The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Crispy crust

Home Baker's picture
Home Baker

UPDATED: Adjusting ingredients as shown below, and a bolder bake — to nearly 220°F internal temperature — yielded pleasntly crunchier crust with even more pronounced flavors. Color is so bright I think I may have forgotten to add the rye flour. I've decided I like the formula both ways, just depends on what a person wants. New photos at end.

Original post
I'm aiming for breads with good hearty crust and a soft crumb--but not gummy, undercooked or overproofed. Several of my other breads are close to where I want them but I still struggle consistently getting the result I want from the kind of white breads so many people post here. 

This bread and the four slight variants of it that I've mixed and baked recently all taste really good. This loaf actually has that nutty flavor in its crust that doesn't always show up. The crumb is soft and moist but not gummy at all. All good. But within half an hour out of the oven the crust had gone from a proud, knocking sound when tapped with the closed fist to a softish thud. Cracks only appeared where large bubbles reached the surface—never got that overall crackled finish like can be seen on white porcelain. This is probably nitpicking but I was also looking for a more open crumb. 

It feels like excuse making but I wonder if it's the weather that might've made this crust go limp, or my oven? Humidity was close to 100% overnight, this morning while it baked and while it cooled. Or maybe I've reached the limits of my bottom-of-the-line slightly leaky home gas oven? As for the crumb, possibly a little less kneading and/or switching the bread flour from the starter to the final dough would help open it up a bit more? I haven't mastered higher hydration doughs than this so please don't tell me to add more liquids.

This is a really good bread which people rave over and even request but I'm bothered that the crust isn't getting to where I think it could be and the crumb is just slightly less open than I want.

Photos and formula below. Thanks for any suggestions.


Note: modified quanties indicated by strikethrough of original, like this.

Formula and process:
KA bread flour + KA AP AP Flour, Conagra Chef's Delight: 168 g from starter + 400 g + 50-75 g added in first mix.
tap water: 112 from starter + 320 g + about 100 g to add if needed while mixing 
whole rye flour: 30 g
salt: 18 10 g  

starter included in above quantities : 280 g total (40% hydration: 168 flour + 112 water)

honey: 45 25 g 
olive oil: 45 25 g 
ground ginger: 1/4 tsp
apple cider vinegar: 1/2 teaspoon
soy lecithin: 1/2 tsp
instant dry yeast: 6 g
malted milk powder: 35 12 g
plus 2- 3 Tbsp. softened butter olive oil to coat proofing bowl 

Yield: one loaf, 1195 g approximate total dough weight, 1040 g out of oven

Needed to add the water held back after first "shaggy" mix. Mixed the dough only a couple of minutes after it began to show signs of window panes, 10-12 minutes in all at mostly high speed. Placed dough in a buttered bowl, covered and left in the refrigerator (about 40°F) for 21 hours. Quick, gentle shaping and baked an hour out of the refrigerator: Steam for ten minutes at 475°F on stone, remove steam, rotate, lower to 460°F for 15 minutes, remove parchment and lower to 440°F checking every ten minutes and rotating as needed until internal temp of 205°F achieved, about 55 minutes in all. Sliced after two hours. 



New photos

Top crust:

Bottom crust:

Crackles closup:



dmsnyder's picture

I baked a couple boules of Susan from San Diego's "Original" favorite sourdough today.

I used BRM Dark Rye and KAF Sir Lancelot high-gluten flours. The bread was delicious - even better than usual - with our dinner of Dungeness Crab Cakes and a green salad with mustard vinaigrette. My wife even cut herself an extra slice after she'd finished her dinner. I gotta tell you: That's unprecedented. Still, not surprising. The bread was exceptionally yummy.

The surprise was that the crust, while fairly thick and wonderfully crunchy, developed crackles like crazy.

I'd convinced myself that this kind of crackly crust was achieved (at least by me) only when using lower gluten flour. But there it is. Another theory shot to heck!

I wish I knew how I did it. 


dmsnyder's picture


Today's sourdough bread is a continuation of the experiment from last week with my modified steaming method of pouring hot water over pre-heated lava rocks in a cast iron skillet both before and after loading the loaves in the oven.

I had two new goals: In addition to trying to replicate last weeks good results, I wanted to increase the sourness of the bread and I wanted to see if I could get a “crackly” crust.

In the interest of increased sourness, I elaborated a firmer levain than what I customarily use. I fed the levain two days before mixing the dough, fermented it overnight and then refrigerated it for 18 hours. I also doubled the percentage of the levain in the formula.

I have read that lower protein flour will produce a more crackly crust, while higher protein flour produces a more crunchy, harder crust. Therefore, I used AP flour (11.7% protein) rather than the high-gluten flour (14.2% protein) I had used last week.

Since I was using a lower protein flour, I reduced the hydration of the dough to 70%. Note that the effective hydration is even a bit lower, since the levain was less hydrated also. I used the same procedures as last week except I baked the loaves slightly longer, since they were slightly larger (because of the additional levain).




