The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

entry-level breadmaker - crust too thick & brittle, loaf too flat.

Timothy's picture

entry-level breadmaker - crust too thick & brittle, loaf too flat.

Hi Everyone!

My mother-in-law bought me a bread machine for my birthday last year, and I've been using the heck out of it.  Recently, I decided to try my hand at making a loaf or two without using the machine.

I found an article on the NY Times that interested me:

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

 I've made this two weeks in a row now, and the bread tastes delicious, but the crust is a little too thick/hard and the loaf is a little too flat.  Could anyone offer some guidance as to what I can do to change those things?

I should note: I use King Arthur's White Bread Flour, and I'm using a glass-covered dutch oven inside my oven. 

Thanks so much!


mrfrost's picture

Try cutting back on the water a little. In the video, he only appears to use 1 + 1/2 cups. Try to mix your dough to look like his. It's possible that, for whatever reason(amount of water, type of flour, etc), your dough is a little too wet.

Does appear to be a pretty crusty bread though, so don't know how much the above will help in lessening the crustiness, but maybe a somewhat reduced bake time(because it's not as wet), will help.


Timothy's picture

Thanks very much - I'd noticed there was a video for this, but not actually watched it.  It looks like he uses a few different measurements (and temperatures) than in the written recipes.

I really love a crackly crust, but this is almost painful to eat - I small cuts on the roof of my mouth from eating it.

mrfrost's picture

Yes. I think the recipe was slightly modified from the original printed formula. Either that or it's just a different, less wet, version. It is still quite wet, but he seems to use flour somewhat liberally in handling and shaping, along with the folding, to make a firmer dough.

Although too much extra flour may be making the crust tougher.

silkenpaw's picture

In fact, that's what many people want from their bread.

You can try this no knead recipe, which does not use a pot. The overnight rise does produce extra flavor and although the recipe I cited does not require it, you might want to do it, anyway. By the way, this recipe can be scaled down with no problems.

I suspect but don't know for a fact that changing the time you leave the cover on in your recipe would affect the crust thickness.