The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

New to baking breads - want a better crust

berryblondeboys's picture

New to baking breads - want a better crust

Well, I'm not exactly new to baking, but I'm new to doing more gourmet breads. I actually cook/bake quite a bit and have a good handle on the kitchen, but I want artisan style bread with a preset kitchen. Oh, and whole grain almost exclusively.

So, I know I need bricks... but I'm so confused where to go.... do I get a hearth kit? Do I just get a baking stone (that is fairly thick)? quarry tiles? or a Cuisinart brk300 oven?

 I'm tired of paying through the nice for a decent bread, and I cannot STAND the texture of bread from the breadmaker. It kneads the bread fine, but baking in it is awful. Like most kitchens, space is limited. I already have a decent cuisinart toaster oven/convection oven, but I don't think it bakes as well as a regular oven. I could be wrong as I haven't tried with this oven, but it's predecessor (another cuisinart that bit the dust).

I would opt for the cuisinart oven, but my husband would kill me if I got another thing for the kitchen! Hiding it might be a tad difficult! LOL

For equipment, I have really good things. I have a Electrolux DLX2000 mixer, a Panasonic bread maker (the highly regarded one) , lots of bread pans and great books, but that CRUST just isn't right and I don't know where to start as everyone seems to like something different!

 Help! I've been reading through old posts via the search for the last hour and I have NEW possibilities, not narrowing anything down!

berryblondeboys's picture

Might help if I proofread - "paying through the NOSE" not "paying through the nice" Oops! and that was my first post, so HI!



LindyD's picture

I have no fancy equipment (unless you consider a baking stone fancy) but I make pretty darn good bread thanks to what I've learned from Peter Reinhart, Jeff Hamelman and other authors, as well as TFL.

Check out Bread, a Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman, and The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. The BBA is more of an introduction to artisan baking. Hamelman moves you forward.

Personally, I don't think any bread machine can produce the same quality loaf as one that's been folded/kneaded by hand, then baked in a hot oven (with a bit of steam, of course).

The best to your quest....




berryblondeboys's picture

Thanks... the books I have are "The bread book" by Laurel's Kitchen, The companion to the Baker's Apprentice, Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads..., Breadman's Healthy Bread book for the breadmaker, and for baking (which includes breads) King Arthur's Flour Whole Grain Baking.

 Is it worth getting Bread, a Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes with my "collection? Or am I missing something with not having the Bread Baker's Apprentice?

I might get the books made specifically for the Assistent as I'm still not sure I'm using that mixer better.

I also agree that by hand is therapeutic to do, but I barely have time to clean my kitchen as it is and I always make a mess when I knead bread, plus on 3 year old has a way of "needing me" just when I can't really step away from the kitchen.

apprentice's picture

jessssssssst kidding! I want to underscore Lindy's brief note about steam. Depending on the bread, of course -- not called for in all cases -- steam can make a huge difference in the crust.

My "fancy equipment" at home is a cast iron frying pan preheated on the bottom shelf of my oven, into which I pour 1/2 cup of boiling water (carefully!) just before loading bread. The other high tech item is a plastic spray bottle from my hardware store, the kind you can pump air into for pressurized spray. I use that to mist the oven walls a couple of times in the first 10 minutes or so of the bake.

You'd have a lot of fun with the books that have been recommended. Lots of recipes and good, helpful folk here at Fresh Loaf, too. Welcome aboard!

nbicomputers's picture

what kind of bread are you tring to make and exactly what kind of crust do you want to get?

berryblondeboys's picture

We eat mostly whole grains, so I'm wanting to make a crisp crust, chewy interior whole grain bread like I can buy at our local Farmer's market. However, they charge $6 to $9 a loaf which weighs 1 lb or less.

My loaves are FINE, but the crusts are soft. They grow, they brown and are perfectly "fine" breads, but not the artisan feel.

Pablo's picture

Since you're so busy and you basically like the recipe(s) that you use in your bread machine you might consider a synthesis of using your bread machine on the dough cycle and then shaping and baking the loaf by hand.  Get the stone or tile or whatever and do the steaming and see what you think.  It's an easy first step. And use parchment paper to bake on, it's absolutely non-stick to the baked loaf and makes putting the loaf into the oven a breeze.  Also a single piece of parchment paper can be used over and over until it's a burnt-up crackly thing. A baker's peel is pretty handy, too.

Again, I'm no expert here, but I did the above for years and I was happy with it.  Although now that I've savored the results of really long ferments - to metaphorically quote a line from the Rocky Horror Picture Show -"I've tasted blood and I want MORE!".  I'm reading the BBA right now and I literally have had to put it down every couple of pages and even shed a tear or two.  It's really beautiful and inspiring.

Good luck, and welcome!