The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

crisp crust

SourdoughGirl's picture
SourdoughGirl

crisp crust

Hi, everyone.  I've been baking bread for about a year now, mostly sourdough, with no commercial yeast.  Most of what I bake has good flavor and is chewy, with (usually) moderate to large holes.  However, while I've been able to get a chewy crust, the crust is never crisp - you know, that good, crackling crust.  I use a baking stone in a conventional electric oven (heating the oven to about 500 for an hour before baking and then dropping the temp to about 425 for a basic sourdough recipe).  I spray the sides of the oven with lots of water for steam during the first 15 minutes or so of baking, and then let the steam out for the remainder of the bake.  

What might I be doing wrong?  What should I be doing?

Thanks in advance!!

sphealey's picture
sphealey

You might want to try the "boiling water in pre-heated cast-iron frying pan" method rather than the "spraying the sides" method next time - I think it creates a lot more water vapour. I find that all the water boils out and is vented by the 30 minute mark so the crisping cycle can start.

 

Yesterday I was making Rose Levy's rye bread, which calls for 15 minutes at 475 deg.F and 40 minutes at 400 deg.F. I preheated at 525, then set to 475 for the first 15 minutes. However, at that point I was called out of the house, so I set the timer on the oven to cook for 20 more minutes at 400 and then just shut down. I came back a few hours later to find the oven and loaf cool (stone was still a bit warm) and the crust the thickest and crispest I have ever made. Too crisp for my family in fact, but luckily this was my sandwich bread.

 

So, the "let cool along with oven" method might be worth trying too. Seems that it sucked the excess moisture that is usually found on the counterop under the cooling rack right out of the loaf.

 

sPh

SourdoughGirl's picture
SourdoughGirl

Thanks for the input! When putting in a pan of water, what is the difference between using cast iron or another metal? I used my husband's cast iron pan once for this purpose around the time I first started baking bread, and he practically hit the ceiling, saying that it removes the patina of oil that older cast iron pans collect over time through use. If it's important that it be cast iron, then I'll simply buy my own pan.

I'll also try letting the bread cool in the oven with a shorter baking time.

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

If your husband is dedicated about maintaining the seasoning in cast iron pans, then you probably don't want to use one of them for your steam pan, if only for marital harmony.  Of course, you can probably find an old one at a flea market or consignment shop really cheap and use that one, instead of one that he cherishes.

 

I've also had good results using the bottom of a broiler pan.  It's stout enough to take the heat and the broad, shallow profile really generates a lot of steam in a hurry.  All you have to do is wipe out any mineral residue after use, assuming that your water isn't perfectly soft.

 

PMcCool

sphealey's picture
sphealey

Cast iron has a pretty high heat capacity, so when you put the 200 deg.F water into the 525 deg.F pan it is going to want to settle out around 350 deg.F - which it can't do at atmospheric pressure. So it will boil away fairly quickly. Cast iron is also (essentially) impossible to damage - it won't warp even if you put ice cubes in it and when it gets rusty you just steel wool it off.

 

I bought an old 9" cast iron frying pan at a estate sale for 75 cents. In fact I have never been to an estate sale where there wasn't at least one for sale! Pick up one of those, steel wool it, and next time you barbeque oil up the pan and put it on the grill when you are done cooking to burn off the oil. It doesn't have to look good or be specially "seasoned" - mine gets quite rusty until my spouse gets annoyed and makes me oil it again.

 

sPh

buh's picture
buh

Please bear w me, i'm new to this site and w make posting mistakes. i posted this someplace else but i don't see it here where it s/b.

advice; paint bread w water before baking. then thro water in 3 X w/in 5 mins. then leave it.

Jo's picture
Jo

did you bake on tiles? line your oven with normal ceramic tiles, pre heat them with the oven,spray them before you put you bread then again a few seconds afterwards.....as soon as bread browns open oven to let steam out that should help

SourdoughGirl's picture
SourdoughGirl

I bake on a baking stone, and do vent the steam once the bread just begins to brown. 

Last weekend, I baked a loaf using stone ground, higher protein flour (Hodgson's Mill, versus unbleached King Arthur bread flour).  I also put boiling water in a pan when I put the loaf in, later vented the steam, and then let the bread cool in the oven for a while.  This loaf had terrific crust! 

qahtan's picture
qahtan

 

 I am like Jim, I don't steam anything,  and another thing I don't do is heat my oven on 450/500 for an hour, wow that must if you bake a lot of bread really jack up your hydro bill.

 I bake by electric, Kitchenaid Superba, it take 13 minutes to go from 0 to 410 f.

                                 qahtan 

Grapedad's picture
Grapedad

I've been experimenting with baguettes, which better have a crispy crust or I'll through it out.  The recipe I have calls for adding 12 ice cubes in a pan, under the stone.  Get the oven as high as it will go, mine is 500 degress, and turn the bread once end for end.  Works perfectly for me.

anawim_farm's picture
anawim_farm

I am a newbie at this but I have good luck with a crisp crust and light airy crumb. I have been experimenting to get a deeper brown crust which also increases the crispiness of the crust. I use two hearthstones side by side with a baking area of 15" * 24", and usually bake two loaves at a time. I am using gas and preheat the stones while the loaves proof, usually about an hour to 525 degrees. I slide the loaves onto the stones and spray the interior of the oven with water. I repeat the spray twice at about 3 minute intervals. I leave the heat at 525 for the first 10 to 15 minutes watching the crust change to a deep caramel color, I also have found this technique creates incredible oven spring. After the first 15 minutes I reduce to 425 for the remaining 15 to 20 minutes

Joe

SourdoughGirl's picture
SourdoughGirl

Nope - just water, flour and salt.  Perhaps my problem IS my recipe, or my technique, or both.  Most often, I tend to start with about two cups of ripe starter (usually from about 2 cups of King Arthur unbleached bread flour).  Then I'll add another 2-3 cups of the same flour, perhaps with another 1/2 cup - 1 cup of wheat or coarse rye.  I'll put in a little less than 1 tbs kosher salt, and then about a cup of water.  Then I'll mix the dough and add a little water bit by bit until I have dough that's just on the sticky side of tacky.  I mix until the dough is springy and I can see light through a piece of dough if I stretch it between my fingers.  Then I let it ferment in a lightly oiled bowl until it's nearly, but not quite, doubled in size.  The time varies depending on the time of the year and the heat of my kitchen. Then I'll shape the dough and let it proof, usually in a banneton.  The proofing usually lasts between 1 and 2 hours, again depending on the temperature of the kitchen.  During that time, or part of it, I'll heat the oven and my baking stone.

