The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Pale Crust on Sourdough

Cranny's picture

Pale Crust on Sourdough


I made these tonight. They are my second try at sourdough.  


10 oz firm starter

15oz King Arthur Bread Flour

5oz King Arthur Whole Grain

12-13 ish oz water. 


mixed by hand, Kneaded for 12ish min, bulk ferment for 4 hours, bench proofed for 2 hours. Started in oven at 550 after a few spritzes a water from a pump sprayer dropped temp to 460. Baked for 30 - 35 min. 

with the exception of keeping my starter as a firm dough (60% hydration) I followed the instructions in Bread Bakers Aprentice.  

Any suggestions for a more carmalized crust? 




LindyD's picture

Welcome to TFL, Cranny

The recipe you list doesn't include any salt.  Not only does salt provide flavor, it has an effect on the color of the crust since it slows down the rate of sugar consumption by the yeast.  No salt and the yeast will quickly consume the sugar, resulting in a pale and dull crust.   You want to use between 1.8 and 2 percent salt based on the weight of the flour.  

If you did use salt and just forgot to list it in your post, then you need to add more steam (moisture) to your oven and retain the moisture for the first 15 minutes of the bake.  You didn't mention whether you have a gas or electric oven.  There are many methods of steaming an oven and since ovens are as individual as their owners, it may take some experimentation on your part to achieve a method that meets your needs.  

I have a gas oven and described what worked for me here:    

Use the term "steam" in the TFL search bar and you'll find tons of other examples of what's worked for members - and what didn't.

Nice job on your sourdough.  They'll be really lovely once you get the crust caramelized.

Cranny's picture

thaks for the response. There was salt in the recip, .5oz.

I just forgot to write it in the original post. 

I have an electric oven.  I brushed the loaves with water right before they went in, I also added three long sprays of water from a 1 gallon pump sprayer At 30 second intervals. I'll do a search for better steaming techniques.



Wild-Yeast's picture

Hello and welcome to TFL Cranny.

Try eliminating the brushing with water after they go into the oven - otherwise your loaves look right and proper.

Let us know how it works out...,


Home Baker's picture
Home Baker

The loaves look over proofed —like all of the carbs were converted before they were baked— but at the same time like the rise was less than ideal. Did the shaped loaves double in volume during final rise? How did they respond to a 'poke test' just before baking? I shoot for a final proof that springs back slowly and not quite all the way to a gentle poke of about 1/2 to one inch depth. If it springs back too fast the loaf isn't finished proofing. If it doesn't spring back the proof has gone too far. 

My math may be wrong but it looks like the formula uses starter in the amount of almost 50% of the total flour weight. I use about 3.7 oz. of healthy, active starter, less than half as much starter as listed here, for about the same amount of dough. Proofing gets very tricky for me at levels near 40%. I've never gone as high as 50%. 

My house is cold this time of year so I find that I need a little yeast to get good proofing in the times you list, about 1% or less instant dry yeast as compared to the total flour weight.

I haven't found crust color either better or worse with steam (or without) but it's crucial to getting good oven spring on naturally leavened loaves.

Hope this helps,




Cranny's picture

The shaped loaves did not double in size. 

The original recipe i used said to use 4oz of barm to create a solid starter, ferment for four hours and refrigerate.  I keep my starter (only about two weeks old) in a solid dough already. So i fed 4oz of my starter to make the 10 oz stater in the recipe.  Next time i'll just add my 4 oz starter with out the extra step. 

I'll report back with results 



Cranny's picture

Just posting an update.. I made another sourdough tonight using 30% starter and they turned out much better. 




thanks for the help,