The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

White Bread (Sandwich Bread) ends up with thick & hard crust?

Jaybles's picture

White Bread (Sandwich Bread) ends up with thick & hard crust?


I'd like to start by saying that I am an extreme novice when it comes to baking in general so please forgive me if I use the wrong lingo/etc. Also, I'm sorry if this is not the right forum to post this in. I didn't see any "noobie/beginner" forum out there. My first attempt(s) at baking have been a simple white sandwich bread loaf, but my loafs keeps ending up with relatively thick and hard crust. The center is usually pretty soft but the crusts are pretty bad. I've even tried brushing the loaf with a butter substitute; I'm lactose intolerant, since I read that can soften the crust but it didn't seem to help any. I've attached a photo of my first loaf. In my opinion it was the best looking but I've yet to have my recipe produce a similar appearance. Anyway, I've written the recipe out below and really hope you guys can help me out with this. Thanks ahead of time.


Oh, and I was thinking it may just be the recipe since I saw breads like "Milk Bread" were a lot softer. My concern with that is being lactose intolerant I'd have to substitute a number of the ingredients and that might alter the bread. If my recipe is just bunk I'd appreciate any recommendation as well as any ingredient substitutes you could recommend as well. I saw the forum dedicated to allergies/special needs and plan to explore that as well.


750g Bread Flour

500 ml water <--- sorry

2 tsp Active Dry Yeast

1.5 tsp Salt

Knead and let proof for 1.5 hours in a bowl.

Degass and move to cooking tin/mold to proof for another 1.5 hour.

Oven @ 450F for 40 minutes.

I normally let it rest for at least an hour before even touching it and store it in a tupperware container that is air tight post cooling.

clazar123's picture

What other ingredients do you add? There is no liquid.

Can you provide a picture of the crumb, please. Sometimes that provides significant information.


"Knead and let proof for 1.5 hours in a bowl."

During this bulk fermentation stage, does the dough rise to double or almost double?


"Degass and move to cooking tin/mold to proof for another 1.5 hour."

During this final proof does the dough rise above the level of the pan? Is there much oven spring? How does the dough feel at the end of the final proof? When you indent the dough an inch with a fingerpoke, does it resist and spring back quickly and totally refill the poke indent (not ready yet),or have no resistance and stay totally indented (overproofed-reshape and proof again), or resist a little and slowly fill in but maybe not completely (properly proofed and ready to bake). These dough attributes are clues as to when the dough is properly proofed and ready to bake and can't be tied to the clock. Dough is ready when it is ready. The Baker's Adage is "Watch the dough, not the clock". If you want more (and somewhat confusing) information, enter "finger poke test" in the search box.



Janetmv's picture

You don’t state what liquid you are using - I presume water? I’m also lactose intolerant. My understanding is that butter only has trace amounts of lactose, so I do use it in my sandwich breads, sometimes I reduce the amount listed.  I also use lactose reduced milk, which you can use if that is available to you. Some people successfully substitute soy milk. Instant potato flakes or potato flour add some moistness to bread, which may help. There are some nice sandwich breads on the King Arthur website. 

Jaybles's picture

500 ml water, I've corrected this in my initial post. Sorry about that.

The dough does in fact double or approximately double in size during my initial proof.

My second proof, inside the tin, does double as well. The recipe/instructions I was following instructed me to place the tin cover on the baking containing and not to lift/remove it post second proof so I cannot comment upon the condition of the dough at that state. Should I not use the lid?

I'm aware of the condition of the dough that you are referring to. When I knead I knead until the dough can be readily stretched thin and is almost transparent. When I form the kneaded bread to a ball for proofing I also ensure it has a gentle spring to it from the finger poke test. I have not paid attention to the dough much post proofing though. I do feel that the dough has a similar spring post proof 1, but as described above I have not examined it post proof 2. 

Regarding the post proof 1 dough condition, should the finger test be done pre or post degassing? I haven't really been inspected it at this point regardless so I'd like to clarify. If the dough fails to pass the finger test post proof 1 for some reason is there a way to save it?

In regards to the butter in bread, yeah I know what you mean. I don't avoid store bought bread that has butter because it's just too much. But I do prefer to stay as complaint as possible with my dietary restriction. I do have lactose free milk that I can use too, but I've seen recipes that require things like heavy cream and such that are much more difficult to substitute. I'm actually studying to be a dietitian and have taken a number of culinary courses so I'm relatively familiar with these sorts of substitutions. Baking just isn't a strong point of mine. Janet, if you'd like to try a butter substitute in your recipes I'd suggest Earth Balance. It's taste is very familiar to butter and has similar smoke point. I've also read that it yields similar results to butter in many baking recipes including cookies which apparently are affected by many butter substitutes.


Laslty, thank you :)

Jaybles's picture

I'll also be sure to post more photos of my bread throughout the baking process on my next attempt but I'm currently out of bread flour and haven't had a chance to get to the store.

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

But a dried yeast bread with a 1.5 hour final proof? I don't do yeasted breads too often but that seems a tad too much. Whenever I've done yeasted breads, depending on temperature and bulk ferment etc, the final proof is generally 40 40 min give or take. However the loaf doesn't look over proofed but the crumb will help with judging that.

Janetmv's picture

It seems to me that 450 degrees is awfully high for a sandwich bread, which may be contributing to the hard crust. Someone with more expertise than I may wish to correct me if I’m wrong.

G. Marie's picture
G. Marie

450F is high. Typically it's 350-375F for sandwich breads and 400F for rolls. 

