The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Crumb vs. Crust

BarbaraK's picture

Crumb vs. Crust

Hi Everyone

I'm fairly new to bread-making compared with most of you and am still looking for the perfect balance between crumb and crust in a fairly rustic loaf with 700 gms. Shipton Mill White and 150 gms. whole rye, 650 gms water, 15 gms fresh yeast, 15 gms salt - long overnight proof in frig.  .

Sometimes it's all pretty good and other times it seems a bit of a fight between getting the crumb perfectly baked and the crust a bit too hard and vice versa.  I've picked up lots of useful ideas and  guidance from you all and will be trying them but I don't think I've come across anything about the handling of the dough before it goes into the oven. I know it should be fairly quick but don't know why.

Has anyone any ideas on whether too much handling of the gluten cloaking and final shaping can lead to hard crust (as too much handling toughens pastry) all other things being OK?






DavidEF's picture


You may need to lower the temperature of your bake. That will be the easiest thing for you to try. The higher the temperature, the faster the outside of your bread will bake, but not so with the inside. So, lowering the heat will slow the outside down, so that the inside can catch up. If you are looking for a huge difference, lower the heat by about 20 or 25 degrees each time until it's where you want it. For finer tuning, try five degrees difference. I don't know about overhandling the dough. I'm still trying to figure out dough handling, kneading, etc. myself. But when I needed to help my overly tough crust, I lowered the baking temperature and it worked perfectly!

BarbaraK's picture

thanks David it's really helpful  to know someone else's tried and tested methods and it makes sense. I will do that next time as, so far, I've been concentrating , perhaps too much, on getting the oven hot enough to fully bake the bottom. I will check the oven temps. too. It's a fan oven so perhaps I've been getting the oven it too hot. 




dpnync's picture

After two years of baking sourdough bread, twice a week, to my wife's preference for soft chewy crust, these tips works for me. For comparison, my loaves typically weigh nearly 2 pounds when baked.

1. Lower temperature for a longer time works, but a moist dough and a higher temperature does give you bigger holes in the bread, making the bread softer. Many recipes has a higher temperature initial baking phase, followed by a shorter browning phrase at a lower temperature. If you can't lower the temperature for the baking phrase more than you judge necessary, you can always lay a piece of tented aluminum foil over the loaf for the initial baking phase, then remove the foil when you lower the temperature to brown the crust. The foil will reflect the heat from the top so your crust won't get burnt.

2. Keeping moisture around the bread while its baking also help you get soft and chewy dough.

When I bake with a table-top convection oven, I bake my loaf in a La Cloche clay baker which fits inside my table-top oven. The baker keeps the moisture while I bake at around 350F (near the upper limit of my tabletop). During the browning phrase, I insert the probe of my Cooking Thermometer/Timer into the middle of the loaf with an alarm set for 200F. I leave the cover of the baker loosely over the loaf and the probe and bake at the same temperature until the alarms goes off.

When I bake in the oven, I bake on a pizza stone for less time at 400F but I put a pan of water on a lower shelf while baking. The typical baking temperature recommended is often around 450F. The browning phrase ends when my thermometer/timer tells me the internal temperature of the bread reaches 200F.

3. With all I do to get a soft crust (my wife's favorite kind of bread), unless I brush the loaf with butter (or olive oil), I often don't get enough color on the crust.

None of these techniques interfere with the amount of gluten in the cough or the amount of handling in shaping, so there should be no change required in those respects.

Disclaimer: Since I've mostly baked with a rather wet dough (Almost-no-knead style), I generally have my dough in a baking pan just so I don't get a flat bread. Nevertheless, the above techniques gives me soft and chewy crust all around. Am still experimenting with recipes that require kneading but gives me a drier dough that will hold its shape during baking.

Sorry for the Imperial units. Gutless politicians back-paddling on adoption of the Metric system doomed us!


