The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Controlling crust

  • Pin It
conbrio's picture
conbrio

Controlling crust

Hi.  Newbie question here.  I've been playing around with no-knead and almost no-knead loaves and decided to try one in a loaf pan for a change.  Would be nice to supply my own sandwich bread.  It wasn't bad, but the crust was too hard for sandwiches, and I would prefer a higher crown.  I used 80/20 KA bread flour/whole wheat flour, the dough was at 73% hydration.  I gave it a 24 hour rise (big and bubbly), a little bit of kneading and a two hour second rise.  Baked, uncovered in a metal loaf pan, at 450 until the internal temp reached 210 degrees, just over 30 minutes.  Let it cool 50 minutes.


What adjustments can I make to get the crust softer for sandwiches?... lower hydration? higher?... cover?... more kneading?...


What about the low crown?  Should I be kneading more?


(BTW, I usually make this bread as a boule and it always has a hard crust, which is nice, except for the couple of times I added raisins and walnuts.  I'm guessing sugar from the raisins may have softened the crust, but am not sure.)


Thanks,


Michael

demegrad's picture
demegrad

Hi,


First off welcome. I don't think the no-knead method is suitable for making that sort of soft crusted sandwich loaf you're talking about. Also you say the hydration is 42%, that seems very very low, in fact I would think you'd have a hard time kneading that much flour into that little water. The no-knead method as given by Lahey was a fairly wet dough, which resulted with those large irregular holes in the crumb, not what you want for a sandwich loaf. Maybe your calculating hydration % differently than most people do.


Anyway, tips for making soft crust open top sandwich loaves: 1. Use bread flour, 2. Fairly stiff dough, 55-60% Hydration (look up baker's percentages) 3. Knead the dough until it passes the window pane test. 4. Make sure the surface of the shaped dough is nice and tight, 5. Bake in a 350F oven until the internal temperature reaches 195F.


Best,


Justin

Ford's picture
Ford

Welcome to the Fresh loaf.


If you calculated the hydration correctly, that is much too dry.  My 50% whole wheat bread is about 78% hydration (bakers percentage, ie water x 100 ÷ total flour).  It also sounded as though you baked the bread too long.  An internal temperature of 195°F is adequate.  I bake at 450°F for 15 minutes then drop to 350°F.


For a soft crust brush the dough with butter before the final rise and again after baking.  Cover the baked bread with a damp towel or with plastic wrap.


Ford

Chuck's picture
Chuck

the dough was at 42% hydration


I suspect you calculated this by volume instead of by weight.

conbrio's picture
conbrio

You all picked up on my miscalculation.  Sorry for the confusion.  I edited the post above to have the correct hydration percentage: 73%.

Chuck's picture
Chuck

If your standard is the kind of sandwich loaf you buy in the store, you can't get there from here (old Yankee proverb:-). One of the big tricks commercial producers use to make their crust really thin and really soft is seal the loaves into plastic bags even before they're completely cooled. Of course if you did this at home you'd create mega-problems with mold. Commercially produced loaves have this same secondary problem, which they then often "solve" by adding chemical mold growth inhibitors; yuck.


Even though you probably can't (and don't want to:-) produce exactly the same thin soft crust as "storebought", there are several things you might do to make your crust thin-ner and soft-er:



  • Bake at a lower temperature and compensate by baking longer. The crumb should come out the same. The crust will be lighter  ...and hopefully thinner and softer as well.

  • Add a bit of "lecithin" (liquid or granules) to your dough. Lecithin is yet another "fat", and so is similar to adding something like olive oil. (In fact just add olive oil if that's what you've got.)  It will make the crumb and the crust too softer.

  • Put a soft (milk or melted butter) "wash" on the crust either just before or just after baking.

  • Use lower gluten flour. This will make the crumb and hopefully also the crust softer. (You can't go too far with this though, as radically less gluten will either change the required handling of the dough dramatically or not rise right, especially with whole wheat. You might try KAF AP instead of KAF Bread for the 20%, just to see if it helps without creating new problems.)

  • Cover the top of the loaf with tinfoil for the last part of the bake. By shielding it from heat, you prevent further baking of the crust. The crust will come out very light  ...and hopefully also thinner and softer.

  • Bake only to an internal temperature you don't find "watery" or "gummy", not any further. 205F is fairly typical for "lean" breads. Try 200F and see what that tastes like to you. You might even try just 195F.

  • Change your mix to make it a little less "whole wheat". Try70/30 or even 60/40. (Of course all the times you're used to for rising and for baking will probably shift a little.)

conbrio's picture
conbrio

Thanks for your responses.  I think I'll start with adding a little oil and lowering the temperature, then will make additional adjustments from there.  Your comments let me know what direction I need to move in.  Very helpful.


This is a great website.  Kudos to Floyd and all the contributors.  I just started baking bread a few weeks ago and have about a dozen loaves under my belt, literally and figuratively.  Now that I'm gaining a bit of confidence, it's time to branch out a bit into some different styles.  Thanks again.


Michael

intelplatoon's picture
intelplatoon

i was always under the impression that a lower temperature and a longer bake time resulted in a thicker, tougher crust? is this not the case here?