash each loaf with a greased razor blade or a very sharp knife, making a quarter inch deep cut.  Spray the loaves with a mist of water and place them on the middle shelf of the oven.  Spray the loaves two more times in the oven at two-minute intervals.  After fifteen minutes, remove the pan of water, set the oven temperature to 350°F, and bake for an additional 40 minutes or until the interior temperature of the loaf reaches 195°F.

Turn the loaves on to a cake rack and brush all sides with melted butter.  Cover with plastic wrap.  Allow the loaves to cool before cutting or wrapping.  The loaves may then be frozen, if desired.




White Sourdough Bread (Pan de Mie)

This bread is much lighter than the normal sourdough white loaf, about 47% by weight.


For the Levain


15 g starter (100% hydration)

24 g scalded milk

46 g bread flour (King Arthur)



(Day - 1)  Mix and let ferment for 12 hours at about 75°F.  59% hydration.



Final Dough


All of the levain, above

164 g scalded milk

127 g bread flour (KA)

100 g all-purpose flour (KA)

14 g sugar

5 g salt

14 g melted butter, cooled to 80°F

melted butter for brushing loaf.



(Day – 2)  Mix together levain, milk, flours, and sugar.  Autolyse for 30 minutes.  Add the salt and knead with a dough hook on a mixer  until the gluten is well developed.  Add the butter and continue to mix to develop the gluten.  This intensive kneading (about 15 minutes) is the key to getting a soft crumb with the proper volume.  Get  a strong windowpane test

Bulk rise for 2 hours. Fold, cover, and place in the refrigerator overnight


(Day 3)  Shape the dough and place in a well buttered standard  9 5/8 x 5 ½ x 2 ¼  loaf pan, seam side down.  Spread melted butter over the dough.  Cover and let rise at about 75°F for about 6 hours – dough should come about one inch above the top of the pan.

Bake in a preheated oven at 375°F for about 45 minutes, or until the interior temperature is 195°F.  Immediately remove the bread from the pan, brush with melted butter, and cool.

After cooling, package in an air-tight package.  Bread may be frozen or refrigerated.

 ~ 70% hydration  One loaf

Modified from TxFarmer, 16 Nov 2010,

DavidEF's picture

Thanks, Ford. I'll take you up on that offer to send me your recipe. I love a crispy crust on bread, but for sandwiches, I want a softer crust. My crumb is plenty soft and has a "cool" texture. Just the crust is thick and crunchy when I bake it, and it turns tough when stored. One thing I haven't tried that might do the trick, is covering for the first part of the bake. I don't have anything to cover with, but I guess I could make an aluminum foil tent or something. Would that help at all?

mini_maggie's picture

will soften it considerably.  Try just substituting milk for the water and see what you get before you complicate the rest of the process too much.  I like keeping things simple!

Sorry, posted  this in the wrong place - meant to reply to the OP, not meant to dispute Ford's advice!!

Ford's picture

It's in the mail.  Check your messages, this site.

Ford's picture

See the recipes above.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

(fruit allowed to ferment in water until effervescent) will also give you the same qualities as a milk bread.  Look up: Yeast water

Potato water in the recipe (cut up small potato, boil and mash with the cooking water & use as liquids)  will also soften crusts while cooling from the oven.  Draping the racked loaf with a thin cloth may also help being careful not to let the water condense on the crust.

Could also cool, slice and freeze the bread to thaw out later keeping crusts moist not giving them a chance to dry out and get tough.

dabrownman's picture

besides the info above, i just brush the baked bread with milk as it comes out of the oven.  That is usually all it takes.  You can also scald milk or use dry milk powder in bread so it won't affect any of the enzymes or yeast during fermentation or gluten development.

happy baking.

MisterTT's picture

In my experience, adding even a small amount of potato (leftover mashed potatoes from dinner work fine) softens both the crust and crumb considerably.