The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Soft bottom crust of bread using baking stone?

eddieruko's picture

Soft bottom crust of bread using baking stone?

I have been pleased with the results of my sourdough breads lately... nice crumb and flavor, getting into a good rhythm with my baking schedule. Last two bakes have resulted in my loaves with softer crust that the rest of my bread... it's left me stumped.

I really want to use a baking steel at some point. But I'm scratching my head as to why the bottom of bread is suddenly less dark and crispy as the rest of the bread.

Depending on my bake, I generally bake at 475-500F with steam for 20-25 mins, and then finish off dry at 425-450F. I preheat my stone for at least 30mins, usually closer to an hour. For steam, I use rolled up towels on the bottom rack placed inside a cast iron grill pan. I bake two loaves at a time. I haven't changed this set up in over a year, and previously had largely uniform crust. If anything the crust was darker.

The only thing that has changed is the flour ... I had previously used CM from Costco, and recently switched to Bob's Artisan Bread Flour. I also use parchment paper (I flip my dough out of the bannentons onto the paper, score, and slide into the steamy oven). I also use a different brand of parchment paper (aren't they all the same?). 

Is the flour to blame here? Any insight?


Old Baker's picture
Old Baker

If nothing but the flour has changed, that's what I'd suspect.  Maintain your method/recipe but go back to the Costco flour.  If that doesn't solve the mystery, then I can't off any suggestions.

alfanso's picture

but doesn't directly address your immediate issue.  Remove the parchment paper after about 12-15 minutes, max, of a half hour bake.  The paper, regardless of how thin it is, acts as an insulator between your dough and the baking deck.  If you decide to do this then you will also be removing the steam at this point as well.  Which I think is a good thing, as 20-25 minutes seems quite extreme to me.  You can double up on the steaming towel to produce a greater volume of steam from the outset.  Place the towels into the oven about 15 minutes before you intend to load the dough as this will give ample time for the towels to start billowing steam once you close the oven door.

Some folks report that a baking steel has a tendency to do just the opposite of what you are currently experiencing.  That is, the bottom of their bread becomes too dark and hard.  You may wish to research that when you are ready to commit.

jimbtv's picture

Not all parchment papers are the same. They use different coatings and maybe you are experiencing a change in the coating material. I have had good success with Quilon-coated paper. It's only good for a single bake because the paper gets dark and brittle, but it does produce the color and texture I desire.

As others have mentioned here, I'd start working backwards to recover what worked well for you. In that way you can begin to eliminate the problem.


eddieruko's picture

another weekend of baking my standard recipe, more soft and light bottom crust.  i switched to KA Bread Flour and that didn't seem to do the trick. i also tried pulling the parchment paper out for the last half of the bake. a little tricky trying to remove it without getting scalded on the stone or the heating elements. but that only marginally helped the cause.

in my research over the weekend, i also discovered that my reynolds parchment paper is only safe up to 420F!

what brand of paper are folks using? to me, the parchment paper method seems to be the simplest approach to getting loaves into a home oven without sticking to the transfer pan/peel. is there another way?


breadforfun's picture

I have never had problems with under colored bottoms using parchment paper. I buy it from (I'm not associated with them in any way) and it, too, is Quilon coated like jimbtv above. I suspect that your stone may not be as hot as you think. I use a 3/4" thick stone and it needs a full hour at least to get to temperature. I measure it with an IR device and won't peel the loaves onto it unless it is within 10˚F of the setpoint. 


eddieruko's picture

Well Santa brought me a baking steel (1/4") and I've been enjoying baking on it. The parchment paper definitely is the culprit. I'm getting better results on the bottom crust, using the Reynolds stuff. I'm determined to bake through the rest of the roll, but I am expecting to switch back to If You Care brand.