The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

crust too thick...help!

breitbaker's picture
breitbaker

crust too thick...help!

why does my sourdough tend towards such a thick hard crust...i read reports on here of thin and crunchy..which when i make other varieties of breads(ie ones made from poolish, biga, etc.) I never have had this problem? I've been working with Susan from San Diego's formulas, and while the loaves LOOK great, the crust, especially the bottom is far too hard..I've been baking on the middle rack of the oven, covered for the first twenty minutes or so.  Any help or ideas out there?  Also, I seem to get HUGE holes, and they are not very evenly spaced throughout the loaf, more all towards the top...this too is somehting i had not encountered in my many years of breads until i started working with sourdough...comments and help would be very appreciated...THANKS..cathy breit

xaipete's picture
xaipete

Are you baking on a stone? Also at what temperature?


--Pamela

breitbaker's picture
breitbaker

In reply to most of the questions..here's how it's been going down..I followed most of the ideas of Susan in SD's 63% hydration sourdough...I mix until rough, cover and let rest 10 min. S & F and then let rest 20 min. or so, then repeat 3-4 times...Cover and rise til doubled-Stretch and fold and let relax.  Shaped into boule and put it in linen lined banneton until floured finger left an indention...As for baking..no i do not have a stone...just a baking sheet..double thickness shiny half sheet pans on middle rack..I overturned loaf onto parchment, then slashed with #.  Baked at 530 covered with a stainless bowl for 10 min. Reduced heat to 430F  and baked 10 more min.  Removed bowl and baked 12 min. Turned off oven and left about 5 min. Cooled on rack...  The loaf, IMHO, looks lovely(i would upload photo but for some reason this site isn't working well for me to upload to)..and has incredible flavor...it's just that the holes are so large, and unevenly spaced..and as i mentioned, the crust, especially the bottom crust, requires quite a strong tooth!! hopefully this info will help you help me! :)

breitbaker's picture
breitbaker

my slashes are probably around 1/4 inch deep and at about a 45 degree angle

xaipete's picture
xaipete

Perhaps it is your initial 10 minute baking temperature of 530º. As soon as I put my loaves of this type in a 500º oven, I reduce the temperature to 450º.


--Pamela

flournwater's picture
flournwater

(I seem to get HUGE holes, and they are not very evenly spaced throughout the loaf, more all towards the top...)
Are you slashing your loaves to allow for expansion?  If so, how deep are your slashes and are they evenly spaced?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Although we are missing a few details like folding, temperature and proofing times.  I'm betting that the dough could have used more folding sessions before the final proof.  It seems to me the dough was just starting to rise when it was shaped and left to proof.  Could this be? Folding more would distribute the gasses, pop the larger bubbles and extend the time the dough has to develop a more even crumb.  Was the loaf inverted and allowed to final proof in a banneton type of contraption?  When turned right side up before baking, the result tends to be less large bubbles on top.  Don't hesitate to pop any large bubbles carefully with a toothpick before baking. 


Mini

breitbaker's picture
breitbaker

I baked another loaf with a few more S&Fs during initial fermentation...also shaped a little more tightly...I think I was a little too concerned about popping the air bubbles and ending up with a dense loaf...this one was definitely better in the "large whole" area...also baked this one at 500 for 20 min. covered, and then 10 minutes at 460.  turned off oven and left for five minutes...Crust was definitely thinner..but still not quite ideal...gonna try switching my temps down to 450 as soon as i add bread the next time....

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

Lemme know, 'cause I've been struggling with this problem (tough crust) myself for over a year. Still, things have improved - a LOT. Here's what I've learned so far:


Things that help:
Make sure your starter is pretty active
Use higher hydration
Make sure the loaf is *fully* risen
Pay more attention to forming the loaf so there is a better "skin"
Cover the proofing loaves tightly to prevent surface drying.


ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA

jackie9999's picture
jackie9999

I may be way off here...but here are some of the things I've learnt in the short time I've been making sourdough...