BarbaraK's picture

Thanks so much for the generous information and time.  I do quite a few of the things you do i.e pan of water, cover with baking tin , check internal temp.etc.  I bake in a pre-heated cast-iron  lasagna dish.  I'm sure you are right about lowered oven temperature and will experiment with these and also lowering the temp further when I remove

the baking tin.  I usually put the tin on when I place the loaf in the oven. Do you think I should leave it off for the first five minutes so it absorbs the moisture? I worry about opening the door and losing heat.  It's not a close fit so I hope the moisture goes in in any case but it definitely

produces a better loaf.  We're almost always very happy with the loaves other than the worry about the potential dentists' bills so I'm fully in tune with your wife there. 

Many thanks again and I will report back, hopefully with happy results.  No worries about the Imperial units - we lived in N.A. for many years but I do find weighing in gms.easier to work with.





BarbaraK's picture

Thanks everyone for the good ideas and i wish  a very Happy and Healthy New Year to all. 

  I have been more or less experimenting over several bakes to try to avoid too hard a crust so thought I should report back.   It's not possible to be absolutely accurate in the kitchen as every bake has inevitably so many variables. However, I tried different temps. different timing, wetter dough, longer and shorter  this and  that and my firm impression is that the thing that gives us the crust we prefer and which seems to make the most difference is leaving the loaves undercover a bit longer. Lowering the temp didn't work as I seem to need the max. this oven gives me.

I have a fan oven with max. temp. 230C. my recipe is 150 gms organic whole rye, 700 gms. stoneground unbleached organic white bread flour, 650 gms water plus not-too-wet hands for stretching and folding, 15gms fresh yeast, 15 gms salt.

I follow one of the  common recipes featured on this forum  - stretch and fold and rest three times, overnight in the frig. Next day stretch and fold and rest on the counter about three times depending on how wet it is, shape, and rest on the couchecloth for about 45 minutes. Pre-heat the oven.

I bake in a Le Creuset cast iron casserole covered with a thin cheap roasting tin which doesn't fit exactly so there are a couple of gaps into which the steam goes.  Hot water goes into a tin underneath the casserole.  I used to remove the cover after 15 minutes but now I remove it after 20 - 22 minutes. Bake for about 35 minutes in total and the internal temp of the loaf is 97.5C. I get a great oven rise, the bottom is properly cooked  and the crust is well-baked but not hard as it used to be.

I make two loaves and usually freeze one of them, which I leave to de-frost on the counter when needed. I've found that if I warm it up in the oven I have to be very careful or the crust then becomes too hard. I hope this is of some help to those, like us, who prefer an easier chew. 



ElPanadero's picture

Hi Barbara

Couple of things sparked my curiosity here.  Firstly, why do you choose to bake in a Le Creuset casserole rather than say openly on a baking/pizza stone or using a loaf tin?   Secondly, 15g yeast seems a hell of a lot in your recipe.  I would put maybe 4g yeast in a 500g loaf (normal baker's yeast), my local Artisan Bakery would put maybe 1-2g of slow action yeast in that quantity leaving it to prove far longer.  Are you lookng for a particularly yeasty taste?  15g is approaching the quantity I would use for enriched doughs for baking say English Muffins with butter and milk etc.  Cheers.

BarbaraK's picture

Hi ElPanadero

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Thanks  for your reply.   I choose to bake in the enamel cast-iron (it’s actually shaped like a lasagna dish or roasting dish so, sorry,  the word casserole is a bit mis-leading)because it heats up much better and quicker than my pizza stone. It gives me better results and is more economical

than the stone.  I use the stone for longer baguette type loaves but I’m never 100% happy with the

bottom crusts. Possibly if I pre-heated for much longer it would work but I hate to waste utilities.


I think the 15 g. fresh yeast for 850 g. flour  is a fairly standard measurement in many recipes.

I regularly see “10 g yeast to 500 g flour”.

I started with the “no-knead”  bread and moved on from there experimenting with the same recipe but other processes. However I’m intrigued to learn that I could go as low as 4g. with the yeast. Please tell me more about the process needed.  We’re very happy with the current loaf and it’s not “yeasty” to our taste but if it can be improved I would love to try.



BarbaraK's picture

I don't know what happened to this post but sorry  it seems to have gone " wild". Just scroll down please.