The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Need help with crust on No Knead Bread!

Bad Cook's picture
Bad Cook

Need help with crust on No Knead Bread!

Hi Everyone!


I've been practicing on NKB, both with yeast and with sourdough starter.  I've had a couple of successes, but I'm just not satisfied with the crust....it is SO chewy I can hardly bite a piece off, and it actually hurts my teeth to chew it!  I've read what others said, and I think it's supposed to be this way, but I just don't like it.  It's hard to cut, also.


So, how do I make the crust not so chewy, but still a little crunchy?  I did a search and didn't find much, but I did find a thread where some suggested not leaving the lid on as long as recommended in the NKB recipes.  Would this be the solution?  Anything else anyone has to suggest, I will appreciate.  Thanks, this site is great!

chickie's picture
chickie

I'm new here but have made the no-knead bread quite a bit.  I didn't like the crust on mine the first time I made it either, so I added a step to my process and like the results.  Somebody probably has a solution that's more proper but what I do is wait until the bread cools a bit but before it's cooled completely I put it in a plastic bag so the steam condenses and softens the crust a little. 

LindyD's picture
LindyD

It's been a long time since I've made the NK bread, but I wonder if brushing the top of the dough with butter after you pull it out of the oven would help.  Or maybe use a milk wash before you load it. 

Bad Cook's picture
Bad Cook

I actually want it to be crunchy, though, not soft.  I just don't want it to be....well, I guess it's sort of "rubbery" chewy....really hard to bite off and chew. 


Since I posted this, I looked again at the sourdough NKB loaf I baked yesterday that I wasn't pleased with, and I thought about how I didn't like the crumb, either.  I thought a while, and realized that what it is that bothers me about it is that it's not really "bread-like" enough for me....it's sort of rubbery.  I learned to wait until it's cooled to cut it, so it's not that.  It does have plenty of nice holes....not HUGE ones, but still plenty.  What could be causing this "rubberiness"?  Any ideas from you veteran bakers?  (I am SO dumb when it comes to cooking, especially bread!) 


I think the texture I'm looking for in my bread is like what I get when I slice a loaf of commercial French bread, butter it, and toast it on top.  Soft in the middle, but with a nice, crispy, crunchy (not chewy!) crust all the way around.  Can I achieve this with NKB or not?  Should I be learning how to make French bread instead?  :)

Russ's picture
Russ

I think you're onto something there. If french bread is what you like, you are probably better off learning to bake that. NKB has its charm, and some people love it, but there are a lot of other great breads out there.


Russ

davec's picture
davec

I'm with Russ, BUT,


I have to say, I love the crust and chewy crumb of NK bread, but I also love to experiment, so here are a couple ideas:


From what you say, it sounds like you want more of a tender crumb.  I'd try using a lower-gluten flour.  Try AP instead of bread flour, or even go to a soft wheat flour, like that used in southern biscuits.  Martha White comes to mind.  Heck, you might even try pastry flour.


You could also replace some of the water with milk, or use water in which potatoes were boiled.  I'm told both of those make for a tender crumb.


AS for the crust, what are you baking your bread in?  I use a cast iron Dutch oven, which makes for a thick crust.  I have experimented with a homemade "cloche", made from a 10-inch terra cotta flower pot inverted on a 14-inch flowerpot tray, both new and well scrubbed, of course.  I used an eye bolt, nuts, and fender washers to plug the hole and form a handle.  This setup produces loaves with a lighter, thiinner crust than the Dutch oven, even when I crank up the oven temperature to 500-550.  This might be more to your liking.


Dave

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I was reading on Teresa'a site, Northwestsourdough, about a no knead sourdough.  It is a little hard to figure out how she does it (I was jumping all over the site trying to figure it out), but it comes down to mixing up a large portion of firm starter or sponge and letting it get sour in the refrigerator for several days (1st retard).  Then adding more water and flour and fermenting (bulk rise) in the dishwasher with stretch and folds.  Final shape and rest in banneton in refrigerator overnight (2nd retard).  Warming up next day in dishwasher to rise a bit more and bake.  Kind of neat using the dishwasher for a proofer.  (mine is almost always 1/2 full of dishes!) 


