The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Crust

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Apple Rige Farm's picture
Apple Rige Farm

Crust

I've baked several loaves of bread using the "My Daily Bread" recipe on this site. Every time it's come out very good but I can't get the crust right. When it comes out of the oven the crust looks perfect, dark brown, and crusty, but as it cools it gets paper thin and soft. Am I not baking it long enough, to long, or something else? Any advise would be greatly appreciated.

strattor's picture
strattor

First a disclaimer: I haven't made this particular recipe, so forgive me I say something that doesn't apply here.

The first thing you have to know is that crust gets soft. It happens to any bread that comes out crisp from the oven over time. Correct cooling and storage is critical to keep that bread crusty.

To keep the crust from softening right away, make sure you get the loaf onto a cooling rack right away. Otherwise the bottom of the loaf will steam itself. If you are in a warm or humid environment you might want to point a fan at your loaf, too.

Second tip: bake it longer. The most useful thing I've learned as a young professional baker is that 99 percent of bread in the world is vastly underbaked. I like my bread a rich mahogony color. If that's too dark for you, at least wait till the bread gets a nice deep rosy-brown, then bake 5 minutes longer (Glezer discusses this in Artisan Baking).

Third is a tip from Hamelman's book: If you bake with steam, prop the oven door open for the second half of the bake. Steam is good before the crust sets, but very bad after it sets, so you want to get it out of the oven. I stick a butter knife in the side to keep my oven open about 1 inch at the top.

Apple Rige Farm's picture
Apple Rige Farm

Thanks for the advice. I put it in a ziplock bag and noticed condensation forming on the inside of the bag so there must be a lot of moisture left in the bread. I'll try cooking it longer and slower next time.

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

By putting your bread in a plastic bag, you pretty much guarantee that the crust will soften; even if it was nice and crispy at the time you bagged it.  Some folks leave their bread standing on the cutting board, cut side down, with no bag at all.  Others choose to bag their bread in paper bags.  Either approach will let moisture from the crumb evaporate with less softening effect on the crust.

The other thing that caught my eye was your mention of condensation on the inside of the plastic bag.  That suggests that the bread may not have been as thoroughly cooled as you thought it was at the time it was bagged.  I have learned (oh, so slowly) that many breads aren't the least bit damaged by sitting on the cooling rack for several hours, even overnight, just covered with a towel.  That way they are thoroughly cool before going into a bag.  Like you, I usually use plastic bags, especially if I've made a large batch which will require some of the loaves to be frozen.  If your household is bedeviled by marauding snackers, or pets, or vermin, or high humidity with rampant mold (thinking back to my time in Houston), you may have to employ some defensive strategies.  :-)

For what it's worth, crisp seems to be a short-lived phenomenom, whether in bread crusts or fried chicken.  Hard bread crusts, on the other hand, seem to persist clear to the last slice.

PMcCool

KipperCat's picture
KipperCat

I was curious just how long it really took my bread to cool, so one day I left the probe thermometer in a loaf as it sat on the cooling rack. I made sure the probe was in the center of the loaf. It took a few hours to reach room temperature in the middle, even though the outside felt fully cooled long before that.

"Hard bread crusts, on the other hand, seem to persist clear to the last slice."

Ain't it the truth!