The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Why the Tough Bottom Crust?

OlCrusty's picture

Why the Tough Bottom Crust?

New member here and new baker as well.  I have a bout 3 batches of no-knead under my belt and starting to get psyched about taking this further.


I really like what I have achieved so far with the NK with one exception.  The bottom crust is very tough.  I have to set the loaf up on edge and saw at it with a serrated bread knife in order to slice it.  I am using a cast iron dutch oven and bake at 450.  My original theory was that the bottom of the pot was getting too hot so last time I didn't preheat the pan as much- only 10 minutes.  I bake covered for 30 minutes and then uncovered for 15.  Any ideas on how to reduce the toughness of the bottom of the loaf?

Mukoseev's picture

I had a similar problem. It maybe that you're baking it for too long or too hot. Every oven is different but I bake at 435 for 20 minutes covered and 15 minutes or slightly more uncovered. I shut the oven off and cool the bread on the rack, out of the pot with the oven door open.  I look for the bread to have an internal temp of 200 -205.  I also have the pot on the bottom rack while baking.

kathleen stocks's picture
kathleen stocks

Just baked some ciabatta today and the bottom crust was harder to cut through than the loaf.  FYI, this happens when I was buying leaven bread from my farmers market baker. I bake my bread on a cast iron pizza "stone" on the second shelf with convection.

ehanner's picture

The goal is to bake your loaf with the crust being approximately the same thickness on the top and bottom. If you are getting a much thicker crust on the bottom, I suggest moving the shelf up one level. You might also provide a shield under the pot in the form of HD foil or a small sheet pan. There are a lot of variables that could be causing this such as the thickness of the cast iron pan, the ratio of heat on the top and bottom, how well the oven vents out the heat which would mean the heat source is on longer.

Keep in mind that regardless of the popularity of the No Knead Bread method, it is absolutely unnecessary to pre heat the cooking vessel. In fact, you can proof your dough in the pot if you line the bottom with parchment or a good sprinkle of course cornmeal. I know it's completely counter intuitive, but try it once and you will see.


OlCrusty's picture

Very interesting.  I was under the impression that the preheating was critical.  I'll have to try your method.  Maybe the gradual heating of the bottom would be better.  But wouldn't you loose the effect of oven spring?

I did another loaf this weekend.  I used bread flour this time and I think it was a big improvement.  I preheated the oven and pot to 500.  When I put the dough in I turned it down to 450.  25 min covered, 15 uncovered.  Also I put a large cast iron skillet on the rack below the dutch oven.  The crust was good but thinner than previous loaves.  The bottom crust was very acceptable.  I think I am going go up in temp to 475 however to get back a heftier crust.

I cooked it to 210 degrees internal.  It seemed moist inside.  Thoughts on this?

BTW, lst night I did something delicious with the day old bread.  I sliced it up (3/4" thick), buttered both sides of each slice, and then grilled them on a griddle.  Then my wife took a fresh garlic clove, sliced it in half and rubbed it on the toast and added shavings of Parmesian cheese.  OMG, these were to die for.  Ya gotta try it.  Excellent without the garlic and cheese but outstanding with it.

Chuck's picture

The "conventional wistom" is that for no-knead methods preheating of the cooking vessel is very important. But because it's such a pain lots of folks have done lots of experiments with variations.

First folks found that preheating only the bottom but not the top worked equally well.

Further experience suggests that preheating can be skipped altogether without making any noticeable difference. (Which leaves it somewhat of a mystery why the originators said it's so important. What's life without a few mysteries?-)

You most likely will not hear this from a no-knead guru, but only from fellow sufferers who have tried not preheating and found their bread still turns out fine.