The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Have I stumbled across the secret to...

Abe's picture

Have I stumbled across the secret to...

Crispy crusts? I think the more sugar released from the flour which is caramelised with a bold bake results in a lovely crispy crust. 

A long ferment using a little starter, high-ish hydration and baked till a dark crust resulted in my latest loaf having the crispiest crust i've ever gotten.

The Recipe:

  • 500g organic strong bread flour
  • 350g water
  • 10g salt
  • 10g starter

The Method: which was more about fitting it into my schedule than anything else

  1. Mixed the four and salt. Added the starter and water. Formed the dough. Covered and left overnight. 
  2. Gave it a few folds the next day then shaped. All in all it was about 14-16 hours. Put it in the fridge. 
  3. About 7 hours later I took it out of the fridge and gave it a few hours room temp time. Fridge was too cold and it needed more time. 
  4. Baked it about 23-24 hours after the initial mix. 
  5. Voilia... beautiful dark, thin, crispy crust. 
fermented's picture

Hey Abe,  I’ve been tinkering with something very similar getting pretty nice results!  It’s inspired by Shiao-Ping & Dmsnyder’s investigations of Gérard Rubaud Pain au Levain crossed with Trevor J. Wilsons Pioneer Bread and Bwraith’s post Comparing Sourdough Fermentation Strategies and discussion with SourdoughSam in How to Develop Sour Flavor.  It’s interesting how extended bulk times with lower hydration can mimic the crumb texture of higher hydration dough fermented at a shorter time.

674g  Bread Flour 

173g  Whole Wheat  

77g  Spelt  

39g  Rye  

675 - 725g Water 

39 - 77g  Levain 

22g  Salt

Whisk levain with water. Mix with flour and salt.  

After a short rest perform Rubaud hand mixing technique a few short times followed by a strong bench fold.

Bulk times range from 6 - 14 hrs. I’ve been experimenting with hydration and temperature ranging from 70 - 85F in a cooler outfitted with a heat mat and temp. controller. Cold proofing from 12 to 24 hrs @ 40F + in wine cooler.




Abe's picture

and thank you for the recipe. Something for me to try. And you're right... my 70% hydration loaf could be mistaken for a much higher hydration. The crumb, even though it was a pan loaf, is light and toasts up really well. 

Definitely going to give this a try. 

fermented's picture

Thanks!  When I read your post I was kind of struck by the similarities in our process. Have you experimented with diastatic malt or other sweeteners to intensify the Maillard reaction?  

loaflove's picture

Similar formula to the Emilie Raffa book I use, except it's 50g of starter.  Her book has the simplest yet most effective recipes.  It's my sourdough bible.  Foccaccia, bagels.... etc .  All so simple , no fuss  with great results. I'm curious what your room temperature was.  Because with 50g of starter at 21c it takes about 8 to 10 hrs to ferment for me

Abe's picture

I'd also expect it to take 8-10 hours. This was 10g of unfed starter and it was through the night so quite cool. 

Mark Stone's picture
Mark Stone

Very cool! 

louiscohen's picture

When I started baking bread, the breads would have a nice hard crust when they finished baking.  But by the time they cooled, the crust went soft.  

I got advice here to cool the bread in the oven (turned off)  with the door ajar.  This seemed nuts, but I finally tried it and of course it worked perfectly.  

It seems to work with all my breads, which are high whole grain % with 70 - 85% hydration, baked in a hot oven (generally turned down, sometimes by a lot for rye breads, after removing the dutch oven lid when the recipe says the steaming ends).   

Abe's picture

I'll give it a go in a day or two. I've had pretty much the same experience as as you. I wonder if there's anything bakeries add to keep the crispy crust. 

louiscohen's picture

It does seem unlikely that a commercial bakery would leave loaves in a cooling oven for an hour or two after the baking finished.  KA has this article on crust

They say:

  • As bread bakes, its outer layer (crust) eventually reaches 180°F. At that point, the starches on the surface burst, become gel-like, and then harden in the oven's heat to a crackly consistency. Steam hitting the bread's surface facilitates this process.