Mini

alconnell's picture
alconnell

You may also want to make sure the loaf reaches 200-205 F also.  I've had rubbery breads when undercooking them.

Bad Cook's picture
Bad Cook

Thank you all for your suggestions! 


I don't have any way to take the internal temperature of the bread....we're talking BAD COOK here (and I don't mean "good" by "bad").  LOL  Just the basics in my kitchen.  Guess I'll have to spring for one, though....Wal-Mart, here I come!


I took the bread from the last not-so-great-but-not-horrendous loaf of sourdough NKB that I made and tried a bread pudding recipe that I found on the internet.  Followed the recipe exactly...it was terrible!  Everyone else was raving about it!  What is the matter with me?!  *sigh*


Dave - I'm going to give this a try on my next loaf of NKB....AP instead of bread flour (already tried White Lily and Bob Packer suggested that it was too low-gluten to work, as my dough was turning out very runny), replace a little of the water with milk, and take the cover off of the baking dish sooner in the baking process.  What do you think?  (I'm also making half a recipe....tired of wasting flour!)


Now, with that flower pot suggestion, I believe my suspicions about you have been confirmed....Dave the Novice from Breadtopia?  :)  You tried to help me over there, too....you can probably guess who I was on Breadtopia!  Btw, I finally got my starter going, and have finally had success making the NKB with the yeast a couple of times (although I found I must use 3-1/2 cups instead of 3, and even then reduce the water some...must be all the humidity in the air here)....was able to take a loaf to my Sunday School class Christmas party.  Everyone was proud of me (they know I'm not a great cook!).  I'm going to try your flower pot suggestion next chance I get....there is NO way I'm going to spend big bucks for that clay baker thingy Eric uses!  I'm glad to find you and Bob Packer over here also, I really enjoyed talking to you two.  You were both very patient with me, and I thank you.  :)

davec's picture
davec

Bad cook, maybe, but great detective.  Just can't hide from you, can we, Doof?  I'm happy to hear you got the basic recipe to work.  Now, you just have to play with it to get it the way you want it.


Personally, I'd recommend the old-fashioned type of instant read thermometer, if you are going to buy one.  You know, the one with the dial, and no batteries.  Those digital ones seem to vary all over the place in their readings, and there is no way to calibrate them.  The dial type has a hex nut just under the face that allows you to make it read exactle 212 when you put the probe end in a pot of boiling water.


For a thinner crust, you might also try just baking it in a loaf pan, instead of in a covered container.


Good luck,


Dave

Russ's picture
Russ

Wow, I never even thought to check my thermometer for accuracy (It's digital). I guess I'll have to boil a pot of water tonight! Thanks for the tip.


Russ


PS: Hi BD! Glad to see you're still trying and making some progress.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven


Hey, got a nice puffy loaf today at 2:30p.  Started it this morning about 7:00 [100g semi-firm starter, 180g water (60%), 300g flour, 6g salt.]  Mixed, 20 minutes rest, remixed, rested for ~2 hours at cool room temp (I was at bfst!!!), put it in 90F oven (just discovered I have a defrost setting!) and let rise, folded it twice during that time.  Preshaped, shaped, banneton-ized! then put it back in the 90F oven for about 2 hours.  It rose nicely during that time.  450F oven, covered, for 15 minutes, then another ~12 minutes to brown up.  It's light as a feather. 



This quote come from one of our great sd bakers here on TFL!   Experiments have been going on and the person is so shy I thought I'd post this.  I think the 100g semi firm starter is one refreshed from 20g firm starter the night before and left on the counter to ripen overnight. 


This baker is not really interested in a light fluffy crumb, prefers a more firm shiny crumb, but I'm interested for my family members  that like a more baguette style bread. 


Have fun and see what you come up with!


Mini O

Bad Cook's picture
Bad Cook

Thanks, Dave and Mini O, for the suggestions, and Hi! again to you, Russ.