Baker's percentage

Giusto's Baker's Choice flour

450 gms


Whole rye flour

50 gms



350 gms



10 gms


Levain (50% hydration)

200 gms



972 gms



  1. Mix the flours and water to a shaggy mass. Cover and let rest for 20-60 minutes.

  2. Add the salt and levain and mix to moderate gluten development.

  3. Transfer to the bench and do a couple of folds, then transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and cover it. Note the volume the dough will achieve when doubled.

  4. After 45 minutes, do another stretch and fold, then allow the dough to double in volume.

  5. Divide the dough into two equal pieces and pre-shape into rounds. Let the pieces rest, covered, for 10-20 minutes.

  6. Shape each piece into a boule and transfer to well-floured bannetons, seam side up. Place each in a food-grade plastic bag, seal the openings.

  7. Allow to proof for 30-60 minutes (less in a warmer environment), then refrigerate for 8-14 hours.

  8. Remove the loaves from the refrigerator 2-4 hours before baking (depending on how risen they are and how warm the room is). Allow to warm up and expand to 1.5 times the loaves original volume.

  9. 45-60 minutes before baking, pre-heat the oven to 500F with a baking stone on the middle shelf and a cast iron skillet filled with lava rocks on the bottom shelf. (I suggest moving the stone ove to within one inch of the oven wall on your non-dominant side. Place the skillet next to the wall on your dominant side.)

  10. When the loaves are ready to bake, pour 1/3 cup of boiling water over the lava rocks and close the oven door fast. (Strongly suggest holding the kettle wearing an oven mitt!)

  11. Transfer the loaves to a peel or to parchment paper on a peel, and load them onto your baking stone.

  12. Immediately pour ½ cup of boiling water over the lava stones and quickly close the oven door.

  13. Turn the oven temperature down to 460F and set a timer for 12 minutes.

  14. After 12 minutes, remove the skillet. Reset the timer for 20 minutes.

  15. The loaves are done when nicely colored, thumping their bottoms gives a “hollow” sound and their internal temperature is at least 205F.

  16. When the loaves are done, turn off the oven but leave the loaves in the oven with the door ajar for 7-10 minutes to dry the crust.

  17. Cool thoroughly (2 hours) before slicing and serving.


I autolysed the flours and water for about 30 minutes. I then added the levain and salt and mixed with the paddle in my KitchenAid for about 2 minutes. As I was switching to the dough hook, I was surprised how much gluten development had already occurred. I mixed with dough with the dough hook at Speed 2 for just a couple minutes more and already had moderate gluten development.

To what could I attribute this? The only possibilities were the increased percentage of levain and the different flour. My hypothesis is it was mostly the flour. We hear that higher-gluten flours require more mixing to develop the gluten. I was using a lower gluten flour than usual for this type of bread.

The dough consistency (Thank you, MC for this useful distinction from the SFBI!) was almost identical to that of last week's dough, so my guesstimated hydration adjustment seemed spot on.

These boules were proofed for a bit over an hour before they were refrigerated. The next morning, they sat at room temperature for about 2 hours before baking. When I transferred them to the peel, they spread some. This could be because of the lower gluten flour effects, slight over-proofing or a combination of factors.

The loaves had reasonable but not great oven spring, and they had less bloom than the previous bake. This suggests they were probably over-proofed a bit. I baked them for 22 minutes at 460F. They then sat in the turned off oven for 7 minutes to dry the crust.

The crust was not as shiny as the last ones, but by no means “dull.” They were singing already when I took them out of the oven. It seemed to me, that the “tune” was higher pitched than the song my boules generally sing. Could this be because of the lower gluten flour? Thinner crust? And … Woohoo! Cracks began to appear in the crust as the bread cooled!

The crust has a crunchy bite. As can be seen from the crumb shot, below, it is relatively thick. I think that, to get a thin  crackly crust like a classic baguette, one must have a shorter bake at a lower temperature.

The crumb appearance was typical for my sourdoughs of this type. However, it was chewier than I expected. Very nice. The flavor was indeed more sour than last week's sourdough, as expected. I would still categorize it as mild to moderate sourness. It is not as sour as the "San Francisco Sourdough" in Reinhart's "Crust and Crumb," which uses an extremely firm levain in even higher proportions.



  • Increased sour flavor with firmer levain and increased levain percentage: As expected, this loaf was more sour but not dramatically so. To get a super-sour flavor, the techniques used must be pushed further.
  • Crackled crust with lower protein flour: Today's bake seems to support this hypothesis. Is this effect desirable? That's a matter of taste, but, for me, it's at least nice to know how to get the effect when I want it.
  • The benefits of the double steaming technique: Today's results were certainly satisfactory, but they also demonstrate that steaming is just one among several variables that contribute to oven spring and bloom.



Submitted to Yeast Spotting



hamptonbaker's picture

Hello Baguette Masters,


I believe I have a sound formula for a lean french dough. It calls for a preferment with equal parts bread flour and water and 1 % instant yeast. The final dough is 66% hydration. However, I am not getting the thick, crispy crust, which I thought was desirable for a baguette? I have a great oven and do three seconds of steam 2x in the first minutes of baking.  What makes the crust thick? My baking time was roughly 30 minutes and the crust was light to medium brown (next time I will take a picture) Thanks for any suggestions, and I have been enjoying the back and forth between all the bakers on this site, it has been very helpful.

Marcy, hamptonbaker

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