The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Wondering about crackly crust

varda's picture
varda

Wondering about crackly crust

The other day I had a bread disaster.   First of all my loaves were too big and twinned with each other.   Second I preheated the oven to 500F meaning to turn it down after I put the loaves in, but didn't.   Third, I forgot to set the timer when I removed the steam pans, so I actually have no idea how long they baked in total - but suffice it to say too long.   Teach me to bake when there's too much activity around me.  Anyhow, when I removed these sad, sad loaves from the oven, the crust crackled like crazy.   I find this very frustrating because I haven't been able to do this on purpose.   The last time I had crackly crust was when I baked with King Arthur French Style flour, and I had just assumed it was a function of the flour.   The monster loaves were made with KA All Purpose which is what I usually use, so I'm mystified.  Does anyone out there understand the knobs to turn to get crackly crust not including what I did?    Thanks.  -Varda

Mary Fisher's picture
Mary Fisher

Yummmmmmmmmmm! I love crackly crusts but have never been able to make them deliberately either! 


A cornflour wash is supposed to make crusts crackly according to some authorities but it's not 100% guaranteed either, at least in my case.


Mary

Mary Fisher's picture
Mary Fisher

... is that it's not a disaster in my book. You've just been lucky, make the most of it :-)

varda's picture
varda

I almost never throw out bread, but I threw out around half of this batch.  It was marginally edible on the first day and by the second -blech.  Having a fully functioning brain is a requirement for baking.   But in any case, I upped the temperature on the next batch, thinking maybe that was the key variable, but just succeeded in nearly scorching the loaves, and no cracking at all.  Have you tried the corn flour wash?   I have cornmeal.  Add water and brush before baking?  Thanks.  -Varda

Mary Fisher's picture
Mary Fisher

Cornflour isn't the same as cornmeal here, I think you call it cornstarch. Yes, I've used it, it makes a crackly finish (mixed with water and brushed on) but it's ONLY the glaze which cracks, not the crust.


I'm going to try the slow cooling tip which someone has offered.


Mary

varda's picture
varda

Yes, I use cornstarch to thicken stews so I have some.   Cornflour is the british for that?   I am also going to try the prop the oven open after baking method.   Thanks. -Varda

PeterPiper's picture
PeterPiper

Hi Varda,


I finally figured out the secret to a really crisp crust is a very long cool-down.  Once the bread is baked, turn off the oven, crack open the door, and leave the bread in there for another 10 minutes or so.  Once it comes out you should have the crust you're dreaming about.  I wrote about it here.


Happy baking!


-Peter

varda's picture
varda

I read your post.   And drooled over the picture.   That's what I am looking for.   I love that you discovered this by accident.   Sometimes distraction is a good thing.  Thanks! -Varda

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

By using a "passive" method of steaming, that is that I cover the dough with something for the first 1/2 to 2/3 of the baking time.  It's the secret that people are learning by baking in a Dutch Oven, but it doesn't require a $250 Le Cruset pot to do it--I get fine results by covering it with a cheap, aluminum foil pan or baking in my inexpensive lidded clay baker. 


I'm wondering if something else is going on with your bread.  If the crust was crisp and crackly, not burned, I don't see why your bread wouldn't be good.  What hydration level are you using in your dough?  It sounds counterintuitive, but a higher level of hydration will yield a crisper crust and a wonderful crumb. 


BTW, that crackling sound is sometimes referred to as "signing".  I love a singing crust!

varda's picture
varda

If you are asking why the bread I wrote about in my post was bad, I made two loaves which fused into each other despite my attempts to separate them which frankly doesn't make for good bread.   And it was overcooked.   Its only redeeming quality was that the crust cracked just beautifully.   But your answer is interesting.   I don't usually cover my loaves - I have a one foot square stone and don't have any covers that would work for that, but occasionally cook in a dutch oven.  (No not a $250 Creuset.)    I will give that a shot sometime soon and see how it goes. -Varda

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

turned upside down over the dough?  Those might fit over a small stone.  Even your dutch oven might work if it's flat all around the top (my cast iron DO has a hanging handle, and is not flat on the top edge :o(  )


An instant read thermometer is very helpful.  I find some of the high hydration doughs give every outward appearance of being done (even a crackly crust!) but they can still be wet and gummy inside. 


With a thermometer this does not happen--if the internal temperature of the bread is good, the bread will be done.   

K.C.'s picture
K.C.