I've spent so much time on here reading about bread that my family is starting to make snide comments!  I'm going to keep trying with the NKB recipe, keep tweaking, try some rests and folds, etc.  I want to get the basic recipe down and start on some of those other recipes on Breadtopia, like the Cajun Three-Pepper!  I also am going to start researching what French Bread is, and how to make it.  I may even give the "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" technique a try.  I read all about it in Mother Earth News this week, enjoyed that article very much.


One of my problems is the terminology....I don't understand what some of it means, even after I've read the "glossary" here...I forget some of it....there is just SO much to learn, and I have lots of other things to do besides learn about bread!  But I'm going to keep trying.  One of my dreams is to move out in the mountains when my husband retires, where my family has had a little cabin for a few years, and have a garden, chickens, etc., work toward being semi-self-sufficient....so what kind of a mountain woman would I be if I couldn't even bake bread from scratch?!  LOL

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Bad Cook,


I have been following along reading the suggestions for improving your NK breads and I'm going to suggest that you try a more conventional method. There are so many variables when cooking in a pot that personally I think many people become confused trying to troubleshoot their results. You can always come back to it later after you learn to make a basic French bread.


On another thread here some of us have been experimenting with the recipe and method of a famous French baker (Anis Bouabsa) who won the "Best Baguette in Paris" this year. His method is not to differant from the no knead method, in that it employs minimal but effective mixing, 3 folds, pre shaping, shaping and a long ferment. The major differance is that in the Bitterman NY Times No Knead formula the dough is allowed to ferment 18 hours at room temp, where Anis has you ferment in the refrigerator for 21 hours. The results are amazing crust and outstanding authentic crumb, typical of a good Parisian bread. I can't imagine you not liking this bread from the comments you have posted here.


Here are some links to the thread I mentioned above. You can also search here for other threads as there are getting to be more as this method is being learned by more people who want to make great French bread.



  • Link one from DSnyders post which has the details of the recipe.

  • Link two, which is from Mark Sinclair further discussion with some very nice images that help explain handling.


I think if you take the time to learn the basics using the primary 4 ingredients, in a conventional manner, you will appreciate the wisdom of "Mountain Women" who have preceeded you.


Eric

Oldcampcook's picture
Oldcampcook

Glad to see you are making progess.


I told you that, if you quit using that Louisana swamp water, things would improve!


Bob

Bad Cook's picture
Bad Cook

Thanks for the links, Eric.  I have checked them out and will come back to it when I am ready to bake more bread.  Christmas busy-ness happening now!


Hey Bob!  You know, there is a spring not too far from where I live....the water has been tested and found to be pure.  Lots of people from the area go get drinking water from it all the time.  I'm thinking of going and getting some of that water (there is a pipe, flows out all the time) and trying it for bread baking and see if it improves the flavor any!  I guess I'll give up on the swamp water.  ;)

Bad Cook's picture
Bad Cook

Just thought you all might like to know that I am making progress with my sourdough NKB.  I made a loaf Wednesday that actually rose well and had a "bready" crumb instead of "rubbery".  And the crust wasn't quite so chewy....I took the lid off of the pot sooner in the baking process.  AND I bought a cheapo thermometer and made sure the internal temp was around 210 before I took it out (had to whack it a few times to get it to work....will have to spring for a better one later!).  AND I fed my sourdough starter before I mixed up the dough, which made the bread less sour, which I wanted.  AND I mixed up a drier dough than the recipe calls for....guess there is just already so much water in the air here!  (I also have a humidifier on my central heating system.  I'm just guessing that is the reason my doughs were always too wet when I strictly followed the recipe.)


I have another loaf on its final rise right now.  I put a little whole wheat flour in this one, and it rose better than any of them have so far, probably more than doubled, and it is also rising nicely right now!   I'm so excited!  Thanks to all of you for your kindness.  I think I'm beginning to get it!  Maybe before too long I can try that Italian Bread recipe on this site!  Whee!

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

I've been working on sourdough breads for about a year now, and was constantly plagued by thick, tough, chewy (in a bad way) crusts. Really tasty bread -- just not the perfect loaf I'm striving for.


