The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Getting very tough crust

alan856's picture

Getting very tough crust

I’ve been tinkering with sourdough for over a year - maybe two!  And I STILL cannot get a decent crust. They are always “knife-busters” to cut.  I suspect I might not be “getting” the final shape right. I’ve never had a nice smooth dough like I see in so many pictures. What are some major things that will lead to uber-tough crust?

WatertownNewbie's picture

Welcome to TFL.  One question I have is what kind of knife you are using.  I like a chewy crust and would deem it a knife-buster if I tried using a butter knife or similar knife, but a serrated knife (e.g., a bread knife or even a steak knife) will cut through the crust with some effort but not a lot of effort.

What do you bake in or on?  My loaves from the Dutch oven are a little easier to cut than the ones from the baking stone.  In the oven with the baking stone, I do use a couple of aluminum pans filled with lava rocks in which I pour some boiling water to create steam at the outset of the bake.  That probably softens the crust a bit and definitely promotes oven spring by keeping the dough pliant early on.  The type of flour can also affect the crust.  My emmer loaves are softer than my whole wheat which are softer than my bread flour loaves.  The temperature of the bake can also play into the crust texture.

In short, there are many variables and factors.  Perhaps some more details about your bakes will produce additional responses from others too.

Happy baking.


fermented's picture

Hi Alan,  I remember having a similar problem a little while back.  While the flavor was nice the crust was kind of like leather and a bit of a chore to cut.  

As Ted mentioned there are countless reasons for this. For me it wasn’t the protein content in my flour or the different methods of folding, handling and developing the gluten in my dough.

At the time I was using two Lodge Combo’s.  Preheating my oven to 500F and dropping it down to 450F and baking for 20 min. covered and another 20 + uncovered positioned on the middle rack of my oven. On the bottom rack I placed a baking steel which I eventually switched out with a stone to act as a heat sink. I’m not sure if this really helps any? I gave them a little spritz just before covering and loading them into the oven as I continue to do.

Somewhere in the process of my journey I started preheating my oven to 450F and baking for 20 min. covered and dropping the temperature to 425F and baking for approx. 25 + - uncovered on the 2nd to bottom rack of my gas oven with a sheet pan placed on the stone below the two Combo Cookers.

This seemed to do the trick. I started to finally get that crispy crust I desperately seeked that had great taste/mouthfeel and was easy to cut.  While my process evolved and began to lean towards over-proofed than under. Every now and again I’ll try baking with a bolder temperature but it usually results in a crust that’s a bit too tough 🤷🏻‍♂️ ~ Johnny

alan856's picture

Thanks for that idea. I have been doing the 500-then-475 cycle. Next I’ll try starting at 475.

MTloaf's picture

The oven turned off with the door cracked open to help it dry out more.

Dave Cee's picture
Dave Cee

with white porcelain interior gives a , lighter, thinner crust than my black iron DOs. You might experiment with lining the combo cooker with foil.

artisanvegaearth's picture

1. Lack of steam: Baking bread with a dry oven can cause the crust to become too tough. You can create steam by adding boiling water to a pan or baking dish at the bottom of the oven.

2. Too much kneading: Kneading your dough for too long can lead to a tough crust. Aim for kneading your dough until it is smooth and elastic.

3. Too much rising time: If your dough rises for too long, it can become over-proofed and lead to a tough crust. Make sure to proof your dough for the recommended time and no longer.

4. Not enough scoring: Scoring your bread helps it to expand during baking, making for a lighter and less tough crust. Make sure to score your bread with a sharp blade before baking.