The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How do you get a dark crust without it going too thick?

SergeyAU's picture
SergeyAU

How do you get a dark crust without it going too thick?

Hi guys

Need some help. I bake my bread in either round or oblong loafs. I really like to get a very dark crust, but having no luck.

I bake in a cloche. Set my oven to the max (250C) - fan forced to preheat. Then I put a loaf in, cover with the lid and stop the fan - top and bottom elements still on.(With my oven, if I leave just the bottom element running it does not have enough oomph to keep the required temperature). I bake for 30 min covered still at about 230-240C

I then take the lid off and turn the top element off, so it does not burn the top crust. I let it bake uncovered for 25-30 min. With only bottom element running it drops the temp to about 210-220C naturally, with the temp knob still on max.

My problem is that after that 25-30 min it still does not look as dark as I wanted it to be. Its brown, bun on a lighter side. I want my crust to be like a dark chocolate without burning it and without crust going too thick.

Can someone help me to get the desired crust naturally without adding extra rye, sugar etc? Mine is 20-30% wholegrain.

Shoould I bake for 30min under cover at max and then drop the temp to like 180C and baking for another 40-50 min? I can speed things up by running the top element but that tends to burn the crust and spoil the taste

Ford's picture
Ford

Try leaving the top burner on until the color you want is reached.

Fotd

SergeyAU's picture
SergeyAU

Yes, I can and already do this. But because it is an intense heat, apart from darkening the crust it also burns it a bit. And this burning taste overpowers the extra flavour that would have developed otherwise

Arjon's picture
Arjon

try lowering the heat while leaving the top element on?

Ford's picture
Ford

It seems that your oven is not suitable for baking bread.  You need a better oven!

Ford

hreik's picture
hreik

and trying lowering the top element heat without turning it off.

Best of luck

 

hester

albacore's picture
albacore

Maybe bake on a bakestone? Your bread will be browning all the time then.

Do you have sugar as an ingredient in your dough, or diastatic malt? Perhaps that causes unwanted burning?

SergeyAU's picture
SergeyAU

No sugar or malt. Maybe I need to add them to darken the crust. The only time burning occurs is when I try to speed up the browning by turning on the top element

kendalm's picture
kendalm

No idea what hydration % of dough you are using but if you are contending with a thick crust you may like to consider adding more h2o to help caramelization amd if you keep the dought proofing in a,place away from drafts (under plastic for example) this this may help get,what you want (maybe but not sure what your recioe looks like)

SergeyAU's picture
SergeyAU

Hydration is 72-75%. Proofed in a bag. 

This is the kind of crust color that I want to get

IceDemeter's picture
IceDemeter

and how does it compare to the recipe that you are using?

I've noticed that the really dark crusts such as shown in your pic are most often the result of a recipe with either a fair amount of sweetener (honey, or sugar, or malt), or with an adder that will alter the colour of crumb and crust (such as beer, or cranberries, or walnuts), or both.  When you combine the extra sugars and natural dye with a well-timed fermentation (so that enough sugars are available in the crust for caramelization), and then bake on a stone using steam, then you have the optimal chance of getting that ultra-dark crust.

Some of the recent versions that have a very dark bake are:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/52477/honey-cranberry-raisin-wild-rice-sourdough-honey-and-toasted-pecans

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/52354/date-crimson-raisin-and-pecan-sd

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/53809/cranberry-walnut-sourdough-87-hydration

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/52340/sour-cherry-pecan-pain-au-levain

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/52340/sour-cherry-pecan-pain-au-levain

I particularly noticed the difference in crust colouration on these loaves baked from the same dough, but one in a dutch oven and the much darker one baked on a stone:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/53696/fwsy-overnight-white-feedback-request

The colouration that you want in the crust just may not be possible with your chosen recipe, baking in a cloche or dutch oven, so maybe consider what is your actual priority for your bread and then decide what options you want to play around with.

SergeyAU's picture
SergeyAU

Unfortunately I do not have the recipe, as this is a commercial loaf that I am trying to replicate.

But this is what I know:

 

Also, checking various videos about Sonoma bakery and their bread, I was able to find a little bit about their process:

- after mixing, let dough rise for 3 hours at 25C

- shape and let rise for 16 hours at 12C- bake cold I know they use dark malt (as I can see it in the crumb), but do not know if they use diastatic malt as well.No sure or other sweetners.I do not want to get dark crust just for the looks, I like how it smells when it is really dark (but not burned) - kind of like a caramel + vanilla Some breads I make do have a hint of vanilla, but not as strong (crumb has no vanilla smell at all). Shiao-Ping wrote few posts about this kind of Michehttp://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/23389/michehttp://sourdough.com/blog/sonoma-miche-sydney but she was more concentrated on the crumb, not the crust. Few points I take from her posts are:1. Flour malted at the mill. I do not have the same flour2. She tried adding some palm sugar and reported similar smell to the crust without a sweet taste in the crumb So to summarize. To get the crust darker:1. Need some sugar in the dough (natural, through enzyme activity over longer fermentation with diastatic malt or with added sugar, or both)2. Keep baking for longer at a lower temperature
Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Speeding up the oven or making things hotter, is known for burning crust and getting raw insides.  Better to bake longer (with a good amount of steam in the beginning) and lower closer to 200° or 210°C.  There are also a number of tricks using glazes or washes that can brown the surface sooner.  Try brushing the surface with a tiny bit of sugar water or oil or a mixture using egg yolk.  Milk or mayonnaise will also add colour to the crust.  Some crusts can be darkened after baking by brushing the hot loaf with butter or milk or a cornstarch glaze.  