Recently, I have been working hard on improving how I shape and form my loaves. As my dough-handling skills improve, my crusts have dramatically improved. If you do not do so already, I would suggest you take a look at some of the videos on this site showing how to form the dough. Although I have never seen it mentioned in any of the books/forums I've read, forming the loaf in such a way that you stretch the "skin" of the dough tightly over the loaf surface seems to be critical, not just to the rising of the loaf, but to getting nice crusts. Although lots of sources explain the process, I've never noticed this effect on the final crust mentioned. Now, my crusts are thin and crispy and getting better all the time.


ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA

Bad Cook's picture
Bad Cook

Yes, that's something else I did, now that you mention it!  I made sure that I stretched the top of it when I shaped it for the final time.  I had read and watched videos about that also, but I didn't realize it would affect the crust, I was doing it for the greater rise it's supposed to give.  I was more pleased with the crust this time, but it was still pretty chewy, not thin and crispy.  I think that's a product of the hydration of the dough, though, as so far all I have made is the No-Knead kind (too lazy to do kneading!).  Thanks for helping!

cogito45's picture
cogito45

I am thinking of trying no knead.  I like to pop my bread in the toaster to warm it up or toast it.  What's the best way to cut a round loaf?  Certainly not like a cake.

davec's picture
davec

Cogito,


I don't know what others do, but I cut mine in half, then cut that in half again, then I slice more or less even-width slices, starting from the large end, moving toward the small end.  The slices get smaller as I go, but I don't mind that.  My toaster is a toaster oven, though.  Might be more of a problem in a pop-up toaster.


Dave

gaaarp's picture
gaaarp

You can also use a herringbone cut.  Think of the loaf as the face of a clock.  Your first cut would be between 12:00 and 3:00; the second cut between 3:00 and 6:00.  Then back to 12:00 to 3:00; 3:00 to 6:00; back and forth, on and on.  I makes for fairly uniform slices.

cogito45's picture
cogito45

Zig-Zag


 


No, I don't get it.  Maybe I'm just tired.  Do you slice it all the way across or just to the center?  Are you able to draw me a diagram?


 


Thanks

gaaarp's picture
gaaarp

cogito45's picture
cogito45

Thank you gaaarp.  Have you read The World According to Garp?

gaaarp's picture
gaaarp

Oh, yes.  Many times.

KNEADLESS's picture
KNEADLESS

I get a nice, thin, crisp crust by raising the bread in a cold, bell cloche from King Arthur.  When ready, I slide the whole assembly on top of a pizza stone at 450 and open after 30 minutes.  I use a thermometer and want to get to 210 or more.  Otherwise you risk getting a gummy center.

giertson's picture
giertson

This probably wont get you the crust you are searching for, but it does produce a really nice loaf in taste and texture.


Sometimes, right after I mix the ingredients together and leave the dough out to develop, I like to make an olive oil baste. I throw some smashed garlic, red pepper flakes, maybe some herbs (whatever suits myf ancy really) into some olive oil to flavor the oil. The next day, I puree it into a smooth oil baste. When I take the lid off during the final 10-15 minutes of baking, I proceed to slather this oil on top of the bread. The result is a lighter, thinner crust with minor crunch but great flavor.


Like I said, its not what you are looking for but it is a great way to play with the recipe.

Bad Cook's picture
Bad Cook

Wow, that sounds delicious....thanks for the idea!

Nancy Baggett's picture
Nancy Baggett

If the crust is too tough or chewy for your taste simply lay a clean tea towel over the loaf as it comes from the oven. The steam will be trapped and soften the crust a bit--the longer the softer.....

