The Fresh Loaf

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Help! how do I get a crispier crust?

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JT's picture
JT

Help! how do I get a crispier crust?

Hello All!


First off, let me just say how wonderful this forum (and indeed this website) is. I have made several posts with great feedback, and learned a lot of amazing things. Thanks one and all!


My current Bread Adventures have me searching for the perfect baguette - of course, this is rather subjective...it's got to be perfect to me. What that baguette consists of is a light but chewy crumb with large holes and a crust so crispy it tears your mouth apart like eating a bowl of Cap'n Crunch. Over the past few months, I have been neck-deep in Reinhart's amazing "The Bread Baker's Apprentice," trying out recipes and techniques, hoping to create this perfect baguette.


I've tried Poolish Baguette, Pain de Campagne, Ciabatta (made from a Biga) and Pain a l'Ancienne. So far, the Pain a l'Ancienne has come closest. The crumb is certain close to the mark, but my crust seems to come out more chewy than crusty.


So I've come searching for tips...what are the keys to a crustier crust and a lighter crumb? Any recipes I should try? Do I need to move on to sourdough to get what I'm looking for? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!


JT

Jw's picture
Jw

JT,


this is what works for me: crust depends on a high temp and high(er) humidity. I sometimes make the dough wet (with my hand) 10 minutes before I put it in the oven. I also will have plenty of water in the oven. I turn down the temp once I put the dough in.

crumb is different, I don't get consistent results (apart from pain ancienne and ciabatta). I have experimented but proofing part of the bread long (and longer and too long sometimes), so I finally came up with the right times. Maybe it depends on your proofing environment as well. Hope this helps.

Cheers,
Jw.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Are you baking on a preheated stone?  Using steam?


You might want to try Anis Bouabsa's baguettes - just use that term in the search bar and you'll come up with a good number of references.  I think you'll enjoy them.


 

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

'Cause I'm curious too. What variables affect crust "crunchiness"?


Hydration? Surface tension? Yeast vs. sourdough? Temperature? Steam? All of the above? What effect does each variable have?


I've noticed that steam helps, but it isn't the whole answer -- not that simple, unfortuately.


Hydration? Again, higher seems better, but only a partial solution. It seems to keep the surface temp lower longer so the bread can cook inside before the crusts starts to burn.


Getting a properly shaped/tensioned loaf helps as well. It seems to make the crust thinner and more easily crusted. Loaves shaped without tension seem to have thicker, tougher crusts. But at higher hydrations (good), surface tension is harder to achieve (bad).


Temperature? Higher helps, but again, too high and the crust burns and gets tough.


I've been searching for some treatise dealing with the effects of each of these variables and how they inter-relate, but no luck so far. I hope some of the bread gurus here can help us out!


ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA

Pjacobs's picture
Pjacobs

JT,


Turn up the oven heat to 450 to 500 degrees for 30 miinutes or 35 and mist with water before placing the loaves in the overn and squirting some water on the sides of the oven when you first put the loaves in and then spay the sides ove the oven 3 times during the first 15 minutes of baking. If that does not work, I can't help you. Some of the guys I listen to like 500 better.


Good Luck


Phil Jacobs

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

Here's a rank amatuer and my 2 cents worth: 


I've been playing around with different methods of delivering steam, and by far the easiest and best so far has been a clay cloche.  They make baugette shaped cloches you might try, though they are pricey.


You do not need to soak the clay first, but preheat it in the oven at least 450 degrees.  Drop the dough in and close the cloche for the first 1/2 to 2/3 of the total baking time.  Then remove the top for the last part of baking. 


I've only tried it once so far, but I was amazed by the crisp crust this produced in a highly hydrated lean dough.  The depth of the crust seemed "just right".  It had a shattering crispness and the perfect carmel color.  The crust had little blisters all over, probably from being dropped into the very hot cloche.  Using a cloche is far easier than dealing with wetting, spraying, steaming, and risking your stone or oven glass. 


What else might have contributed per Climb Hi's list?  The dough had pretty good surface tension despite the high hydration.   I used stretch and fold then gently shaped a boule, and I think that kept the surface "skin" intact rather than my usual man-handling (woman-handling?) to pull the "skin" around.  My slashing was not so good, but slashing is important, too. 


If I had to add one thing to Climb Hi's very good list, it would be the slashing.  The cuts allow more the oven spring to get the crust to the desired thinness.  I suspect that if I'd forgotten to slash the crust would not have been so nice. 

JT's picture
JT

Thank you one and all for your excellent comments and tips! I really appreciate it.