The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Crust at Last...........

MichaelH's picture

Crust at Last...........

Having struggled with my oven, my stone, steam and burned bottoms for some time, I finally got everything to come together today. The recipe is Vermont Sourdough from Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread. The only change I made was to add 2 Tbs. raw wheat germ, a practice I adopted from Nancy Silverton. The bread was retarded overnight, having undergone a 1 hour final proof the day before in bannetons. I let them warm up for two hours in the morning, which was a little too much, as they deflated some when scored. Next time I will settle for one hour.


Having determined that my oven temp is about 20 degrees high (F) and that it will always burn the bottoms on conventional bake, I preheated to 420 (F) on convection before misting and slashing the loaves. I have found that I get cleaner scoring without drag if I mist the loaves about a minute before slashing with a very sharp German serrated paring knife reserved for this purpose. 


Steam was provided by my new Steam Maker Bread Baker which I learned about from Steve at Bread Cetera. I applied steam for 12 seconds and baked at 420 convection for 15 minutes. When I removed the cover I found the loaves had recovered some of their collapse and the crust was translucent. I changed the oven setting to 420 Roast, which applies top and bottom heat simultaneously, without convection, which I feared would dry the crusts prematurely (thanks to David Snyder for this tip). This cured the burned bottom problem I had experienced with conventional bake. After 25 minutes more I turned off the oven and propped the door open for 6 minutes.


The crust is very crisp and I achieved rich carmelization (with its wonderful flavor) for the first time. I am quite pleased with the Steam Maker Bread Baker and the oven settings that brought everything together. I am satisfied with the crumb for a 65% hydration loaf, but will work on a more open crumb in future bakes.


I finally took the advice of so many authors and posters and picked a relatively straight forward recipe and baked it over and over, changing one thing at a time until I got it right. Now onward to seek a more open crumb and a decent batard.








dmsnyder's picture

That's as perfectly beautiful SD crust as I can imagine.  It looks delicious, Michael!


SylviaH's picture

  Love all the birdseye's, color everything...just Gorgeous!


MichaelH's picture

David and Sylvia....thanks for your kind words. Although I still have a ways to go I felt like this bake was a milestone. I have sometimes wondered if the beautiful loaves I saw posted were real. Now I know that it can be done.

I still need to figure out what to do with all of this bread I am baking while trying to improve my skills. We live in a very remote area at the base of a mountain range and have few neighbors. The Post office doesn't even deliver mail here. My PO Box is #9!



EvaB's picture

if not and just need to use up some of the stockpile, maybe the squirrels would like it, my btother has a pictures some where in his stuff, of a squirrel sitting on his car hood, with a pancake spiked onto the antenna eating the pancake, he said it sat there and ate round and round the cake, until he had managed to eat it all up. This was a hundred miles or more from any civilization so even wild squirrels like bread!

Just be warned that squirrels are hard to get rid of once you have them, they will try to get inside and can be real pests.

Better to advertise for borders (otherwise known as vacationers) and feed it to them.

longhorn's picture

Well done!

Looks just about perfect! And no doubt it taste is similar!