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NY Times No Knead Bread Recipe-my crust is too hard!

I made the NY Times No Knead Bread a few days ago and followed the recipe to a T. Made it in my 7 qt. dutch oven (cast iron enamel) and the bread was good...but....the crust was so terribly thick and hard I couldn't cut through it...I tried once out of the oven, and then again once it was cool. It was just really, thick and really, tough. The inside of the bread was okay. Does anyone have any advice on how to get a "less" thick and hard crust?

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  1. Go to breadtopia.com...I have baked every variation of no knead bread that I could find.I have used the ceramic bowl and glass lid (missing handle) from a crock pot....a plain covered casserole dish to bake it in....I have done it with heating the oven to 450.....to 500....I have put my dough into a cold pan to bake.....I have make the dough and added a bit of vinegar so that I did not have to "proof" it for so long...I am just saying that mine always turns out exactly the same.....a dark golden brown crust that is crackly crispy and crunchy with an interior that has quite a few small holes here and there.Breadtopia is a great source for information and you can email the folks there regarding your question.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Lillipop

      I second this suggestion. You can also check out The Fresh Loaf which has tons of useful information too.
      http://www.thefreshloaf.com/

      I don't use the NY recipe or a cast iron pot, but I make high hydration breads and the addition of steam makes a huge difference in the crust for me. The time I forgot to include a pan of water and initial bit of steam, the crust was just as you describe. Practically had to use a wood saw to slice it. But with the steam, it is like lillipop's. I think some people also mist their bread with water before closing the oven door, which may be what you need to do since the the initial bake is done with a closed pot so a steam pan would not do much for you.

    2. I use the CI method for ANKB and I wonder... does using a non-stick spray like Pam on the dough, during the last 2-hour rise (and plastic wrap vs. cotton towel to cover) affect the outer crust?
      I also add beer to the dough and wonder if that can mellow out the crust.
      This is what I do and my crust is always just right.
      Also, OP, did you use convection? Curious.
      Thanks.

      1. Do you pre-heat your dutch oven? Long enough?
        Does your bread have a crust before you put it into the oven?
        Like greymalkin said, you could mist the bread before you put a lid on it to help create steam. You want the bottom of the bread to get HOT to help oven spring and you want the top of the bread to yield to the rise - the first is done by your hot dutch oven and the latter by a soft dough or slashing and the lid which contains any steam.

        1 Reply
        1. This happens to me a lot also. Although, I use the Artisan bread in 5 recipes and bake them on a stone. I've also used Alton Browns dutch oven recipe as well.

          Both always have a very thick crust that is ok when it is freshly baked, but a few hours later it's really hard to cut. I have an extremely sharp, chef's knife so that may be why I can cut it easier than you when it is super fresh. It's also better to brush the crust with oil and reheat in foil to regain the crackle. My bread, anyway.

          With the artisan in 5 bread I've made the potato rye, and it does not have this problem. The crust is much thinner and more tender, but still crunchy. All of the others I've made have been whole grain types of bread with thick crusts.

          It seems to me that steaming actually makes it harder to cut. While fresh out of the oven (cooled for an hour or so) it is nice and crackly but later it's super tough and not at all suitable for making sandwiches, if that's what you're after.

          So, I'm wondering the same myself. Just thought I'd share my experiences.

          4 Replies
          1. re: thymetobake

            A chefs knife? Yikes and good luck. A good serrated BREAD knife, yes.

            Try leaving the cover on your pot for longer.

            This is a hard question to answer because it's relative, and also because a crusty crust is part of the point of lean, high-hydration artisan breads and there are literally a thousand seemingly unimportant (to a novice) factors in bread baking that would affect the finished product in this way. The fresh loaf.com website suggestion is good. Keep trying! No one bakes a perfect loaf on their first--or tenth--try.

            1. re: splatgirl

              "A chefs knife? Yikes and good luck. A good serrated BREAD knife, yes."

              That's the problem for me, I don't have a good serrated bread knife. Just a cheapy one. The whole set cost lest than 8$ 20 years ago. My (150$) chef's knife works much better in this instance. Maybe santa will bring me a good serrated one? :-)

              And, yeah, I'm definitely a novice. But have also wondered if oven size and things like that affect the overall outcome. Our oven is huge. So huge that I bought a large toaster oven to cook things like baked potatoes, sausage, quiche, etc... instead of heating up the big oven. It can fit 4 cookie sheets. Two on each rack.

              Thanks and I'll definitely keep trying!!

              1. re: thymetobake

                Based on my experiences baking bread indoors and in a wood-fired oven, oven chamber size, and size of bread load does matter. Likewise heat source and venting. Using a cloche or cast iron pot basically removes this as a variable though. You're creating what amounts to a discrete mini oven (or toaster oven!) when you use a covered heat-retaining vessel, so unless your oven has functional issues...
                In any case, even if you're NOT using the covered vessel method, oven size is the last thing to worry about...which is convenient unless you are looking for an excuse to get a new one :)

                From my point of view, you're saving yourself ~ $5 a loaf every time you bake bread. That adds up quick for the bread knife fund. You don't need a really expensive one, meaning if I were buying a new one I'm unlikely to see fit to fork out for the fully forged Wusthof--a ~$50 stamped blade one from any of the decent brands would be miles better than an old cheapie.

                1. re: splatgirl

                  Thanks, splatgirl. I'll definitely look into the knife world. That's usually what my husband buys me for gifts - ever since he saw me trying to parse out a chicken with that cheap serrated one! That's how I gained a good chef knife. I think I may be dropping hints now...

          2. A No-Knead Raisin Bread from 1966
            Mary Moore's cooking column - Ottawa Citizen - Jul 18, 1966

            http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=...

            Mary Moore was a Canadian newspaper food editor who's column appeared in Canadian newspapers for 50 years, from 1928 through 1978. She was born in 1903 and died shortly after her cookbook, "The Mary Moore Cookbook", was printed in 1978. It's a rare book and used copies sell for $ 75 to $ 100.

            1. Just don't preheat the Dutch oven for as long -- maybe only 15 minutes. It is the heat from the Dutch oven that creates the crust. Less heat = less crust.

              1. I'd recommend turning down the oven. 450 or higher usually gives you a shatteringly crispy crust

                1 Reply
                1. re: jvanderh

                  I agree with this. My crust was coming out too hard as well. A lower temperature seems to do the trick.

                2. There are many things you can do to correct this. In my opinion, the two simplest things to do is either add a bit more water, or turn the baking temperature a bit lower.

                  1. My first batch was pretty crusty as well, I also baked it in the 7 qt. My second batches were NOT and I baked them in the 2.25 qt. I much prefer the bread in the smaller vessel because it makes for taller rather than wider bread.

                    I also found that too much flour made mine crustier than I liked it but that if I let it sit overnight in a ziploc bag it was perfectly fine the next day.