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Dec 15, 2003 03:59 PM

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.


          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.