The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Most bookmarked

  • Pin It
varda's picture

Wondering about crackly crust

The other day I had a bread disaster.   First of all my loaves were too big and twinned with each other.   Second I preheated the oven to 500F meaning to turn it down after I put the loaves in, but didn't.   Third, I forgot to set the timer when I removed the steam pans, so I actually have no idea how long they baked in total - but suffice it to say too long.   Teach me to bake when there's too much activity around me.  Anyhow, when I removed these sad, sad loaves from the oven, the crust crackled like crazy.   I find this very frustrating because I haven't been able to do this on purpose.   The last time I had crackly crust was when I baked with King Arthur French Style flour, and I had just assumed it was a function of the flour.   The monster loaves were made with KA All Purpose which is what I usually use, so I'm mystified.  Does anyone out there understand the knobs to turn to get crackly crust not including what I did?    Thanks.  -Varda

davidg618's picture

Bulk Fermenting and Proofing above room temperature?

There are numerous threads on TFL about the benefits of retarding fermentation and/or final proofing by reducing yeast amounts or, more commonly, refrigerating the dough.  However, other than using higher temperatures to manage production scheduling, and a few posts discussing warm fermentation increasing lactic acid production in sourdoughs there doesn't seem to be an equivalent interest in other benefits (if any exist) warmer temperature fermenting and proofing might bring to our baking. I have read cautions against working at warm temperatures--I think in Hamelman's Bread and Hitz's Baking Artisan Bread--but I don't recall any discussion of benefits. I haven't taken the time to refresh my memory, so if I'm wrong, apologies to the authors, and please point me in the right direction.

As some of you know, I've recently completed building a proofing box, and I've been using it regularly but not, until this morning, at significantly elevated temperatures. Yesterday, I mixed a kilogram of dough to make baguettes. For about six months I've been using the same formula--68% hydrated straight dough. all AP flour, 2% salt--and the same techniques: DDT 55°F (I use ice water in the mix) and begin chilling (55°F) immediately. 1 hour autolyse, 1 round of sixty in-bowl folds after autolyse, and 2 or 3 S&F's at 45 minute intervals. Total retarding time is 15 hours. As usual, this morning I divided the dough into three equal portions, and pre-shaped baguettes. Normally, I let them rest, and warm, at room temperature for an hour, before shaping. Today however, because the house temperature was a chilly 65°F (and I wanted to play with my new toy) I decided to use the proofing box to warm the preshapes, and suubsequently final proof the loaves. I set the thermostat control at 82°F, and warmed the covered pre-shapes in the box for 1 hour. I didn't measure the dough temperature when I removed it, but the box temperature was holding steady at 82°, and the heating lamp was mostly off: an indication the dough is at or near the same temperature. I returned the shaped loaves--couched and covered--to the box. I did a poke test after fifty minutes, and checked the dough's temperature: 80° and a fraction, within the accuracy limits of the thermostat and the Thermopen.  Ten minutes later I loaded the loaves on a pre-heated stone (500°F) and lowered the oven temperature to 450°F; baked 10 mins with steam, and ten minutes without. Except for the elevated warming and proofing temperature everything was the same as numerous times before.

Perceptively, I thought the finished loaves seem to have slightly more oven-spring than usual, but nothing surprising, and my main weakness continues to be inconsistent shaping and scoring. However, when my wife and I cut into one still warm--we have no patience when freshly baked baguettes are cooling--the crumb was clearly more open than usual. This formula and techniques consistently produces an open crumb, but this time noticeably more so.

I can't help wondering if the elevated proofing temperature was the cause, and more to the point, is there something going on here besides just more yeast production. For instance, does the dough's elasticity and extensibility change significantly at this slight temperature change from normal room temperature? And, as always my curiosity kicked in and I am also wondering, are there other phenomena, in-your-face or subtle, we can exploit fermenting and/or proofing at above normal room temperatures?

