The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Crust Color Letdowns

Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

Crust Color Letdowns

After I returned home from my trip to see my parents, I was ready to fire up the oven and try the local flours I had found in New England. Unfortunately for my wife and I, the kitchen stove was leaking a small amount of gas when we got home. A utility worker found the small leak but it was inside the stove and we had to decide whether to fix an older stove or to replace it. I opted for the latter choice and the new Frigidaire stove was delivered and set up the next day.

Over the past couple of weeks, I've been dissapointed with the crust color on my sourdough loaves. I've used my general all-purpose 1-2-3 recipe that worked well for me in the past. My procedures in regards to oven temp and bake length remained the same and I haven't overmixed or overproofed. I have raised the hydration level from around 67% to around 70% to accomodate the Dakota Maid flour and the stone ground flour. I'm using a 50-50 mix of AP and rice flour in my bannetons but that hadn't caused any problems before. The flavor is good, the crumb is good, and there are no problems with ovenspring in the least. If it weren't for the pale color of the crust, I could go back to obsessing about shaping and slashing. The crust color has been quite pale to a very light gold. The crust itself has a good chew factor to it.

I do suspect that the the oven door may be my problem. It has what appear to be some vents at the top. So far, my only ideas are to find an easy method to add more steam than spraying water provides at the beginning of the bake or to use the "Magic Bowl" technique.  I'm open to any suggestions about how I can get back on track before the holiday season.


Lucifer's picture

Try a baking stone.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

or as with my last batch of kaiser rolls... dipping in a bowl about the shape of the risen loaf requires very little milk. 

or raise the oven temp for the first 15 minutes.  Maybe the new oven runs cooler.

mrfrost's picture

How is the bottom crust? Do you think the bottom will scorch if you raised the temp another 25 deg or so?

rhodriharris's picture

I have an electric oven and i know thats totally different to gas but i also have vents on my oven door which i assumed i was loosing steam and heat from and was also getting very light crusts to which i would simply grill the loaf for the last 2/3 mins.

Anyway its turning out to be an inefficient door seal not the vents causing me the loss of heat and steam so i simply lean and apply pressure to the door. I use to cover the vents at first thinking it was the reason and they did get pretty hot.  My oven door is hollow, meaning it has a front and back with a gap in the middle.  So why the vents? is it just astetic??

Jaydot's picture

For what it's worth: I solved my crust colour problem by simply baking a bit longer, five to ten minutes...

johnster's picture

If you're trying to see if it's the oven, then use the scientific method and try a loaf with one of your old standby flours: save the new flours for *after* your experiment. If your old flour comes out the way that you're used to, THEN make modifications to the new dough. It will help remove some of the guesswork.


Let us know how it's coming!


Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

Thank you all for your suggestions. First of all, I am using a baking stone but it's not a thick stone. It worked adequately before and probably will continue to do so until I buy the stone ($$) I really want. With the old stove, I usually did a 15 to 20 minute warmup whereas with this stove I've been using the heat detecting device to let me know when it thinks the oven temp is 425F or 450F. While that takes about 15 minutes, it can't hurt too much to wait for 20 to 25 minutes before loading.  The bottoms of my loaves aren't scorched or too dark at this time which does make the idea of cranking up another 25 degrees sound like a reasonable idea. I have a digital thermometer for internal loaf temp measurements and the 205F internal has been a reliable measurement. I haven't given up on the idea of buying a large turkey roasting pan to use as a "magic bowl" device but I'll be tweaking the times and temps first. I have to top the loaves I made for last year's Thanksgiving meal at the in-laws. Success does have its costs.

rayel's picture

Hi Postal grunt, wondering if you replaced a self clean oven with a model that is not self clean? The former would be better insulated. The gasket can be remedied by having a service tech adjust the springs in the door hinges. By adjust I guess I mean more tension. It will make the door tend to close faster, but will also tighten the door against the gasket. There are usually around three positions for the spring, on the hinge, and it's a quick fix. Just a couple of thoughts.  Ray

grind's picture

Hi Postal Grunt, your flour could be a little malt deficient.  Add a little malt to your dough.  Good, luck, grind

Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

Someone once told me that obvious answers can also be the simplest and most effective. In my crust color conundrum, many people told me to just crank up the set temperature in my oven, load the loaf, and let it rip. Taking note of what happens and when was dictated also.

So yesterday I went ahead and made up a sourdough loaf of flours that I wanted to empty out. I feel a flour buying splurge urge coming on. It wasn't a very scientific or scholarly approach thing but I got the loaf proofed and ready to roll. This time, the oven was simply preheated to 475F. I loaded and turned down to 450 for about 20 minutes, rotated the loaf, turned down to 425F, and baked for another 9 minutes.

The results were what I hoped for; a nice, thick, chewy crust with appropriate color, oven spring, flavor, and good crumb. The aesthetics came up short due to a breakout on one of the slashes but I can certainly munch through that mistake.

My thanks to all for the encouragement, suggestions, and some well deserved recognition to Chuck for his insight about the temperature sensor in the oven. I can now resume fretting about improving my shaping and scoring.