JohnJ's picture
JohnJ

I am new to this. But, this worked for me to control the hardness of a crust after I tried NKB:


I created the dough as normal. Refrigerated and used the next day (not a critical step). Took cold dough and dumped into a covered microwave safe bowl (pyrex). Make sure the bowl (or any covered microwave dish can be used) is oiled, since the bread wiil stick otherwise. The critical step was to then microwave the dough (covered) at the lowest setting for 8-10 mins (I don't believe the time is critical and could probably be as long as 20 mins). The dough will have then risen. I then placed the same dish (you could also just transfer the dough without disturbing the minimally started loaf to a pan or other baking container, as you see fit) into a cold convection toaster oven and set at 500 F (yes, i started with a cold oven -- still worked fine). The key was to cover the bowl which trapped moisture so the crust did not get too hard. I baked the normal amount of time but only removed the foil towards the end for 5-15 mins (depending on desired hardness of crust). The longer you keep the foil on (to trap moisture) the softer the crust (which still maintains a good chewiness). The loaf is done when it springs back when pressed. Even if the loaf may appear not done yet, don't overcook it since it keeps cooking even after removed from the oven. So let it sit a while. Turned out to have a great crust (not too hard) and crumb.


Try it and experiment. I believe there is a lot of leeway in the paramaters as long as the following is done:


1. microwave covered dough (in an oiled bowl or microwave safe plate) at low (8-20 mins) for any type dough (you can use cold dough right from the refrigerator). Edit: I believe this step does wonders for the final crumb, due to a good uniform rise in the microwave, so try it.


2. transfer the dough (in the same or to another covered container) into the oven (can even try starting with a cold oven) bake normal amount of time. I just covered the bowl with foil (so heat gets to the bread quicker).


3. While baking, keep the loaf covered as long as possible and time the uncovered baking time at end to determine desired hardness of crust (the more time covered, the softer the resulting crust due to higher hydration). Can use 5-15 mins for uncovered part of baking at end. Experiment.


4. Don't over bake since bread will keep baking even after removed from oven. Bread is done when springs back when pressed. Let bread sit for a while outside oven.


 


 


 

The Bald One's picture
The Bald One

Davec wrote:


"Personally, I'd recommend the old-fashioned type of instant read thermometer, if you are going to buy one.  You know, the one with the dial, and no batteries.  Those digital ones seem to vary all over the place in their readings, and there is no way to calibrate them.  The dial type has a hex nut just under the face that allows you to make it read..."


Don't put it in hot water..put the thermometer in a glass full of ice and water. Let it sit in it for 5 min and see what it reads. If it is at 32 then it is reading right, if not adjust it.  This way you don't get burnt.

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A


Dear 'Bad Cook' (Although I'm sure you're not!)


Congratulations on getting both non-sourdough and sourdough bread going. I am new to artisan baking and have just done the first - starter on for the second!


You say you may like to bake the 'Artisan bread in 5 minutes a day' from the Mother Earth site (http://www.motherearthnews.com/Real-Food/Artisan-Bread-In-Five-Minutes-A-Day.aspx). As a beginner I found the French-style Master Boule recipe good. It only used basic white flour and preparation was very straightforward but the resulting bread had a good crust and crumb. I must admit I like a firm crust but didn't have to take a hammer to this! It also tasted good and toasted well.


The dough goes into an oven that is hotter than in some other recipes (450F) on a preheated base with steam in the early stages. I used a preheated glazed pizza pan that I had to hand and the dough rose well and the top was lovely and crusty. The bottom was also fine but I think it might have been browner with a stone or if the dish had been removed in the last few minutes. Might invest in a stone! I didn't have a peel to tip the dough into the oven but took another baker's advice and used a breadboard. It was clumsier but did the trick. Getting water in at the same time was hard, though, so I might use ice cubes next time, as mentioned in some posts.


I have a digital thermometer but as has been stated here these are not always reliable. I used an oven thermometer to check initial oven temperature then monitored the loaf closely in the last stages. I would like to check internal loaf temperature, however, so might look into dial thermometers, as suggested above.


I know there are techniques and ingredients that will produce a more complex loaf and hope to move on to these. However I was glad I tried '5 Minute' authors François and Hertzberg's loaf as it boosted my confidence to have quite a nice loaf on my first venture, which is why I wanted to pass this on.


Thanks also to all on this site for their support of new bakers.