The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Thin, crispy crust evades me...

Mike E's picture
Mike E

Thin, crispy crust evades me...

I have been making sourdough for the better part of 6 months now as our only source of bread at my house. My family, for the most part, loves it. It is mildly sour in the crumb, an tastes pretty darned good. Our only complaint (mine and theirs, equally..) is my crust. I usually end up with a pretty dark crust, which some of us mind, but not others.. but mostly, the crust is very thick and very tough, bordering on chewy as well. If you don't re-toast it in the toaster, you're in for a tough time of it.. it can get like beef jerky sorta, being pretty tough to get through, esp. for a five year old. Not long ago, we wet to NYC and experiences Amy's Bread in Chelsea Market.. and I just about died of jealousy. The crust from her bread as so fantastic! It was so light, crispy, and so really fantastically delicious. I know they have fantastic ovens there that beat me hands down with my electric range.. but I do steam my loaves with a spritzer a few times in the beginning few minutes of the bake. I also use a large baking stone in my oven, and I start the bake at just over 500 degrees (high as she'll go..) and a bit later turn it down a few degrees to finish off the bake. My question is, I'm willing to do whatever tests and experiments need to be done at my house to get it right, eventually, but what, generally, do I need to do to thin out my crusts a bit and get them crispier and not so tough? 




AnnieT's picture

Mike, I'm sure the more expert bakers will chime in, but here is my method. I preheat my oven and stone to 500*, slide the sourdough loaf still on parchment onto the stone and immediately cover it with a large stainless steel  bowl which has been rinsed with hot water. I turn the heat down to 450* and after 20 minutes remove the bowl and cook for another 15 minutes or until the interior reaches 205*. This is "Susan's Magic Bowl" method from Susan in San Diego and you will find all sorts of references to it in the search area. Hope you will try it, A.

Mary Clare's picture
Mary Clare

I had the same trouble --thick, heavy crust.  From my experience a few spritzes won't fix it.

A couple of weeks ago I tried the bowl method on a whim with The Bread Bible's 'Real Jewish Rye Bread' on page 324.  Right before I put in on the stone in the oven I thought, it couldn't hurt to try it.  I spritzed the bread with some water first and plopped the bowl over the bread on my preheated stone.  I didn't even preheat the bowl, and I took off the bowl after ten minutes.  

It was the most fantastic crust I'd ever made!  It CRACKLED when it came out of the oven and the crust was beautiful besides.  The oven spring was great!

But in my small oven (27" electric) it only works for one boule at a time.  I made a recipe for two loaves, so I used an 8" cast iron skillet on the bottom of the oven while it preheated -- no room in my oven for the skillet AND the stone on the same level!  Just before loading the bread I poured about 1/2 cup of water from a long spouted plant-waterer thing, and put my spritzed loaves in.  Again, success!  And you don't have to remove the pan after ten minutes.  The bowl worked a bit better, I thought, than the cast iron skillet, but still, very, very respectable.  

Best of luck with your adventures!

Mike E's picture
Mike E

I'd love to try this idea ,as it seems to be pretty popular here.. but I don't have a bowl that big! I like to do batards for our breads, because they're easier to do sandwiches and toast with.. but that would take a huge bowl for my 1.5lb loaves.. I wonder if  could just do an experiment with a smaller boule and see how it turned out? I think the larges metal bowl I have is the mixer bowl from my Kitchen Aid, though.. that's still pretty small. Perhaps I'll have to hit up the fleamarkets for a source.. 

AnnieT's picture

Mike, many members use the foil roasting pans to cover batards or more than one loaf. I found an old aluminum roaster at the thrift store and that works well too, plus it has handles which makes it easy to lift off - I use a spatula to lift the bowl. I do hope you will find something suitable, A.

LindyD's picture

Hi Mike....pretty good stuff at Amy's Breads, yes?  I'm visiting NYC in about ten days and her shop and the Chelsea Market are on my "must do" list.

A few spritzes of water isn't really enough.  Check out Giovanni's recent discussion on his steaming setup.  

Using a covered bowl also works but you're limited to one loaf or boule. 

Ho Dough's picture
Ho Dough

suggests adding "fats" to the dough. For me, that means light olive oil. About 3 grams or so in a 500 gram loaf. I add it with the starter and water, prior to mixing in the flour.

"fats and oils increase loaf volume, prevent crust cracking, enhance keeping qualities and improve slicing qualities".

I've added some oil to the last couple loafs and the change has been noticeable. Lighter texter and certainly different in slicing. I think it's an improvement and will likely keep using it.

hanseata's picture

If you are baking a European type sourdough rye bread (mixed rye/wheat) I found by trial and error that this works best to achieve a thin, but crusty crust:

Preheat oven to 500 F (with baking stone and steam pan).

Place bread in oven, pour 1 cup of boiling hot water into steam pan. Lower temperature to 475 F and bake for 10 min. Lower temperature again to 425 F, and bake for another 30 minutes (rotating loaf after 10 min.)

This method achieves a better crust than the one Peter Reinhart suggested in "Whole Grain Breads" (preheat to 500 F and bake 40 min. at 425 F)