First, you said "Cover and rise til doubled-Stretch and fold and let relax" this is something I wouldn't have done, once its doubled I shape my boule right away...and I don't allow to double..I try for just under that.


Secondly, you said "Shaped into boule and put it in linen lined banneton until floured finger left an indention" ...again, excuse me if I'm all wrong here..but wouldn't that suggest its overproofed?


Where I am, in Ontario, the heat here is cutting my 'waiting' time in half. The 'times' suggested in alot of these recipes may need adjusting depending on your climate.


Hopefully some of the experts will jump in here and give us some guidance :)

flournwater's picture
flournwater

Well, that's close.  The finger test for proofing the dough can be tricky.  The indentation should spring back, but a slight indentation should remain; perhaps about 50% of the original depth of the finger poke.  If the dough springs back completely and nearly disappears, it's under proofed. 


Whether you allow your dough to double during final proof or elect to load it into the oven before it doubles is less important than whether it's proofed enough.  If it's increased in mass by 70% and the proof test says it's ready for the oven, I see no reason to wait for it to increase in mass and risk over-proofing.  Oven spring should take care of any additional expansion in the loaf after it hits to oven.

breitbaker's picture
breitbaker

I may also be way off here, :) ....but I don't think overproofing is the case...In order to get the kind of oven spring i've been getting, (and by using the covered bowl method) it is quite necessary to slightly underproof the loaf unless you want to be stuck with a sunken loaf...I probably should have mentioned that when I do poke with a fingertip it does slowly fill back in, but leaves a slight indention...

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

I think the initial high temperature is what's causing the hard bottom crust, but I can't answer about the covering during initial baking.  I don't have my new FibraMent stone yet (it's on the way), so I'm still baking on parchment paper on an airbake cookie sheet.  I put a pan on the lowest shelf, the bread on the middle shelf, and toss a cup of hot water into the bottom pan right after putting the loaf on the middle shelf, then I quickly close (without slamming) the oven door.  I like to start at 460 F and then reduce to 430 F after 10-15 minutes.  The airbake pan gives the loaf too thin a bottom crust and not enough browning on the bottom half of the loaf, so I generally lay foil over the top of the loaf and let it bake  hair longer to brown the bottom more.  The top crust comes out just right ...not paper thin, not too thick, just the right chewiness, nicely golden with darker highlights on the sharper corners (scoring) and what not ...very attractive and easy to eat, but has good crust that strikes a good balance between chewy and easy enough to eat.  I suspect that covering your loaf during the initial bake has something to do with your thick crust ...try the steam method instead and see what you think. 


As far as the size and distribution of the holes in the dough goes ...Hmmm, that's a good one.  I think it's called something like "the baker's bedroom" or some such thing where you get those larger holes at the top of the loaf or just under the crust.  I can't remember the cause, although I'd try deflating the dough more when you do your folding and I'd try not to trap air in the dough when doing the folding as well, and I'd not let it rise until a finger dent stays in.  I bake when the dough has risen around double, is soft but still spring back when poked, not after waiting long enough for a dent to stay in.  Get those pictures working!  We love'm!


Brian

breitbaker's picture
breitbaker

do you preheat your airbake pan in the oven and slide the loaf onto it, or do you load the sheet with the bread already on it, into the preheated oven?

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

Uhhh ...no.  And I know this is an issue, but I've been lazy about correcting it.  I don't have a flat sheet pan that is NOT an airbake pan to slide a loaf onto, which I'd prefer because then I could slide a loaf onto a hot surface and get more oven spring.  My solution is still on the way ...I've got a new FibraMent baking stone coming.  When it gets here, I'll use the airbake pan as a peel and will slide loaves onto the hot stone rather than just putting a cool, air-insulated, pan into the oven with a loaf on top!