David G


tananaBrian's picture

UPDATE: The Bread Challenge!


  It's been awhile, but 'The Bread Challenge', is cranking right along and new members joining on a regular basis.  For those that do not know what this is, the home page is  As shown on our web page, the following is what The Bread Challenge is all about:

"Similar to other bread baking challenges, we are a group of enthusiastic amateur and professional bakers of artisan breads ...coming together to bake our way through Jeffrey Hamelman's landmark work, Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes."

If this sounds interesting to you, then please allow us to welcome you to the club ...stop by our web site, read the rules, look at the recipe list and then please do get involved!  Note:  The rules are nearly non-existent and there is no schedule.  The recipe list is a shortened list of what is in the book, but has you selecting recipes that represent each key group of recipes in the book.  For example, you don't have to bake both Roasted Potato Bread and Potato Bread with Roasted Onions, you can pick just one and bake that.  The intention is to experience each major technique and category of bread at least once as you bake your way through the book.  Oh, and you don't have to bake in any particular order.  Just let your whims, moods, and feelings guide you!

We also maintain a blog aggregation web site (a site with updates coming from several member's blogs) that you can take a look at:

My blog is at:

Whole Wheat Bread with a Multigrain Soaker, p. 126


Hope to see you soon!  Use the contact info at our web site (above) when you wish to join and I will add your name to the list.  If you maintain a blog, or want to, we can help with that and we will add links for to our site for that as well.


Thanks for listening!





boophils's picture

Breadmaker makes heavy, dry and tough bread.

Have obtained a Morphy Richards Fast Bake from a friend who no longer wanted it. Downloaded manuals and following it to the letter, however the bread is heavy, dry with a very tough crust. It is edible, but not what we were hoping. Tried 3 different recipes and new yeast sachet used each time. I have seen many people saying that they use bread machines for making the dough and bake it themselves in an oven. Is the the best way to get a good texture and a good crust or does anybody have any other ideas?

For information our favourite general breads are granary, baguette and tiger loaf.



FoodHacker's picture

Need help and have questions about making brioche

Sorry I wasn't sure where to post this but here goes


Starting off I have never made this bread before but reading the recipe list of several different suggested ways to make the bread it sounds delicious....OK so here goes      
1) I have a 6 qt. Kitchen Aid mixer 600 Pro series, can it handle the mixing time and speed this bread needs?
2) Almost ever recipe calls for cutting the dough into balls and placing them in the pan in a row or side by side.... why is this done because I can't for the life of me figure out why I would want to make a loaf of bread like that other than for looks,  why not just shape the dough into a loaf and put it in the pan?

I was wanting to make it mainly for my wife to eat in the morning for breakfast before work and to use as French toast and of course I understand it makes pretty good sticky buns as well as other things I'm sure.

Any and all input on this is greatly needed and appreciated as I would really love to make this bread but I don't want to kill my mixer doing it.

Thanks in advance

polo's picture

Barley Malt Powder

I've done a quick search on this subject. but I am still a little confused. I have need for diastatic malt powder. I've searched local in my local shops here, but have only been able to fine a product labeled as "Barley Malt Powder", it contains no other ingredients.

So here is my question: If the product is labeled simply "Barley Malt Powder" how can one tell whether it is diastatic or non-diastatic. I know the difference between the two, I am just wondering which one I purchased. The constistency is that of a fine flour and it is mildly sweet, if that helps.

Thanks in advance.


gary.turner's picture

Temperature adjustment with the microwave

Since the liquids in nearly every dough need to be tempered, I went looking for some straight forward, repeatable method to get the temperature I wanted. My answer was to use the microwave. The next step was to figure out how to get the right time for any mass of water or milk, and for any temperature change.

We can see that the time required (Sec) is proportional to the mass of the water (M) and to the change in temperature (ΔT), multiplied by some constant (C). 

