I'm at the stage now in my bread making that I'm trying to figure out how to get a thicker crust on bread. I could be way off here, as I've never really had bread with a thicker crust, but I think it's desireable from what I've read. I've been messing around with the amount of steam I put into the oven during the intial bake and it just doesn't seem to be making a big difference. My thoughts now are that I need to make a better seal on the door, as I can see most of the steam escaping as I spray water in with my garden sprayer. So this past week I went and picked up a gaskit set for a wood stove door and figured I would try to put that around my door to see if it makes a difference.
So am I correct in thinking that more steam would equal a thicker crust? (do I even want this?) Is there a max amount of steam that should be put in? I've posted on some other sites and gotten mixed responses. Some think it's more for the spring, which I know it does help that, and others seem to think that a dry bake would do better. Thoughts?
I've wondered the same thing myself. Some of my favorite Italian breads have a very thick crust and a dense crumb. I don't know how to reproduce this, although my wife recently made her first batch of bread in the dutch oven and forgot to put the lid on (bless her!) and the bread did have a thicker crust (and less spring), but she did preheat the dutch oven a long time so it was pretty hot. From this one observation I would infer that steam may not be desired, and perhaps a higher oven temp are needed to make a thicker crust. But I am sure there's more to it. Perhaps beyond steam and temperature other variables such as dough hydration, dough temp prior to baking may be at work. I'm eagerly looking forward to other thoughts on this.
Try this: steam as you have been doing, then crack the door open a bit for the last two to three minutes of the bake. This exhausts the steam, which you wanted to promote spring, and which is over now, and it's time to promote crust development.
Let me know how it works for you.
Thanks Jim, I'll try that. How do you think oven temperature affects the crust? I can imagine both sides - low temp might give more time to form a thick crust, higher temp might "sear" the outer crust while allowing a still moist crumb. I don't have the observations or bread education to know whether this affects the crust.
Maybe you don't, but you're right on the money. With cooler temps you get a thicker crust. Higher temps result in a thinner crust. The grain sugars on the surface actually caramelize, holding the moisture inside the crumb. Go for higher, but be vigilant. Your cooking times will be reduced, and you have to be careful about leaving the loaves in too long. My 1 kilo boule, at a hearth temp of about 560-575, take 22 minutes to reach an internal temp of 205 F. That's my oven of course, and your results might vary. I've baked baguette at 600 F in 10 minutes flat.
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