What Happened to My Crust
I'm trying to bake a loaf that is mostly whole wheat, artisan, and the kind of bread you want to sop up the juice left in your bowl of steamed mussels, or the last of your cioppino - crusty and chewy, with an open crumb, and crusty. Did I mention crusty?
I used this formula:
WW flour 75%
high gluten flour 25%
Following the KAF Whole Grain Baking book, I made a poolish with 25% of the total flour weight (with WW only), with 100% hydration, and a pinch of yeast.
The next day, I added everything else and mixed briefly by hand. I let it bulk ferment for 4 hrs, with a fold at 1-2-3 hrs.
I shaped it into a 1 kg batard and let it proof for an hour.
I brushed it with an egg-substitute wash (essentially egg whites and coloring), sprinkled with poppy seeds, scored it baguette style (well, I tried to), and baked on a stone on parchment paper at 425* (with convection) for 27 minutes. After putting the bread in the oven, I filled a preheated pan on the bottom shelf with boiling water. There was a nice oven spring. The internal temp was 200* and it had a nice hard crust coming out of the oven.
After an hour on the cooling rack, the crust was completely soft. The crumb was fine, nice and open.
Can you tell me what happened to the crust as it cooled? Perhaps I didn't bake long enough, and the steam remaining in the high-hydration bread softened the crust as the bread cooled? Or should I use water instead of the egg white wash?
Another curious thing that I have seen before was that the crumb was much more open at the top of the loaf than the bottom. The baking stone was pre-heated in the oven for nearly an hour. Could the stone have been on too high a rack in the oven, ie too close to the upper heating element?