In my experience the crackling crust comes from bread that has baked fully. It's nice and dry inside and there's no moisture coming out to soften the crust as it cools. If the loaf has nice spring, bakes through to an interior temp of 200 or more it'll crackle every time.


This one really crackled.


varda's picture
varda

but doesn't have the cracked crust I was referring to.   Still your point is well taken   I have not been measuring temperature.   I rap the bottom of the loaf and if it doesn't sound hollow back in it goes.   I wonder how that equates to temperature.   -Varda

LindyD's picture
LindyD

I think Varda is talking about this? 



Most times my crust sings when the bread is unloaded, but it always doesn't produce a cracked crust as shown above.


It's erratic, so I just chalk it up to a visit from the crackle fairy.

varda's picture
varda

I love it.  I'm laughing.  -Varda

Optionparty's picture
Optionparty

I have heard this called a "Dutch Crust".
Maybe this is what you were talking about.

varda's picture
varda

Well I must say, I had never even conceived of a crust such as the above.   What type of bread is that?   I am very curious.   I can see that there are different conceptions of crackly crust.   The picture that LindyD posted is exactly what I had in mind.   She says that it is elusive, and that has been my experience.  But I am facscinated by the range of replies that have come back.     -Varda

Optionparty's picture
Optionparty


Baking was changed to use a "La Cloche",
I let it rise, covered it, started baking from a cold oven.
Steam is the answer.

Carl

varda's picture
varda

Carl, I love your presentation.   Makes it very easy to read.   I assume that levin is yeast.   How do you get a spreadsheet into the post without having the formatting get wiped out?   I've been having trouble with that.  -Varda

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder
Mary Fisher's picture
Mary Fisher

The home baker can achieve something like this by covering the loaves or using a cloche for the first part of the bake. ...


I don'toften cover loaves unless cooking while camping but when I think about it on the occasions I HAVE - using a well-soaked unglazed earthenware pot - I've had a very thin, crackly crust.


Thanks, I'll find my pots again, or even have a bigger one specially made.


Mary

varda's picture
varda

I read through this.   I am not sure how your experience would match mine given no convection oven.   But I think the points that people are consistently mentioning is the slow cool down via leaving in the oven, or the covered baking.   I'll try the first strategy next time I make a crust I want cracked and see what happens.   Thanks! -Varda

LindyD's picture
LindyD


No idea why.  Cracks are along the lower edges of the bread.  ??


This is the experimental sourdough I thought would be a brick.  73% hydration, 30 minute autolyse, 20 folds-in-bowl every 30 minutes for three hours, three hour bulk, and 14 hour retard.  Plopped a bowl over it for 15 minutes, rather than using my normal steaming method  (was out of ice cubes and didn't think of trying snow).  Left in oven at end of bake for five minutes with door open.  



Have used a cover before, as well as leaving oven door open.  No visit from the fairy then.  Maybe it was because the snow had stopped and the sun came out yesterday?


 

varda's picture
varda

LindyD, it looks great.   Not even slightly bricklike.   I can't wait to try and see if I can get cracks on purpose.    As for your comment, "was out of ice cubes and didn't think of trying snow".   Snow.   Snow.  Don't talk to me about no stinkin' snow.  -Varda

Mary Fisher's picture
Mary Fisher

Snow.   Snow.  Don't talk to me about no stinkin' snow.  -Varda


 


Gosh - that was said with feeling :-)


Mary

varda's picture
varda

lynnebiz's picture
lynnebiz

I'm not too far from you, varda - I feel the same. Still coming down, and expected to keep going for yet another day.


I feel I should add something to your photo of what is surrounding us here up in the Northeast. Another photo just won't do it (white, white, more white).


I think signifies the feeling best:


http://tiny.cc/w57tg


 


 

varda's picture
varda

you nailed it!  

Mary Fisher's picture
Mary Fisher

HA HA HA!

tansyandfern's picture
tansyandfern

hey guys!  i made my first ever bread using a pre-ferment and was so happy with the results.  i was up late and as soon as i took it out of the oven i settled into bed.  suddenly i heard the crust cracking like crazy on my two loafs!  exciting!  


the bread tastes amazing too!  can't wait to make another batch.  


Sjadad's picture
Sjadad

It's wonderful when your bread talks to you! Looking forward to more posts of your successes.

varda's picture
varda

and on your first try too.   -Varda

breadsong's picture
breadsong

No wonder kitty's got her eye on that loaf!
The scoring pattern is pretty, too.
from breadsong

tansyandfern's picture
tansyandfern

thank you so much!  i will definitely be posting more :)