 


Brian

breitbaker's picture
breitbaker

ok...so it looks like i've got some ideas to work with :)  I'm loathe to give up my "covered bowl" idea, because the oven spring with it really is just truly incredible...however, i have baked all of my other artisan style loaves(biga, pooolish, sponge starter free form loaves) with the steam instead of the bowl, so i guess i should give it a try that way with sourdough too.  I'm also guessing the 530 had something to do with the crust, altho im guessing that initial blast  of heat was giving me my gorgeous oven spring.  I must remember what good is all that spring if the crust is too hard to chew..lol.  I had been only using a baking sheet vs. the stone since there seems to be a LOT of differing opinions on the subject..from being completely necessary to producing good crust, to completely unnecessary..I would like to give the stone a try tho..I also have an airbake pan laying around so i might have to try that suggestion too...thanks for the ideas...there's always another loaf out there, eh?   cathy

xaipete's picture
xaipete

I think your oven spring is coming more from the inverted bowl than the hot stone. Just try reducing the oven temperature as soon as you load your dough and I think your hard crust problem will significantly decrease.


--Pamela

breitbaker's picture
breitbaker

perhaps another worthy question on this journey is  if I'm using a baking sheet and starting out around 500 degrees and then reducing to 450 or so when loading the bread...how long do each of you preheat? I had been doing nearly 50 minutes...which seems far too long...esp. considering energy usage!! what do you do?  btw pam, I've taken a peek at some of your bread photos...beautiful! :)

breitbaker's picture
breitbaker

thanks for the ideas and help! I also have found the forum topic (started by Pamela) about cloche/vs./steam to be very helpful...lots of great info out there...:)  


The other question i was wondering about was this: does the fact that I'm using a baking sheet versus a stone result in a thicker bottom crust? or not..does parchment under my loaf help to decrease this...I have read that a stone absorbs some of the moisture from a loaf and thereby results in a thinner crispier crust than a sheet, has anybody tested this...or is this just someone's opinion?

jackie9999's picture
jackie9999

I use a $10 pizza stone and an inverted clay pot for a lid that I read about on wildyeastblog.  I don't preheat at all..as soon as oven hits 450..in she goes....


After 15 minutes I uncover..this is one of my favorite things...seeing that spring when the cover comes off :)

breitbaker's picture
breitbaker

yeah me too..the favorite thing of seeing the spring when the lid comes off.  When you say you don't preheat, do you mean you don't preheat the stone and lid? or the oven?

jackie9999's picture
jackie9999

I turn the oven on with stone and clay pot in the oven. Then, when the 450 is reached I gently slide the slashed loaf onto the stone and cover with the clay pot. As you already mentioned, with the cost of energy going up and up...I can't afford to run my oven empty for an hour or so....mind you, If I'm doing other baking it may get a preheat then if something else was in the over ahead of time - but I've never noticed any difference.

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

If you think energy is expensive now, wait until cap and trade kicks in.  It's coming with bad timing in our economy.  But I diverge ...I'm still looking forward for my new Fibrament to show up, and I may even splurge on a stainless or clay pot as well ...Sounds fun.


 


Brian


 

breitbaker's picture
breitbaker

thanks to everyone's input on the topic...it certainly helped me to refine my techniques a bit more...the following is a link to my latest bake, which is a sourdough with 80 g. firm starter, 200 g of water, 275 g HG flour, 25 WWW, and 7 g salt.  I baked on a sheet pan in the middle of my oven, covered with a big roaster lid for 15 min. then removed and finished baking for approx. 15 min. more...the crust is nice and crisp w/o being thick and tough..the holes are nice and evenly distributed, no crumb shot with this one b/c we ate it too quickly..we've been devouring it daily! :)   http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=30314807&l=b4a7cab54b&id=1340372286

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

Well, is sure looks like you've got your process dialed in now!  Good stuff!


Brian


PS: GOT MY FIBRAMENT YESTERDAY!!!  WOOOHOOOOOOO!  Now I just need to season it and it'll get first use on Sunday w/Reinhardt's ciabatta...


 

breitbaker's picture
breitbaker

be curious to hear how it goes...I'm mightily tempted with one! keep me posted!