The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Crispier Crusts?

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thebreadfairy's picture
thebreadfairy

Crispier Crusts?

I have come across the suggestion, multiple times here, that for crispier crusts, it can help to leave a loaf in the oven with the door closed and the oven off. I have several questions I wanted to ask about this:


First, can someone explain technically why this is different than just leaving it longer in the oven? Is it to prevent over-browning of the crust?


Second, I use a Hearthkit oven insert for baking and the temperature decline after shutting the oven off is very slow. Would this negate the effectiveness of turning the oven off? Would slightly opening the oven door help in this case?


Thanks in advance for any thoughts, ideas, or explanations.


Jessica

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Leaving your bread in the oven won't do diddily for a crisp crust if you didn't steam the oven when you loaded the bread.


You need to steam the oven at the start of the bake.  You can also put some cracked ice in a pan a few minutes before loading to humidify the oven first, followed by steaming (use a separate pan for the ice).


I've not seen those posts you refer to - I sometimes leave the bread in the oven for about five minutes after the bake time is over (oven off) but only to make sure it is fully baked.


 

flournwater's picture
flournwater

Jessica, I've read some of the same stuff but my physics professor would have asked the question; "if you leave the bread in the oven, whether the temperature remains stable or is in decline, when does it cease to bake?"  With that in mind, I can't see how we would avoid over baking the bread by leaving it in an oven during the "cool down" stage.  I'd endorse LindyD's comment that such a practice isn't going to do "diddily" to crisp the crust.  What I have found is if I prepare an egg wash of 50/50 whole milk and egg and brush it on the crust about twenty minutes into the baking cycle (for breads that bake longer than twenty minutes of course) the crust is crisper.  I don't always include egg, sometimes just whole milk, but the egg seems to improve the crispiness a bit more.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

I've read that using an egg or milk wash on the crust will soften it.


Also, I'd think you would lose lots of oven heat by applying a wash 20 minutes into the bake.


I've never used such a wash but am curious whether the claim it crisps is true or not. 


My SD breads always have a very crisp crust - I steam once,  then bake at 460 for 40 minutes.  But some members of the family prefer a softer crust and I thought a milk wash might help. 


Any wash experts out there?


 

meryl's picture
meryl

it helps to turn the heat source off but keep it in the oven.


but that's just my experience.


Meryl

ehanner's picture
ehanner

This is something that took me a long time to get on board with but it does work.


When you bake dough to the point where you think it is done for your taste, if you remove it and set it on a cooling rack right at that time, it will feel crusty or hard, firm for sure when you remove it from the oven. About 15-30 minutes later when the moisture from inside the loaf starts to migrate out to the crust, it softens considerably.


To prevent this softening at least prevent it from over softening, try leaving the bread in the oven with the door held open a small amount with the oven shut off. This allows the heat to continue migrating into the loaf from the bottom and the drying of the crust to happen more quickly. The oven retains a lot of moisture during the baking process and holding the door open a crack allows the humidity to drop way down. I place a metal spatula in the door opening for about 5 to 10 minutes.


Some breads like Italian and rye, are so soft after cooled they are hard to cut if you don't do this. I like a SD boule to be crispy and crunchy and not tough. Baking covered for 18 minutes and uncovered for 10-15 minutes with 5 minutes drying makes it crusty. The science behind this is that the ability of air to hold water increases by almost double for every 10F rise in temperature. So when you maintain the heat on the bottom and lower the air temp by allowing the hot and humid air out the door, it dries the crust better.


The Hearth kit will hold the heat a bit longer but it's more important to dry out the crust.


Another thing is to only put enough water in the steam pan (if you do that) to last for the steam time. For me that would be 1/2 cup of hot water. I don't remove the steam pan when I use one but you don't want to be producing steam for the entire baking time or the crust will never be crispy.


Eric

thebreadfairy's picture
thebreadfairy



When you bake dough to the point where you think it is done for your taste, if you remove it and set it on a cooling rack right at that time, it will feel crusty or hard, firm for sure when you remove it from the oven. About 15-30 minutes later when the moisture from inside the loaf starts to migrate out to the crust, it softens considerably.




I just had this happen to me which is partly why I asked this question. I made a loaf of "Tom Cat" Filone and it came out of the oven with a nice hard crust. By the time it cooled the crust had gone form hard to soft and chewy. I am going to be doing another loaf today and will try leaving it as you suggested. BTW I do "practice" steaming usually with ice cubes or 1/2 cup water in a cast iron skillet. I am still experimenting with less "violent" methods than the steam explosion of hot water and cast iron.


