The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Artisan Breads

redhen52's picture

Artisan Breads

I am a new bread baker for about 1 month. My bread taste great but, this crust is not very good TOO THIN How can I make the crust thicker.


mrpeabody's picture

There are some tips and lessons on breadmaking on this site (kindly provided by Floydm). Even though I had been baking bread for about 2 years and was pretty happy with my results, the tips and hints on this website helped improve my breads. I use bread flour and I think it makes a difference. Also, doughs with fats (butter, oil, etc) tend to have less crustiness. The introduction of steam is very important to a thick crust.

Mr. Peabody

sphealey's picture

I am no expert, but I am probably about 4 months ahead of you on the artisan bread adventure. Here is what I have found:

Crust is formed in the first 10-15 minutes of baking when the skin of the dough absorbs moisture; it hardens in the last 10 minutes of baking when the moisture is driven off.

Viking ovens can inject steam (moisture) into the oven on demand. Mine (and probably yours) cannot. Solution: a 9" cast iron frying pan purchased at a garage sale. Wash it thoroughly (it will rust anyway, so don't worry about all the cast iron care advice). When you set up your oven, put the pan on the lowest shelf (some say the floor, but it doesn't fit there for me) and your stone just above that. Put the pan at one side or the other so there is an air channel above it.

Caution: the following steps can be dangerous if you don't think about what you are doing. You will have a 500 deg.F chunk of cast iron in your oven and that could injure, disfigure, or even kill you if you aren't careful.

Preheat your oven at a very high temperature - 50 or 100 deg.F above the highest cooking temperature for your recipe. I usually preheat at 500 deg.F.

Have your shaped dough ready on a peel, and have 4 ice cubes in a bowl. (beware of hot water vapor in the next step. I wear glasses and mine are sufficient protection for me, but if I didn't or if I wore tiny cat's eye glasses I would get a pair of safety glasses at Lowes). Wearing hot mitts, open the oven, get the loaf on the stone and the stone in position, slide out the shelf with the frying pan just a bit, pour the ice cubes into the pan, get the shelf back in, and close the oven door.

This process took me about 5 tries to perfect, so don't expect everything to go smoothly the first time. The goal is to do it all fast, but be safe first then go for speed.

Turn the oven down to the high range of the first baking period (say for a rye loaf calling for 425-450 for 15 minutes, I put it at 455). Usually the oven temp will have dropped to the point that the heat source is on anyway, so you are getting the initial blast of heat.

When it is time to turn the oven down for the second phase, set the timer for 5-8 minutes less than the total. Say the recipe calls for 400 for 30 minutes; I set it to 405 for 23 minutes.

Right about the time you start the second phase you will see steam rising from the oven vent. This is fine.

When the timer sounds, change your oven from regular to convect bake (mine has to be turned off in between) for the last 5-8 minutes.

Some recipes state that when the cooking time is done you should turn the oven off and open the door to where it would be for broiling, letting the bread cool slowly at a high temperature and sucking out more moisture. Next time I have a weekend to myself I will try that but my family doesn't share my taste for totally crisp crust.

Hope that helps.


KazaKhan's picture

The ice cubes sound like a great idea, I've been pouring water on an oven tray, ice will keep the steam in there a bit longer I imagine. I also start with a very high oven temperature and reduce it slowly after the dough has gone in, I like a crispy crust as well... :-)

KazaKhan's picture

I tried ice on with the oven tray I use on the bottom of my oven with mediocre results. Today I used some old cast iron sizzle platters I had in the back of my cupboard. I put two of them on the bottom of the oven and added a large cup of ice to them. The ice evaporated pretty quickly so I added some water a couple of minutes later. The crust had the nicest sheen to date of the bread I've baked at home. So next time two large cups of ice should save me from opening the door a second time...

Paddyscake's picture

I am far from an accomplished bread baker...but I do get
very nice crispy crusts on my rye and pumpernickel breads.
I preheat to 425-450. Then I take an old 13 x 9 metal baking
pan and put about a 1/2" of hot water in it. Place it on
the bottom rack for 8-10 minutes before putting the bread in.
Be careful not to stick your face too close to the oven when
you open the door to put the bread in.

Paddyscake's picture