The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Question Regarding texture of crust

Trishinomaha's picture
Trishinomaha

Question Regarding texture of crust

Hi all-

 I've had some nice successes in the past few weeks with the Columbia and the BBA Basic Soudough. The only thing that I question is that the crust, while beautiful, is REALLY, REALLY Chewy - almost to the point where it's hard to slice the crust with a bread knife and the bottom crust is really hard to cut. Should it be this way? If not what do you think I could do to correct it.

Thanks!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Hi Trish,  One easy way to soften it up is to store it in a plastic bag, the other is cool the freshly baked loaf on a rack perched over a large bowl (much bigger than the loaf) and cover with a thin cloth.  The escaping moisture will then be slowed down and soften the crust just a little without effecting the overall look.  --Mini Oven

Trishinomaha's picture
Trishinomaha

I guess ideally what I'm looking for is not a "soft" crust just a thinner, slightly crunchy crust. Any ideas?

Trish

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Let's see, if ya want thick crust, lower the temp and bake longer.  Does it stand to reason that a thinner crust is obtained with higher temp and a shorter bake?   Mini Oven

Cooky's picture
Cooky

Haven't made this recipe myself, so I don't know what the effect of baking from a cold start would be, but I have found when I bake regular artisan bread using a cold start, I get a thinner, but still crisp, crust. I also don't steam when I'm using cold-start; that may be a factor.

 

"I am not a cook. But I am sorta cooky."

Trishinomaha's picture
Trishinomaha

and since it's still almost 90 degrees F here in Omaha at 5:00 PM it's something to consider. This week-end is supposed to be hotter than normal so it might be a great time to try this method.

 Thanks!

Trish

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Trish, is this a problem on the same day as the bread is baked?  I make this bread a lot and I notice the crust is not the same the next day becoming a bit softer.  It also would help to know what temps you are baking and for how long and if you steam your oven. 

Trishinomaha's picture
Trishinomaha

ZB-

The bread is usually easier to cut 3 or 4 hours after its baked. It's the next day that it seems so tough. I usually start baking at 500 degrees F and I bake in a standard gas oven. It may be that I need to use my oven thermometer and make sure the oven is calibrated correctly. I also have an iron skillet in the bottom of the oven and usually throw a cup of very hot water in right at the beginning. Sometimes I mist the oven walls a few times within the first 5 minutes sometimes I skip the misting part. The Husband and I had some of the BBA sourdough last night (it had been frozen) and honestly even he had a hard time cutting through the bottom crust! I'm going to try the cold start method this week-end. Does the steam promote crust or inhibit a bit? I'm guessing it promotes a "crispier" crust so maybe I should skip the steaming part which I guess you would do if you went with a cold start. ZB-as always, your input is valued. You've baked some beautiful bread - thanks for helping a fellow baker from the big "O"  ;-)!

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Trish, I have a few more thoughts on this.  How are you storing the bread?  I noticed when I started storing my bread on my cooling rack or a cutting board with only a thin cotton flour sack draped over it the crust stays much nicer even for more than 2 days.  Yes, it definitely is not the same as bake day but still very good and not as soft when I was wrapping it in the special bread bags I bought from KAF.  Sometimes I even place them in my warming drawer (turned off) on the rack and let them just stay there uncovered.

 

I think you’ll find that the cold start method will give you even a softer crust.  I have tried it on my grandmother’s “brown bread” twice and it was really much softer even to the point where the two balls I form the loaves with wanted to break apart while slicing.  That never happens when I preheat the oven.

 

Another thought is regarding the gas oven.  I have a range that has a gas oven and an electric oven.  I used to bake in both ovens at the same time but then noticed that the bread I baked in my gas oven did not get the same crust or deep color I could get from my electric oven.  Since many people successfully bake in a gas oven (Mountaindog comes to mind) I then wondered if it had to do with over steaming since gas is more moist heat than electric.  It might be worth a try to test it so you could cut down on steaming by tossing the water in the skillet but not spraying past the first 1 1/2 minutes (as I think BBA suggests) or try not steaming at all.  I would think that if you are still opening the door to steam at the 5-minute mark you’re letting too much built up steam out the door.

