The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Where to rest my loafs for good crust?

elledeca's picture
elledeca

Where to rest my loafs for good crust?

Hello! I have been baking for a few months and I am really enjoying it. However, I don't manage to get a crunchy crust!

I use Richard Bertinet's dough recipes with 70% hydration, white or rye, no fats. I pre-heat the oven to 250 a couple of hours in advance, I have bricks in the oven and a big tray of lava rocks to make steam after I put the bread in the oven.

The bread develops a good crust in the oven and when I take it out and put it on a grill to rest the crust is very hard and it even cracks as it cools down. By the time the bread is cold, however, the crust goes all soft. I thought that maybe it depended on the day, but this happens on sunny and rainy days.

Any tips? i think it might be the moisture escaping from the bread to "wet" the crust. Maybe I should rest the loaf in the oven with the door open?

Thanks in advance!

Luca

 

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

Maybe I should rest the loaf in the oven with the door open?

Yes. Have you tried it?

jcking's picture
jcking

When the loaf develops color, 15-20 minutes, use a wooden utensil to keep the oven door ajar for 2-3 minutes. Remove the utensil and continue baking. Then again at the end of baking turn off the oven, prop the door open and leave loaf in oven for 10-15 mins.

Jim

flournwater's picture
flournwater

I was intially alarmed with the "250"  -  but it's clear you mean centigrade/celcius (depends on how old you are).

In my own experience I have found that the open oven approach to finishing the loaf works fairly well, but it's also important not to under-bake the loaf.  The temperatures at which bread is "done" varies, depending on formula.  Perhaps, in addition to the open oven finishing style, you might want to bake your loaves a few minutes longer.

elledeca's picture
elledeca

thanks for the tips! (and yes, 250C!) I will try them and report back!

Luca

jcking's picture
jcking

Luca,

Oven temperature sets the crust; length of bake sets the crumb.

Jim

davidg618's picture
davidg618

meaning doughs made only with flour, water, salt, and yeast call all form crunchy crusts. Unfortunately, the crust will always soften eventually. Crust softens when internal residual water migrates to the surface, or absorb water vapor from the surrounding air. You can slow down the process by:

1. Make certain the internal temperature reaches 205°F or higher. (Tartine bread formula specifies 212°F, theoretically the highest temperature dough will reach until all the water has evaporated.) Experienced baker's sneer at measuring internal temperature, but it's a grand way for us novices to help insure consistency.

2. Leave the loaves in the oven with the door cracked, and the oven turned off for 5 to 10 mins. at the end of the bake. Doing this further dries the crust and crumb near the surface of the loaf.

3. Store bread for immediate use in cloth or paper bags, not plastic. In the porous bags, some of the water that migrates to the surface will evaporate, especially in a low humidity. Plastic forms a vapor barrier, and the crust will soften more quickly.

4. If you freeze bread for storage--a lot of us do--do it in plastic bags, don't keep it too long, a couple of months is probably a good rule of thumb. When you remove a loaf from the freezer, thaw it in a towel, to absorb any melting ice crystals. When thawed place it in a 375°F oven: baguettes for 5 mins, boules and batards 7 0r 8 mins. Let them cool; you will be surprised how this restores them to nearly freshly-baked condition.

David G

jcking's picture
jcking

Additional food for thought;
Water -- pure water -- boils at 212°F, at sea level. Water that is bonded to proteins,
starches and other dough ingredients by electrostatic forces no longer has the boiling
characteristics of pure water, and -- because energy is required to break those bonds -- boils
at a higher temperature than pure water.
--------------------------------------------
Merely plunging a thermometer into the nether regions of a poor loaf will give you some objective information. And beyond that, there are some other, more subtle aspects of the bake that should be considered as well. One thing you might try is the following: when you are taking bread out of your oven at home, give it a good squeeze, top and bottom, and get a sense of how much pressure you have to exert before the bread gives a bit of a crack (just tapping the top of the loaf tells you nothing, as that part got hard pretty early in the bake-you do need to do a full squeeze). Then take the temperature. When the bread is cool and you eat it, you can now tell for sure if it is baked to your liking. If it is, then try to get a tactile imprint on what it felt like when you squeezed it. Keep doing that squeeze and thermometer testing for several bakes. Slowly you will begin to trust what your hands are feeling, and I guarantee that they will soon pick up enough sensitivity to know doneness.
Jeffrey Hamelman, Bakery Director, Certified Master Baker, BBGA Yahoo 2/11/06

elledeca's picture
elledeca

[trying to upload pictures]

elledeca's picture
elledeca

thanks to all for the tips! I tried to prolonge the baking until a darker crust than usual, and leave the loafs to rest in the oven for 15 minutes. The boule was (unintentionally) smaller than the tabatiere and it came out with a very strong crust.

Jim, I tried to squeeze it, I had to push so hard to make it crack! I'll try to bake them and rest them a bit less next time.

The tabatiere had a slightly thinner crust.

In both cases the crust remained crunchy also after the loafs cooled down, and they are still reasonably crunchy 24 hours later.

Now, working to open that crumb... :-)

 

jcking's picture
jcking

Luca,

I'm impressed by the amount of thermal mass in the oven. I think it can be cut back a little. Although it would be good for an overnite pumpernickle bake.

Jim

elledeca's picture
elledeca

Jim, thanks for the comment.

I could not find baking stones cheaply, and the closest DIY shop had these bricks for 10 cents each. So I'd thought I'd give it a try and I could really see a lot more oven spring and the bottom of my loafs does not burn anymore as it did on the oven tray. So I am now saving for a proper stone (which would have the advantage of being thinner too as nothing else fits in the oven now!) The lava rocks are there for a steaming experiment, I'll cut them back as I perfect the equation initial steaming / length of bake / rest in the oven to get a good crust

thanks!

Luca