Jaybles's picture

I've never had a yeasty/alcohol-like odor from my breads which I've heard are a sign of over proofing. But then again I'm a beginner. On my more recent loafs I have had them rise on the second proof and fully fill my baking in. The bread didn't  have the curved top like the one in my photo. It was more square with sharp 90 degree angles that were incredibly hard and crusty. Should I reduce my second proof duration to around 40 minutes instead? I'll probably give it a go regardless since it's not the end of the world if it doesn't work.

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

also a sign of over proofing. But still 1.5 hours sounds too long. The only thing that might sound like over proofing is the thick hard crust. So I'm in two minds about my observation. Hope someone else chimes in to confirm or not.

Jaybles's picture

So if I proof too long it will cause a hard thick crust? That's good to know, thank you.

Could you also tell me what a sign(s) of under-proofing would be so I know for future reference?

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

Over proofing and over fermenting.

Over proofing = allowing to rise too high for a nice risen loaf as it just collapses when baked.

Over fermented = when the yeasts run out of food.

If something is over proofed it's not necessarily over fermented. As long as there is enough food left for the yeasts the dough can be reshaped and proofed again.

So my correction is over fermented can result in a thick hard crust and not over proofing. Of course something left to proof too long can result in being over fermented too!

I do know that in sourdough an over fermented dough will result in a thick hard crust but whether that translates into yeasted bread I'm not 100% sure.

What you could do is knead till full gluten formation then bulk ferment till doubled (I don't generally give this advice when it comes to sourdough but I think with yeasted breads its ok). Then shape and final proof for 40 min - 1 hr. If the dough comes up to 2/3rds of the loaf pan then bake when it's just cresting the top.

Under proofing would result in a runaway oven spring. Too much spring. Over proofed will result in a flatter/collapsed loaf. Better to err slightly under then over.

clazar123's picture

There are a few things you can try to make your crust less hard. This is a lean bread-no milkfat, no oil at all. That affects how the crust and crumb turn out.

Turn down the temp and bake a little longer-the crust will be lighter colored and may not be as thick.

Brush with oil before baking. The butter substitute may have too much water content and brushing with water will actually make the crust crisper and harder.

Add oil to the dough. 1-2 tablespoons of a vegetable oil can soften the crust and crumb and keep it softer for a few days.

Wrap in a towel to cool. It helps the crust retain a slight amount of moisture as it cools. Then store in plastic.

It will help to see a crumb shot with the crust edge.


JaD's picture

As some other said I would cut back oven temperature and time, I would also suggest to buy a food thermometer, it doesn't need to be expensive 15-20$ option work very well and it remove the guessing part of cooking bread. Before getting mine I threw away many undercooked loaf haha!

Jaybles's picture

I have a food thermometer but have never heard of any temping bread. Unless you mean temp my oven to make sure it's actually heating to what I'm setting it to and not lower/higher.


As for Clazar123. I do put small amounts of oil on the dough while proofing but just enough to keep it from drying out. I'll experiment with adding oil to the recipe. The oil I'm using is Olive Oil though. Is that ok or is vegetable/other oil preferred?

I'll experiment with butter and different substitutes to coat the bread as well in case water levels within it are a problem. 


Thanks a bunch all.

leslieruf's picture

to read the internal temperature of the baked loaf. I am happy if my lean SD reaches 205°F or more. it is a more accurate way to assess when a loaf is cooked. Enriched doughs are cooked to a lower internal temp (temperature) but I don’t remember what is is. hope this helps

pcake's picture

covering the loaf with foil or a roasting pan for the first half of the baking time?

NZBaked's picture

I am somewhat of a sandwich bread expert and I bake @ 220-240degrees C depending on what it is and if it's lidded.

4 main points.

That's a very heavy loaf. You'll have much more success baking loaves half that weight.

40min is far too long at that temperature. 30min max.

Steam for first half of bake.

Do not let it skin during proof, that'll give you a very thick crust. Keep it nice and humid.

Jaybles's picture

Hello all,

I've been incredibly busy so I haven't had time to try all of the advice I was given until now. 

New Recipe: 

750g Bread Flour

500 ml water 

2 tsp Active Dry Yeast

1.5 tsp Salt

2 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Oil lightly (EV Olive Oil)

Proof #1 in bowl: 40 minute.


Place into baking tin.

NOTE: I sprinkled some Chia seeds on the loaf at this stage as well, just because.

Proof #2 in cooking tin with lid closed: 40 minute.

Oven @ 350F for 30 minutes.

NOTE: While in the oven, I inserted a baking pan with some water on a lower shelf in order to steam the loaf while baking. I do not have measurements for the amount of water used.

I let the loaf cool on a wire rack open to the air before cutting.

Comments: It's significantly softer. Thank you so much. I don't know which step really did it but the bread, in general, is much softer. 


Points I'd like to address now and would appreciate help with are the following:

  • Weight/Density: It's a very heavy loaf and I'm not sure what's causing it.
  • Taste: It's somewhere between bland and doughy. Any advice on adding flavor/taste.

It's very difficult to type between these photos so I'll just say what they are.

Pic 1 Proof 1

Pic 2 Proof 2

Pic 3 Post cooling

Pic 4 First Cut


Proof #1

 Proof #2

Post Cooling

First Cut

NZBaked's picture

Proof time depends heavily on dough temp upon proof, without knowing what temp your dough is at when you start proofing, you will have little idea of how long it is going to take. Without knowing this you will have to proof to height, rather than to time= proof until your dough is roughly 2.5cm away from the lid.

Your loaf also looks significantly underbaked, personally I would be baking a loaf like this at 420-460f for 25ish minutes.  

Having more loaf volume will mean your loaf will be hitting the lid and you'll achieve the golden crust I am sure you are after.