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bread baking: woe is me! what crust?

  • m

I have a problem with bread baking. I bake lovely tasting breads, but whatever I do, I end up with no crust. The outer surface of the bread never ends up thick and crusty and crisp. Help me, oh fellow chowhound bakers!

By the way, I bake on a stone or a bake in a stoneware cloche, but to no avail. Still no crust.

For those of you who use a biga, does that help crust matters or just taste?

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  1. To get an ideal crust, try proofing your bread overnight in the fridge. Here's how I do it. Make your dough, then let it double, punch it down, shape it then cover it with food film that's been sprayed witha little a Pam. Now let it sit in the fridge over night. The yeast will still reproduce, just very slowly. This long proof will form a nice bubbly crust. As a note, I usually bake at 385 to 400 and remove when it hits an internal temp of 200 Fahrenheit. Bast with a little melted butter, another 5 minutes in the oven and voila!

    Good baking!

    1. A home oven will never give you as good a crust as you can get in a professional bread oven, but there are certain things you can do to try and recreate those conditions.

      A stone or cloche is good, but one other thing that will really help is steam.

      Two ways to create steam are to put a pan of water or ice cubes in the bottom of the oven when you put the bread in, or to spray the oven sides and bottom, or the bread, with water from a mister bottle during baking.

      Any good bread book will have a more complete discussion of this.

      6 Replies
      1. re: ruth arcone

        Do Not spray the inside of your oven unless it is spotless!
        Any cooked on bits of carbon will be flying around your oven and end up on the bread. A pan of water on the inside of the oven works fine but I never do that. It's a little cumbersome. Try the overnight proof first.

        1. re: Cynical Chef

          Baloney. I toss water in the bottom of my oven whenever I make bread and have never had this problem. Needless to say, my oven is rarely spotless.

          Without knowing what recipe you use, it is difficult to diagnose your problem. But assuming you are using only flour, yeast, water, and salt, here are some suggestions:

          Use a stone, and make sure it is preheated at 450 for at least 40 minutes. After the bread has been in the oven for 15 minutes, you can turn the heat down to 400.

          Use steam. There are lots of methods, but I throw about 3/4 cup on the floor of the oven when I put the bread in, then repeat after 4 or 5 minutes.

          Do not brush the loaf with anything, especially butter.

          I find the site below to be useful on many things associated with breadmaking.

          Pat G.

          Link: http://www.theartisan.net/index.html

          1. re: Cynical Chef

            You're both right...

            If you spray the sides/top of an oven with water, it'll kick up all sorts of crud that will land on your bread. It's happened to me. It's not always a bad thing, it's nice for very rustic breads (it's like the flecks of carbon on the bottom of a good pizza).

            Pat is saying to put the water only on the bottom, presumably under a baking stone, in which case you probably won't get debris landing on your bread.


            1. re: Cynical Chef

              I don't recall saying anything about a pan. In fact, I never use one. I either toss a cup of water directly on the floor and sides or, if I have a spray bottle at the ready, use that.

              I don't want to get into an argument with you over who has made the larger number of loaves of bread, but I have been baking bread for well over 40 years and have never had the problem you report. I guess if one's oven were FILTHY, there might be an issue, but mine is by no means pristine.

              Happy baking,

              Pat G.

              1. re: Pat Goldberg

                Yup- I throw some water into the oven- never had a problem. Have never tried the spray bottle- will give that a try.

              2. re: Pat Goldberg

                Either my oven is spotless (it doesn't look spotless) or I don't have the carbon whipping around issue because I use a cheap garden sprayer and spray the oven with it. Crust tastes heavenly, but is too chewy and hard to cut after a day or two.

          2. What about spraying the inside of your oven with water from a small mist bottle? Heard that helps.

            1. What temperature are you baking at? Is your oven thermometer accurate? Most bread books suggest very high temperatures and using steam.

              1. As per the instructions in The Italian Baker by Carol Field, I bake at a higher temperature for the first 10 minutes, spraying the loaves 3 times with water from a mister during that period. The crusts are good, although not as spectacular as a professional oven would yield.

                1. A co-worker swore her pizza stone was usless-turned out she wasn't preheating it. I give mine a good 1/2 hour. Steam helps, too, but I can't imagine you aren't getting reasonable results from just using the stone.

                  1. Well, the oven needed cleaning anyway, so I did it despite the desire to ignore Cynical Chef. I'll try water & let you all know what happens. Thanks for the help!!

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: missliss

                      Does anyone have a picture of a baking cloche or know of a link that has one? I'm having rather interedting time trying to explain a cloche at work. Thanks!

                      1. re: MIss G


                        You can also use a terra cotta pot inverted over the terra cotta saucer.

                        1. re: MIss G

                          King Arthur website should have one- i also got the Pullman Bread pans from King Arthur. Love them- make great sandwhich bread

                      2. The crust could depend on your recipe, a bread with a lot of fats(oils, butter, eggs or egg wash) will never produce the same crackly crust as a sourdough baguette.

                        A biga/poolish or pre-ferment will not inhibit the crust formation. It is only used to extract the maximum flavor from the yeast.

                        I like to heat my oven with a stone (your cloche will give the same effect) to 150F hotter then the baking temp. Wait for the oven light to go off and let it soak up heat for 30 minutes. Turn the oven down to recommended temp before you put the bread in. I like to use a mister bottle and spray the walls liberally with water until you get a mist forming. Close the door and set the timer.

                        Is the oven in question a convection oven?

                        I like to bake to a higher internal temp than Cynical Chef. American white breads might be pulled at 200F, but I like to take artisan breads to at least 210, and 215 recommended if you like a darker crust.

                        Let it cool to room temp before cutting will aid the crust formation.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Kelli2006

                          "Let it cool to room temp before cutting will aid the crust formation."

                          I have to say this takes a lot of will power. I generally give in to the warm loaf and have a piece. But, my crust is fine, even doing that. I use boiling water in a cast iron pan that's been preheated with the oven at a high temp for half an hour or more. I like it crusty but not dark so I turn the oven down about halfway through the baking.

                          Oops, I just noticed how old this thread is...

                          1. re: chowser

                            I seldom think far enough ahead to start to bread when I make fresh bread for dinner. more then 1/2 the time the bred goes from oven to table with only 5-10 minutes rest. It tastes good but the crust hasn't had time to set and the interior texture isn't as chewy as it could be if given time to rest.

                            I didn't notice the thread age until you said something. I assumed that ti was bumped because someone had a problem, and don't usually look at the OP starting date. Oh well, another proud blonde moment to my credit.

                            I hope you have a great weekend.

                            1. re: Kelli2006

                              Old thread, but I did pick something up from it.

                              I used to use a cast iron pan in the bottom of the oven to put water into for crust formation. Tonight I just threw the water in the bottom and then misted the walls for half of the baking process. Great crispy crust and no carbon! ... and I didn't have to reseason my cast iron.

                              Thank you to whomever pulled this thread up!

                        2. Try the Lahey/Bittman no-knead bread. I won't even go into it; there have been thousands of posts about it. Now that the NY Times archives are open, you can find the recipe here: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage...

                          Search "Bittman," "Lahey," or "No-knead" on Chowhound and you'll find enough discussion to keep you reading for a week.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Kagey

                            After scrolling down this tread I was glad that there was at least one mention of the no knead recipe. Nice hard crust and large holes in the crumb.