The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


PaulZ's picture


Hi all,

I know this topic has cropped up ad infinitum on this site and posted to the point of tearful yawn-inducing boredom but I am really REALLY trying to find an answer. Nothing seems to work.

PROBLEM: My baguette's crust is too hard. Would knock an intruder out cold with one blow! The crumb inside is beautifully soft, flavoursome and the mix of holes (high hydration) is ideal - I think. Yet, I've read on TFL that steam (within the 1st 5min) helps develop a crisp crust. However, I have ALSO read on previous postings here that to induce a softer crust one needs loads and loads of steam before the firming and caramelisation eventually takes over. A contradiction of intentions? Neither seems to work. To create steam in my 6ft single deck oven, I use a plastic cannnister pressure pump hose (the one used to spray chemicals in the garden - not the same one! - a similar one you understand!!!) I place the baguettes directly onto the pre-heated metal deck / floor of the oven at a temp of 280C (530F), spray for 10-15secs and immed. reduce to 250C (500F). I spray again (10-15secs) after 3 mins and I give a final 15secs spray after 6 mins. The temp is then reduced to 220C (425F) and the baked baguettes are pulled at 22mins. Should I be using more steam? This means a greater heat loss while I insert the nozzle of the spray hose. Less steam, perhaps?

The baguettes have a beautiful colour, lovely crumb but the crust ? oh-so hard!

Good crumb but very-very tough crust!

The watchman's "night stick" baton!!!!

Baked in a deck oven (the convection oven has to perch above - sorry, no space in the kitchen!)

And here is the formula (if that would help solve anything)

1,000g White Bread Flour

800g Water

18g salt

22g Fresh Bakers Yeast.


Thanks all.


Yerffej's picture

I would concentrate the steaming in the first minute or so.  An oven such as you describe is difficult to fill with steam so give it all that you can right at the start of the bake.

As I know nothing of the flour you are using or the techniques employed, there is little that I can add beyond the steaming idea.



mcs's picture

Concentrate on the steam in the beginning and add as much as you think will stay in your oven for at least the first couple of minutes.  Once the baguettes start heating up, they'll give off their own steam so there's no point in opening the door, losing heat and trying to add steam from the outside.   Towards the end of the bake you want less steam in the oven so the outside of the baguette gets drier, crispier, and less tough. 

I would also like to add that as an experiment you may try lengthening your final proofing time by 25-50% to see if that makes the crust 'thinner'.  It'll be harder to handle, but if your shaping was good then it may also lead to a thinner, crispier crust.


rfusca's picture

Steam power for sure.  I recently built this for my setup and my crusts got much, much better - maybe you can do something similar and fix your crust:


goodforbusiness's picture

Wow, that is one crazy steam set up! I would never have thought to use a pressure cooker. Would you mind sharing the process of getting this ready and using it for baking? Also, how safe is this set up? I hope this isn't an offensive questions... I'm just a bit scared of pressure cookers. :)

rfusca's picture

There no pressure on it really, its releasing all the steam into the oven.  There's a cutoff valve I use just for the 15 seconds I'm loading into the oven so I don't get a blast of steam in the face.  Also, the safety release valve on the pressure cooker is still active - worst case, it would blow and I'd just get a steam filled kitchen.  The pressure part doesn't really matter, but it already had a threaded outlet and was an enclosed area to boil in.  I had it so I used it.  You just boil water in it and then hook the line up to metal tube I ran down the oven outlet. 

If you don't have a pressure cooker, just use a cheap metal kettle.  Get a rubber cork and a short section of 3/8" or 1/2" threaded metal tubing - just 3 or 4 inches would be fine.  Drill a hole in the cork thats a tight fit for the tube, put the tube through the hole, cork the kettle.  Then get a flexible hose like I pictured above (its 1/2" thread on one end and 3/8" on the other, just make sure whatever pipe and hose you get match up) and screw it on the pipe.  Then you just gotta feed that into your oven.  Boil water and there ya go.

goodforbusiness's picture

So cool! Thanks very much for the detailed explanation! I will definitely try this soon. :)


EvaGal's picture

Since I didn't want to fuss with steam, and am baking for my family twice a week, I simply adjusted my blend of flours (3BF,2AP,1Spelt ratio)  and ended up with an edible loaf my teenagers weren't tempted to turn into a weapon:)