Susan's picture
Susan


SourdoughGirl, I use an overturned 4L Pyrex bowl over my boule on a baking stone.  No spraying or ice or water.  Just an upside-down bowl.  The only tricky part is taking it off after about 20 minutes when you see the bread starting to brown.   Do be careful if you try this and think it through before you do it:  how will you get the very hot bowl off the baking stone, and where will you put it to cool after you get it out of the oven? 
Good luck, 
SD Susan

sphealey's picture
sphealey

Be aware that actual brand-name Pyrex(tm) is no longer made by the same company and is no longer a high-temperature borosilicate glass. If you plan to try this make sure your glass dish is either classic Pyrex(tm) or some other borosilicate (would be marked "high temperature, shatter resistant").

 

sPh

Susan's picture
Susan

sPH, thanks for the comment on Pyrex™; don't want to blow up anything or anyone.  I was hesitant to mention the bowl technique for that reason, but it works so amazingly well.  My bowl is of the classic variety.  In order to take the bowl off the stone, I pry up an edge with a spatula and slip my firmly oven-mitted hand under the edge, then set the bowl on a hot pad on my counter to cool, leaving the bread in the oven to continue baking 'til done.
SD Susan

qahtan's picture
qahtan

 

 I would say use a cloche or a flower pot. qahtan

http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y58/qahtan/general/000_0004.jpg

sphealey's picture
sphealey

> thanks for the comment on Pyrex™; don't want to

> blow up anything or anyone. I was hesitant to

> mention the bowl technique for that reason, but

> it works so amazingly well. My bowl is of the

> classic variety.

 

It seems like a foolish move to me by the marketers of the current line of Pyrex(tm) - they simultaneously remove their product's primary marketing point and set themselves up for a product liability lawsuit involving burn injuries. Worst of both worlds. But what do I know?

 

I just didn't want anyone here to get hurt. Actual borosilicate glass is fine for this, as long as you are aware it will shatter under enough provocation.

 

sPh

sphealey's picture
sphealey

More detailed discussion of the controversy:

 

http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2006/03/pyrex_panic.html

 

sPh

Susan's picture
Susan


Quatan, your flower pot is ingenious!  I've looked for the proper size pot but have not yet found it; my oven is rather small.  One advantage of the glass is that I can SEE the miracle of rising, watching the ear pop up, etc., and I never get tired of it.  I know that's silly, but...
 SD Susan

Susan's picture
Susan

sPH, that is a most informative article, glad I read it.  Thank you.
Jim, I've been admiring your French Fold video and will be giving it a try tomorrow. 
SD Susan

sewwhatsports's picture
sewwhatsports

I first saw this done by Alton Brown on Food Network.  Go to Home Depot or Lowe's, especially now as they are getting things in for spring planting.  You use a large washer and nut/bolt to close the hole.  Makes a small sturdy handle too... 

Rena in Delaware

qahtan's picture
qahtan

 

 My flower pot came from Home Depot, plus a couple washers and a ring screw.

 Then I put the whole thing in the dish washer to give it a thorough clean and sanitize, then gave it a couple of extra rinses.

It is said that clay should not go in dishwasher but I  did any way:-)))

  I put my bread on a pizza stone to rise, when ready for oven put the flower pot over the dough and into hot oven.But I know ever body has different views on this,  hot oven/cold oven/soaking lid/ heating the whole thing etc          

The only thing I can tell you if you don't already know, is don't put too big an amount on the stone first time, just first time,  then you will see how much oven spring you get, then you can adjust the amounts for further bakes.   qahtan

   

turfle's picture
turfle

If you want crispy crust, it is not necessary to place any water in a dish. You can use a squirt bottle to heavily spray your loaves for 20-30 seconds every five minutes for the first twenty minutes you are baking. This means that you will spray them 4 times, then allow them to finish baking. The more you spray them, the shinier and crispier the crust will be.

OregonSteve's picture
OregonSteve

HI~ I saw the crisp crust thread title and am hoping this post will be replied to... I'm trying to get a crisp crust on a baguette in a rack oven and am having a heck of a time. The formula I'm using is 65% hydration; it's a recipe by Wayne Caddy I found on a tutorial on YouTube. I'm baking on a parchment lined sheet pan at 475F with 30 seconds of steam, vent after 8 minutes, and total baking time is about 18 minutes. The baguette comes out with great color, the crumb is good and initially the crust is nice and crackly crisp. But after about 5 minutes it softens up. I've tried variations on the steam/vent times and today even started the bake at 500F and then after steam dropped the temp to 475F, same results: nice and crisp right out of the oven and then soft and chewy. My boss is starting to get impatient. I've been working on this for a while now. PLEASE, any help is greatly appreciated!

CB85's picture
CB85

My opinion is that you will proabably benefit from baking it a little longer.  That will dry out the inside more so there will be less steam inside to soften your crust. Eventually the crust will soften anyway, but you will bet more than five minutes!