M × ΔT = C × Sec

Rearranging to solve for the time; Sec = M × ΔT / C

With my microwave oven, the constant is 312.5 for weight in grams and temp in Fahrenheit. There's a kink in the formula though. My oven requires about 3 seconds to come up to speed, so I add that to the calculated time. For example, let's say I have 350g of  40F milk from the frig that needs to be 65F for an intensively mixed Vienna style dough. I need to raise the temp by 25F, so 350×25/312.5+3 yields 31sec to raise the temp to 65F.

How do you find your magic number? Measure some water, say in the 300-450g range. Take its temperature, and zap it for some reasonable time, e.g. 30 seconds. Measure the temp. Repeat with the same weight of water, for a different length of time. Plot the two tests on graph paper (or use a spreadsheet or graphing calculator), and extend the line through the points to where it crosses the zero temperature change line. Where it intercepts the zero temp, the time line will have some small value. That's your start-up time. Now multiply the weight of the liquid by the temperature change and divide by the time less the start-up time. For example, 350 × 25 / (31 - 3) = 312.5 Notice that that is from my own earlier example. Do the math on your other test(s). The C values should closely agree.

Once you have your magic number, any weight of water or milk and any (upward) temperature adjustment will provide the zapping time for your microwave.



Terrell's picture

Texas Kolaches

Back in the fall I promised my niece-in-law that I would make kolaches for her birthday at the end of November. Which I did, using the recipe from the point of departure. They were OK, but not quite right. Too dry, a little doughy and the flavor was not quite the same. Wait a minute, you say, not the same as what? What the heck are these kolaches of which you write?

 Apricot Kolaches       Apricot Kolaches

Right smack in the middle of Texas there's an area that was populated by people of Czech descent. Well, a bunch of Germans, too, but right now we're interested in the Czechs. They brought a number of traditions from the home country that have worked their way into local culture, most prominently the sweet roll that makes a true Texan's heart do a little extra thump---the kolache. When I was little, the ladies from the Catholic church in Ennis would come up to our church in Dallas to fundraise by selling home-baked kolaches to the big city folks. We didn't get quite as excited as we would for Christmas that weekend but it was right up there with, say, Easter. Mom would buy six dozen and freeze five of them to be brought out for special occasions during the year. We got to eat one box that morning. Now, you have to realize that there are nine kids in my family. Add two parents and that meant that we each only got one kolache. And I still remember those five or six bites as a highlight of my year.

After a couple of my brothers moved to Austin to go to the University (no need to qualify which university in Texas) our kolache supply got a little steadier. Anyone who made the drive between Dallas and Austin was required to stop in West, Texas (the name of a town, not a region that is in central, not west, Texas) and pick up a couple dozen. It was a regular enough occurrence that we could request certain fillings instead of just grabbing whatever was available. I always went for apricot first, cream cheese second. Or maybe prune. And then, I grew up. Moved away. Lost my source and only ever got a kolache fix if my visits to Dallas happened to coincide with an Austinite's. Joined that community of expat Texans who could only dream. Now and then I'd find a bakery that claimed to make them but they were never anything close to what I remembered. You know, if it's not right, it's just not right.

Now you probably think I'm crazy, just wierd to feel this way about a pastry, but I am not alone. My niece who requested them for her birthday isn't even a Texan, just married to one. When I went looking for a recipe on the internet, the passionate postings about dough and fillings were everywhere. They all seemed to point one direction, however. The recipe posted on The Homesick Texan blog seemed to be the place to go for the real thing. There were 138 comments on the post that all say pretty much the same thing, "Oh my god these are amazing, just the way I remember them." So I used her dough recipe exactly. I subbed in some other fillings since I was out of apricots but that's not important. It's the bread that matters. And now there are 139 comments on that post including mine which says, "Oh my god these are amazing, just the way I remember them."

