The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Call me Crusty! . . . or maybe not.

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Abracaboom's picture
Abracaboom

Call me Crusty! . . . or maybe not.

With the help of your generous hearts last night I baked my best round rustic breads ever: I kneaded the sticky dough almost like a pro, a couple of bowls with kitchen cloths proofed the dough without letting it sag, and once in the oven at one point I was afraid the bread was going to hit the roof! I took the loaves out of the oven when their color was right, and they sounded as hollow as hollow can sound. Right out of the oven the crust was hard and firm, but as soon as they cooled down the crusts went soft. I'm looking for the kind of crust that will crack before it yields and will hurt the roof of your mouth if you don't chew it carefully. I've tried several times both spraying the loaves and steaming the oven with a small bowl full of water, and I always get the same kind of crust which comes hard out of the oven and gets soft when cool.

Once the crust is brown and the bread sounds hollow, how much longer can you bake the bread without overcooking it?

Any suggestions?

Thank you very much.

fventura20's picture
fventura20

This sounds like the bread is not baked long enough and it is too moist inside. That will cause your crust to soften. Try baking a single loaf at 450 for 20 minutes, rotate and bake 15 minutes longer, shut off the oven and leave the bread inside for 10 minutes. Then remove the bread from the oven and let it cool for one hour.

Abracaboom's picture
Abracaboom

Thanks a lot, Fventura20, I'll try that next time.

Does baking two loaves at once add to the baking time it would take for just one loaf to be done? It seems to me a big waste to heat up the oven for just one loaf, so I use a large baking stone on the bottom rack and a pizza stone on a higher rack, and rotate the loaves every 15 minutes. Both loaves sound hollow at the same time, after about 35 minutes of baking for 1-pound round loaves at 450ºF.

fventura20's picture
fventura20

I often bake two loaves at a time and keep the baking time the same. They come out with a great crispy crust that stays that way. I agree with the other comment about staeming as well. I usually steam with a piece of soaked terry cloth in a half bread pan with a cup of warm water. This suggestion was made on this forum and it works great.

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

1)  I agree that the bread may have been too moist inside.  Highly hydrated doughs have a tendency to give the outward appearance of being done, but they are underdone inside.  I always use an instant read thermometer to take the internal temperature and make sure it's done.  For a lean, artisan-style bread, you are aiming for about 205 degrees. 


2)  I get the best crispy, crackly cursts by covering the dough for the first half of baking instead of steaming--any cover will do (dutch oven, foil roasting pan, clay baker, etc.)  Now, it's a bit harder when you are baking two big loaves like that.  I have a big enamel roasting pan that I put over the dough and I can cover two 1 lb loaves with it.  When the bread is covered for the first half of baking, the crusts are awesome and the oven spring is amazing.  The loaves literally come out of the oven "singing" (that beautiful crackly sound).  Be sure you STILL check the temperature, though. 

Abracaboom's picture
Abracaboom

Thank you again, Fventura20. This morning I went to buy a thermometer while the bread was proofing, followed your instructions, and took some pictures to speak for themselves. I couldn't resist adding a little rustique ambiance (the hardest part was chipping the wall):






The loaves were crackling like static electricity for a while after getting them out of the oven; is that what you folks call singing bread?


 

Abracaboom's picture
Abracaboom

I appreciate your help, Janknitz. Your crisping method sounds very tempting, but my loaves today got within a quarter inch of hitting their respective roofs, not allowing for any extras. I'll sure try it some day and remember you while I'm eating the bread!

fventura20's picture
fventura20

Your loaves look absolutely wonderful and your crumb looks excellent! I bet your bread tastes as good as it looks.

MmeZeeZee's picture
MmeZeeZee

Okey-dokey, if you try everything and it still doesn't work, you can try my hack: crisping the tops by turning them over at the end straight on the rack and letting them brown for 5 - 10 minutes.  They were crackling!