Something else you might want to try is covering the loaf to prevent burning if the top coils are too close to the loaf.  Cover with a single or double layer of alu-foil when the colour is getting dark fast and looks good but the rest of the loaf is still lighter.  Moving the shelf down might also be an option or flipping the loaf upside down near the end of the bake.  Knowing more about your oven might prove useful.  

Can you give us the name, size and make of the oven?  Also check the bottom of the oven to make sure there isn't a baking tray covering up the lower element.  This happened to a friend of mine, the baking tray was so low sitting in the oven she thought it was the oven floor.  When I looked and prodded around checking the heating element, I discovered a second baking tray (besides the one that came with the oven)  blocking the lower heat.  You can imaging she had the worst problem with bakes up to that point.   Not only where things baking better, she now had two baking trays!

SergeyAU's picture
SergeyAU

Unfortunately no baking tray. Its an electric oven by Technika (900mm). Something that came with the house. Has options for bottom only, top and bottom, top bottom fan and few others that I dont even use.

If I use bottom only element, it is not powerful enough to hold temperature. My real question was - forgetting how my oven works, what (temp or time) impacts crust thickness and what impacts crust colour more. What will happen to crust/colour  if I run oven for 90min @ 220C in comparison to 245C for 50-60 min

Really have to make a double load and test it out

SergeyAU's picture
SergeyAU

Just to add to the above (is there a way to edit posts?) - how do they bake it in the deck ovens? At what temperature?

With their 2kg miche they say they bake it for only 1 hour! And its cooked through and crust is so dark...

I bake my 750g (wet) loafs for almost an hour (30 min lid+no lid with lower temp to get the crust dark) and it is not as dark as I want it to be. I guess if turned the top element it would be darker quicker.. But don't want it burned. Have to experiment more with my oven

IceDemeter's picture
IceDemeter

due to shaping, hydration, and oven temperature.

If you look at the picture, each loaf is far more like a pancake than what we normally look for in a well-risen boule.  This really points to a very high hydration dough (which can take higher temps without drying out and eventually burning), that has been shaped for a low overall profile (which means that the absolute centre of the dough will be closer to the outside heat and so will bake faster than a thicker loaf).

I would suspect that they're baking at 475 - 500 degrees with steam for the first 20-25 minutes, and then finishing the bake with steam cleared for the final 35-40 minutes at 450 with fan / convection (which gives far more even overall heating). 

Definitely get some sugars in to your recipe, get your hydration up, and do some playing with your oven to see what might work for you.

Good luck!

SergeyAU's picture
SergeyAU

Thank you.

They say they bake their miche loafs after the oven is turned off (after other bread is baked).

With an increase of hydration - I have problems with dough spreading too much on a pan if I go beyond 75%. Most breads I bake is around 70-75%. Have to work on the forming techniques - cannot make it tight enough for it to hold its shape

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

is to use an ingredient that soaks up a lot of water, retains it during the fermenting process and gives it back to the loaf during the bake.  This can be seeds like chia, flax or a high fibre ingredient.   Adding a pre-gelatanised flour or grain such as  porridge. tangzhong or roux may be another solution to getting high hydration without dough spreading.  Basically taking part of the starchy flour adding it to water, heating the fully hydrated mixture until it thickens and adding back into the dough.  

If you want to add this method to an already existing recipe,  take a small portion of the flour, around 5% multiply by 5 to get water amount, stir together (I wait at least 15 min. more with slow absorbing flours like einkorn or spelt, or whole flours or cracked grains)  and heat up just until it thickens.  Don't boil as that drives off too much of the water.  You will find that this addition is naturally sweet and will yield a more cooperative dough when handling.  Do weigh and add back any water lost in the process.  Worth an experiment.

Example:   500g total flour recipe uses 25g of flour and 125g water, about three 30 sec. zaps of full power in a microwave oven stirring between zaps.  Weigh the dish before and after zapping and add back any lost water.

SergeyAU's picture
SergeyAU

Thank you. Have not even started on soakers... Trying to get used to the straight dough first.

For anyone trying the above mentioned recipe, I think the time in the microwave was meant to be in seconds, not 3x 30 minutes =)

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I'll go back and edit it.

SergeyAU's picture
SergeyAU

Ok, had another go on the weekend. This loaf #3. The other 2 did not make it - fell asleep while oven was preheating and they overproofed. Nothing to show.

Loaf #3 is 20% WW. Gave up on higher hydration for now - just cannot work out how to shape them without them going flat during bake. #3 is 67% hydration. Had a nice oven spring but not as much as it could have. Can you please tell me what went wrong? I could have given it maybe 30-60 more min rise, but did not want to risk it after the previous 2.

Bottom is a bit dense and crust not near as dark as I would like it. But almost an hour in the oven..