How to get a crusty crust
Homemade bread with a strong, rippable crust is very rewarding. In fact I would say that a great crust makes the bread. It’s the stamp of quality that says “this bread rocks.”
A lot of bread baking beginners tell me that they find their crust is great most of the time, then again it’s not always the way.
Let’s find out how you can get the perfect crusty crust every time.
How dough is so important for a good crust
A good crust starts with a good dough. The key to making quality artisan bread at home is the quality of the dough.
For the perfect crust we want to be looking for the following characteristics in our dough:
- The flour is well hydrated with water
- Long slow mixing, typically 7-10 minutes
- A generous development time
Adding these tweaks to an existing bread recipe will help form the crust. The reason for this is a little scientific, basically they support gluten development. Following the three tips above make the gluten in the dough become stronger and longer.
This supports a good crumb structure and a strong crust.
How the oven set up helps the bread
The quality of the dough is important but without a proper oven set up, the bread will not go crusty.
There are two key components to a bread oven set up. The first is to add steam to the oven. The second is to use a baking stone.
There’s a full article on adding steam to an oven here. For a quick explanation, adding steam when the bread goes in the oven stops the crust from setting immediately and allows the remaining yeast in the dough to raise the dough further. It’s known as oven spring.
When it comes to the baking stone, essentially without buying an oven like this one you’ll need to purchase a baking stone for maximum oven spring and so the base of the bread bakes.
What is more important, the dough or the oven?
The dough is where 80% of bread issues arise. Though in generating a good crust, providing the dough is half decent the core focus is the right oven set up.
Adding more steam or using a thicker or hotter baking stone all likely to give a more improved result.
The oven is the big difference between crusts. Changing oven for a better sealed, or more even heat distribution will change the characteristics of your crust. But it is expensive if your doing it just for change sake!
I have an oven just for bread baking but I wouldn’t expect every home baker to do this. If you are trying to improve your crust quality, start with creating a good oven spring, then try adapting your dough quality.