The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

crust on dough

Foxmom's picture

crust on dough

I've noticed the last few times baking that before I actually put my bread in the oven to bake the top has hardened, though thin, and almost looks like it's already baked.  I tried oiling the top once, lightly and another time I put a damp cloth to cover while it was rising.  Is it even something to be concerned about?  Is there a way to prevent it?

The recipe is a basic one.  starter, flour, salt and water. 

2 1/3 cups Fresh Sourdough Starter
3 1/3 cup Flour
1 – 1 ½ cup Water (approximate)
Tablespoon Salt
richkaimd's picture

My guess is this:  that hardening of the outer skin is due to its drying out.  You're on the right track with oiling and with the dampened clothe.  Try letting this dough rise covered loosely with plastic wrap which has been oiled.  I'd probably make sure that the container in which the first rise happens is more than big enough to contain the doubling and then that the second rise happens with very loosely applied wrap.  

Be sure to tell us what works when you figure it out, please.



jcking's picture

When bulk rising in a bowl I like to place a damp paper towel over the opening then cover with plastic wrap.


thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

You had a crust after oiling it? That would be rather unusual.

Oil (or melted butter) should prevent it from drying/crusting.

Chuck's picture

In wintertime the relative humidity outside is typically around the same as it is in summer. But when you take that outside air and heat it for inside (say 40F to 70F), the absolute amount of water in the air stays the same while the air temperature rises significantly, so the relative humidity inside can become extremely low. "Drying out" that was never an issue in the summer months can become significant. Have you noticed not only the dry skin but also your crumb shifting toward smaller holes? 

Drying out is cumulative; it may have started occuring well before you noticed it. For example some drying out may occur unnoticed during the bulk rise, so your hydration is already lower than expected. Then when even more drying out occurs during the proof rise, a noticeable skin forms. So you may need to start being more careful about covering during the bulk rise and the proof rise.

Covering seldom needs to be really obsessive though. Just setting a plate loosely on top of your bulk rise container and turning an old plastic drawer over on top of your proofing loaves may be sufficient (that's what works for me:-). Tighter more careful covering (oiled plastic wrap for example) of course also works.

Do be especially careful of drying out around your refrigerator though, as the relative humidity inside some refrigerators is already low and may become extremely low during the winter months. (A refrigerator often sucks moisture out of the air the same way a car's air conditioner/defroster does.) If you "retard" dough in your refrigerator, be sure to cover the dough in some way. A cover on the bulk container may be sufficient. Clear plastic covers with elastic around the edge (or shower caps) work well for bannetons/brotforms. Another common technique is to put bannetons/brotforms or rising loaves into a giant plastic bag then put the whole thing in the fridge (the bags bed comforters are sold in may work well, garbage bags work fine too  ...except you can't see inside).

I find it works much better to prevent the drying out by covering, than to try to put the moisture back with a very humid environment. The reason is it's too easy to put back way too much moisture with a very humid environment. I tried heating a mug of water to boiling and putting it under the same plastic cover next to my proofing loaves once. An hour later half of the water had disappeared out of the mug, and the proofing loaves had turned into sticky unmanageable shapeless blobs.