 

Having suggested that, I’m sure not the expert in that area.  I plan to try again and compare just so I can utilize my second oven again to help with bread baking.  I once tried to stop steaming at all in my electric oven and after several times I noticed it really did make a big difference so felt it was worth the trouble.  I do not spray past the first minute or so in addition to pouring a cup of hot water into a sliding tray that hooks on the glides in the bottom of my oven.

 

I think it is imperative to have good working thermometers in your oven so you really know the temp.  Some ovens are off by quite a lot and that can make a huge difference.  I generally kept 2 thermometers in each oven and then started getting really too-dark crusts in way too short of time and realized my alcohol thermometer was malfunctioning.  It made all the difference in my bread when I realized I was struggling with bake times suggested based on how my breads looked and getting a new more accurate thermometer took a lot of stress off the baking process for me.

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

Zola, do you store your bread this way after it is cut as well?  I've not found a good way to keep it for a few days after cutting.  Either the crust gets soft or the interior dries out.  I'm considering baking much smaller loaves partly for this reason.

zolablue's picture
zolablue

If I have a cut piece I simply place it crumb side down on the cutting board and then cover.  Or I may wrap a bit of foil only around that cut end and then cover the entire loaf with the cloth.  Sometimes if I have two cut pieces I will place them together facing each other.  I did this with the Vermont sourdough and was surprised and pleased that the next day the crumb was still moist. 

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

Trish,

 

In order to control the crust you may try to crack the door of your oven open about 3-5mm (1/8"-3/16") . This could/should be done after the ovenspring has finished ... about 15 minutes into the baking.

 

By doing this you will bake your bread in a dry(er) environment and yield a harder, thicker and crunchier crust.

 

Almost any loaf will feel 'hard' first when it leaves the oven, but if the loaf is not dry enough the escaping moisture from the inside will soften your loaf over the next 4-8 hours. That will even be worse when you wrap your loaf in paper after just a short while.

When I bake bread at night I keep the loaves 'as-is' on a cooling rack until the next morning. I try to store the bread in the bread box as soon as has completely cooled down. (My nights are relatively short) The crust will be hearty and easy to cut with a good bread knife ... as I think it should be.

 

BROTKUNST

 

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

Trish, my experience with the NYT bread was that the crust was very tough until I increased the flour I was using. The recipe was 3 cups or 430 grams. Well, my 3 cups was a lot less than that, so I started weighing the flour, and received a nice crisp crust - that I could easily cut with my bread knife! So, question would be - is it possible your dough is a bit too wet?

KC

 

Trishinomaha's picture
Trishinomaha

KC-

More flour could solve the problem but in my reading here and in my bread books I've formed the conclusion that drier dough = denser crumb. I hate to sacrifice the nice open crumb for a thinner crust. Hopefully there's a compromise between the two?

 Trish

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

The right amount of flour still yields a nice open crumb. Here's one of my loaves with the weighed (i.e. more) flour. It measured 10" around by 4.75" tall. In my case, it was the difference between using a cup of flour that was stirred and then lightly spooned into the cup and a rather packed cup of flour. When I made this at my sister's with no scale, I got the same results with a well packed cup. A crackly, crisp crust and an open, light crumb.

L_M's picture
L_M

Hi Trishinomaha,

I'm taking a wild guess here, but I've found the very hard crust syndrome to be the outcome if I've under proofed the dough on the last rise. If my timing is off and I just have to get the bread in the oven, then sometimes  even deep slashing, cold oven to start, and lots of steam aren't enough to save our poor jaws from the tough crust. I don't know if anyone else has found this to be true but unfortunately I've done it enough times to see a pattern.

So it's just another thought that might add a piece to your puzzle...

L_M

Trishinomaha's picture
Trishinomaha

Proofing is still one of my challenges. What's the best test to tell when the loaf has proofed long enough? My kitchen is much warmer now that summer is here - I'm sure that makes a difference also I retarded both the columbia and the BBA sourdough overnight in the fridge - wonder if that makes a difference? Thanks for your input!

 Trish