 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I think a lot of people over steam and make to big a deal of it. Keep in mind that the covered baking method doesn't use any steam other that that generated by the dough as it sits on the hot surface. Take a look at Susan from SD's latest Onion-Poppy seed image. Not a bit of steam. Just a little water misted on the dough before covering with a bowl. Nicest crispy crust you could ask for and plenty of oven spring.
Eric


xaipete's picture
xaipete

So you're telling me I can just put my bread on the stone and cover it up with something like this and that's it? No steaming pan necessary? How long do I leave the lid on?



 


--Pamela

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Pam,
I always have trouble finding the original post. Here is a thread where she shows how to do this. You can use a stainless steel bowl but it is interesting to see when it starts to get color. The onion poppy is a later modification that I would wait for Susan to expound on. The pan you asked about wouldn't be high enough I think. An over turned roasting pan works well if it will sit on your stone also.


Eric

xaipete's picture
xaipete

I have trouble finding some of these threads too. I see how Susan does it now. I'll give it a try, and let you know how it works. My roaster will fit nicely on the stone. --Pamela

thebreadfairy's picture
thebreadfairy

Eric,


Do you know where I can get the recipe for this great-looking Onion-Poppy Seed bread? I've searched all over TFL and can't seem to find it.

DownStateBaker's picture
DownStateBaker

While I've never tried this I most certainly will. The idea seems sound. The steam coming from the center of the bread will soften the starches in the crust. Basically we're drying out the crust.

baltochef's picture
baltochef

A crisp, crackly crust on bread is an elusive, ephemeral thing..Its lifespan is going to depend upon a number of factors..How lean is the dough??..What flour(s) is the dough constructed from??..What type of oven was it baked in??..What temperature(s) was the bread baked at??..Was the crust exposed to steam at the proper intervals after the loaves were loaded into the oven??..What are the environmental conditions in the building where the loaf is baked??..What are the environmental conditions under which the loaf is transported from bakery to the home where it is consumed??..What is the relative humidity both before and after the loaf is sliced??..And so on, and so on..


Even for a perfectly executed French baguette, there is a narrow window of time after it is removed from the oven during which that crackly outer crust is going to explode into minute shards of caramelized ecstasy in the eater's mouth..Sometimes that window of time might be as short as 30 minutes..At other times that window of time might last for several hours..


As others have pointed out, the way the bread is handled during and after baking, and the humidity of the immediate environment that the bread exists in; are going to greatly effect the condition of the crust..


Each person has a very personal idea of what the ideal crust on a loaf of bread is..Sometimes a lot of experimentation must be be done in order to learn how to turn out a loaf of bread so that the crust is perfect for YOU..


p.s. 


There are a lot of great tips in this thread for trying to obtain a crispier crust..I hope you find the ones that work for you..


Bruce

Strega's picture
Strega

Thanks for your comment, I've never read a better explanation of the many factors needed for that elusive crispy perfection.

malu's picture
malu

I can not seem to get a thicker crisper crust. The color is great but soft. I attempted a baguette and followed the recipe exactly. I baked in a  home oven with the hot air fan. Perhaps this is one reason? I thought I had sprayed enough perhaps too much, maybe another reason. any suggestions, thank you.


 


 

thebreadfairy's picture
thebreadfairy

It sounds like you are using a convection oven, which I also use. What works for me with baguettes is to use a lot of steam in the first 2-3 minutes to allow the loaf and grigne to expand. I then release the humidity by opening the door for 10-15 seconds, close it and allow the loaf to bake "dry" for the rest of the time. I have found that the longer I leave the humidity in the oven, the softer the final crust will be. Finding the proper amount of time for the humidity to remain required trial and error. It was a balancing act between enough time for the loaf to expand vs. too much time producing a soft crust. YMMV. I hope this helps.


Jessica

malu's picture
malu

Jessica,


thank you very much, I will try this tonight. I suppose this whole subject is trail and error and lots of practice. Here in Germany they have a multitude of flours and their all numbered, so thats an another learning experience as well. You were very kind to respond.


Malu (Mike)

thebreadfairy's picture
thebreadfairy

I will look forward to hearing how it turns out.


Jessica

malu's picture
malu