The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

crusts won't stay crisp

ladonohue's picture

crusts won't stay crisp

I have been experimenting with a crusty french bread recipe:

1 1/2 tablespoons yeast

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

6 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, more for dusting dough

3 c water

So far the dough has been the nicest I have made and I used a hot hot baking stone (heated to 500 degrees for at least an hour) when I put them in the oven I throw some cold water in a hot baking dish in the bottom of the oven and bake at 475 for 25 min.  (they are relatively small loaves). 

When I take them out of the oven the crusts are nice and hard and they even crackle.  There is little give in the crusts for about an hour or until they have completely cooled and then the crusts go a little soft.  when you press it, it no longer crackles.

I have been brushing the tops with egg whites for this the problem?  Or is this just what happens?  I would love it if they would stay nice and hard on top and keep the crackle.


ladonohue's picture

i couldnt keep up with instant yeast rise time and so I ended up punching them down twice or three times until I could get to the end some were really small.  Did I just not let them proof long enough or did I punch too much.  My mother says if you punch too many times you will use up all your this accurate?


breadforfun's picture

Hi Lisa,

This is something that has happened to me as well.  With my (admittedly limited) experience, I concluded that the loaves were not baked long enough, and the excess water in the loaf was steaming out and softening the crust.  My solution was to bake longer, and it seems to work.  If your loaves are browning too much, lower the temperature a bit.  You shouldn't need an egg wash to get a good color.


bakeshack's picture

After you bake the loaf, turn the oven off and leave the bread inside with the oven door slightly open.  This will result in a more crisp crust.  Also, it should be expected when baking higher hydration lean doughs that the crust will soften a bit as it cools due to the steam and moisture left inside the bread.  Trying to bake the bread much longer than it should will only dry out the crumb inside. 

You can easily revive the crunchy exterior by putting in back in the 350 deg oven for 5-10 mins (depending on the size of the loaf) before you serve it.  

davidg618's picture

It's a natural process, a combination of residual  water in the crumb migrating to the surface, and the air's humidity. How you store the bread also hastens (plastic bags) or slows (paper or cloth bags) the softening, but eventually it happens. All of the good suggestions above work, but it still happens.

I freeze almost every loaf I bake. When I want to restore the crust, as Bakeshack suggested, I pop the thawed loaf into a hot oven--I use 375°F--for a few minutes.

This applies specifically to lean doughs (flour, water, yeast and salt).

In doughs that contain fats, milk and/or eggs these ingredients contribute to a soft crust, generally desired in sweet breads or sandwich breads.

Happy baking!

David G



hanseata's picture

as David G, and I also spray the breads with water before they go into the oven for re-crisping (especially white breads). They come out almost as good as freshly baked.

Another thing - with this humidity no baguette or other white bread will stay crisp for several hours. If you bake in the morning and want to have a crisp (white) bread for dinner, you almost always have to refresh the crust.