I think everyone will agree that the best part of a freshly baked loaf of bread, apart from the aroma, is the delicious and crusty crust on the exterior!
Depending on the loaf you are baking, the density and crusty-ness (I’m not even sure that’s a word, but for the purposes of this, it will be!) of the crust can vary greatly, but is still delicious!
The most significant element you need to remember when you are baking bread that deserves a really delicious crust is the environment it’s baked in.
This is super important when you are trying to create a great crusty bottom, top and sides!
To create a perfect bread crust, the bread requires a really steamy atmosphere while baking.
With this theory and a few other really clever ways, we can learn how to get a good crust on bread every time!
Let’s take a look at what things we can do and how we can do them!
How to get a good crust on bread
Dutch oven method
The dutch oven method is a super simple way of steam baking bread that creates a steamy atmosphere within a sealed chamber, which will give your bread the most incredible crust and a moist texture inside!
At the beginning of the baking, the dutch oven provides the perfect capsule for the bread dough to start producing its own steam from within the dough as it heats up with the oven temperature.
This is by far the easiest method! It creates the desired atmosphere inside of a loaf that is not dry and has the most incredible crust on the outside, leading to a delicious and crusty loaf!
Yes! You heard right! A pizza stone can create the crispiest crust on your loaf!
When you think of a pizza, you think of a really delectable crust, right? Of course, that’s one of the best attributes of a pizza, as well as its well-risen sides and light texture.
We can transfer this theory of baking bread on a pizza stone to get a delicate and crisp crust but beware, but there are some rules to follow!
- Preheat the pizza stone to as much as it can handle. The bigger the pizza stone, the longer it will take to pre-heat. Set your oven to the maximum temperature for at least an hour before baking.
- Make sure when you transfer the bread dough onto the pizza stone that you reduce the amount of time you leave the oven door open, as this will make the internal oven temperature fluctuate and may affect your final loaf.
Top Tip: Make sure you reduce the oven temperature to what you need to bake at after you have heated the pizza stone successfully; we don’t want to scorch the dough or dry the loaf out!
- When you transfer the bread dough to the pizza stone, you can use two methods to do this swiftly and safely:
- Use oiled and floured baking parchment to pop the bread dough onto, then use this to pop onto the pizza stone. Once contact is made, you can remove the parchment easily and close the oven back up!
- Although this is the more difficult of the two options, in methodology and potentially the lack of equipment! You can use a pizza peel to easily transfer the dough to the pizza stone.
Caution on this method! It can increase the time the oven is open, making the temperature fluctuate, which may cause an uneven loaf.
Spray bottle method
The spray bottle method is another way of steam baking bread and creates a steamy atmosphere inside the oven to facilitate a good crust formation!
Soon after you have placed the bread dough in a well-preheated oven, you can spray water on the walls and on the floor of the oven.
Make sure you avoid spraying the bread itself (This is for obvious reasons if we are trying to create a crust!) and make sure you don’t spray the oven’s light.
You can do the spraying until the loaf begins to show some color on the crust.
Doing this will create bursts of steam to give you a great crust on your bread!
But again, be mindful of the temperature fluctuations when repeatedly opening the oven door! This method is effective but can be time-consuming and fiddly to do!
Ice cube method
Using the ice cube method to create a great crust on your bread is pretty simple, and it involves a metal pan and, you guessed it, ice cubes!
With any bread, pre-heating of the oven and the pan is crucial!
The trick with this method is, once you have placed your dough onto the hot pan to commence baking, you also place a metal pan filled with ice cubes into the bottom of the oven.
As they heat up, the water from the ice cubes will evaporate and turn into steam that rises to your bread to give it the steamy atmosphere it needs for that crispy crust.
This method is straightforward to create if you have no specialized equipment at home; it works well and gives a great crust on bread!
As with everything bread-related, it is imperative to keep the oven’s temperature as constant as possible to create an evenly risen bread, crispy on the outside and has a light texture inside.
Here are some super clever tips to make sure you get the best bread result from your oven!
Pre-heating your oven is crucial for any baking, but especially bread, so be sure to heat your oven at the very least 15 minutes before you plan on placing the bread dough in to cook! if you are using a pizza stone, pre heat your oven for at least an hour.
- Avoid Opening!
Opening the oven door too much will affect the internal temperature of your oven, and even fluctuations of a few degrees here and there can make a massive difference in your finished result.
Ensure you avoid opening the oven door too much by visibly monitoring the baking through the oven door and monitoring the temperature accurately within by using an oven thermometer.
- Ideal Temperature!
Believe it or not, there is an ideal temperature to bake everything!
For a lean dough, the ideal temperature is 190–210°F (88–99°C)
For a rich dough, the perfect temperature is 180–190°F (82–88°C).
These are absolutely crucial temperatures to stick by if you want your bread cooked through, not underdone or gluey, but still yummy!
Type of flour
Another crucial element of baking the perfect bread is the flour you use, which can make or break your loaf!
Wherever possible, the ideal flour to use is bread flour, as it is explicitly designed for bread baking and can yield a tremendous homemade loaf! The higher protein content allows for more gluten to be produced, resulting in a chewy, ultra soft dough.
The next flour for baking bread is all-purpose flour, giving excellent results for your bread baked at home!
Score the dough
Scoring the bread dough is simply the act of making shallow cuts in the top of the unbaked bread dough just before you bake it.
Why do you need to score bread? I’m glad you asked!
The Science Bit: When you mold a dough, you create a taut surface, and the sudden burst of gas that’s produced by the yeast when the dough enters the hot oven called “oven spring” can easily rupture along with any weak spots in the dough, so we slash to avoid sudden ruptures!
Slashing can also open up the surface area of the bread doubt to create more crust on differing levels as the dough backs. More crust is definitely appreciated!
Make sure when you are slashing your bread dough that you use something super sharp to reduce the dragging effect on the bread dough and be as fancy as you like to make your loaf look really pretty!
So, are you feeling the confidence now we have explored the best ways on how to get a good crust on bread?
With some simple pieces of equipment, such as a dutch oven, and some crucial rules to stick to, you can make a fantastic bread loaf from home that has the most awesome and delicious crust!
By making sure that your oven is at the desired temperature and opened as little as possible, you can recreate a great crust on your bread by using some simple methods inside your own domestic oven that can give great results too!
I can smell it baking already!