I'm not going to reprint her recipe. You can go see it for yourself. I will just tell you that I found I had to bake them a little longer than her timing states, more like 20-25 minutes. It may just be that I need to check my oven temp. There are some tiny details that she leaves out that make them even more perfect like you should put them close enough together on the baking sheet so that the oven spring makes them just kiss each other and you wind up with a slightly squared off, not perfectly round finished product. I found the Posypka recipe needs either more butter or less flour/sugar to make it clump properly. She only includes a recipe for apricot filling but it seems more authentic to have a variety so I made three kinds. I used some Trader Joe organic strawberry preserves for some which, while cheating, still came out well. I took some plum conserve my brother made from his home-grown red plums, drained out most of the liquid and mashed up the plum bits. Those, too, were pretty successful. And I really wanted some raspberry ones so I just tried some raspberry jam I had in the fridge. This was way too watery and made a mess on the cookie sheet. They also got the 'best taste' vote from all my testers so I'm going to work on how to make a drier version next time. I also have a request for the cottage cheese/cream cheese filling from my nephew. Can't wait to try it.

Homesick Texan Kolaches

JeremyCherfas's picture

Pure semolina?

I've let myself run out of white bread flour, although I have plenty of soft flour, semolina, rye and wholewheat.

I'll try the 100% semolina sandwich loaf, and I just thought I'd check in here to see if anyone has any favourite recipes that use lots of semolina, or even 100% until my Manitoba arrives.



GSnyde's picture

San Francisco Sourdough Experiments. Results Need Explanation.


Last week I made San Francisco Sourdough, and learned a lot.  I decided to try it again this weekend with some variations relating to flour mix, dough handling, retardation time and loaf shape.

I again used the formula in Peter Reinhart’s Crust and Crumb, and I again used primarily Bob’s Red Mill bread flour.  But this time, instead of 100% bread flour I used about 9% dark rye flour and about 11% whole wheat flour.  I used the rye and whole wheat in each of the three mixes: the liquid starter, the firm starter and the main dough.  I did not adjust the hydration (64%).

My other departures from the C&C formula were:

  • Though the formula calls for kneading the dough, then letting it sit unmolested in a bowl for four hours, I gave it a four-way letterfold every hour.  The dough was firmer (less slack) this time, compared to last weekend when I did no folds.

  • I followed the formula’s specifications for ripening and then retarding the two starters, but I decided to test the effects of retardation after proofing and to test the attributes of different loaf shapes using this formula.  I scaled the dough for 3 mini-baguettes of 250 grams each and a boule and a batard of 615 grams each.  The baguettes I baked as soon as they were proofed; the larger loaves were put in the fridge overnight after proofing 3 hours as in the formula.

I should also mention that I proofed the baguettes and the batard on linen couche, and the boule in a linen-lined basket.  I did not spray oil on the loaves at the beginning of proofing as Reinhart specifies.  The baguettes were covered with a fold of couche fabric and a tea towel over that.

Here’s the fermented dough after a 3 ½ hour rise.


Here’s the proofing loaves. 


The baguettes baked at 450 on a stone with steam for 10 minutes, then without steam at the same temperature for another 10 minutes.   Then I left them to sit on the stone with the oven off and the door ajar for another 10 minutes.  The internal temperature was 209F.  They’re really pretty to look at.




The crust is darkish, and very hard.  Indeed, it is positively tough, as in hard to bite through.

The crumb is very good tasting and nicely chewy, not what I’d call tough.  Not a very open crumb, but not really dense.

It was a really good thing I had delicious Chicken Cacciatore to dip the bread in to moisten it (the bread made a fine mop).  Thanks for the recipe, David.


So, you experienced bakers, what caused the rock hard crust this time?

  • ·      Increased gluten strength from the folds during ferment?

  • ·      Baguette shaping?

  • ·      Baguettes getting too much air (not sealed in plastic) during proofing?

  • ·      Too low hydration?

  • ·      Too bold a bake or too much time drying on the stone?

Any help would be appreciated.  The boule and batard just came out of the oven, and I’ll report results later.