The crust on a loaf of bread is what makes it look so tasty, so without that beautiful golden color you associate with bread, it doesn’t look that good.
A good crust color makes bread look visually pleasing and delicious straight away, so without it, it doesn’t always look like it’s going to taste nice. For example, imagine a sourdough without its signature caramelized crust. A pale crust is sad and disappointing and it’s not as appealing, so it’s useful to know how to get a better crust.
For a bread crust that’s a nice golden-brown color, you want to ensure that you’re using an appropriate amount of steam and the right temperature. If you’re using too much steam, you may be preventing your bread from browning and too low a temperature doesn’t give you the ideal crust caramelization.
Although a lot of bread has that great crust we all know and love, some types of bread aren’t meant to have a deep brown crust. Some bread, such as sandwich loaves, often have a lighter and softer crust so it’s easier to cut into and eat, but it doesn’t have the same complexity of flavor that you get from a dark crust.
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Why You’re Not Getting Good Browning
If you’re consistently pulling your bread out of the oven and it doesn’t have good browning, you might be a little confused as to what’s going wrong.
Getting a good crust on your bread isn’t always hard, but you might be facing a few issues that are affecting how well your crust develops when it’s in the oven.
If you’re not an experienced bread baker, you might be struggling a little to get the temperature of your oven right. If you’re using the wrong temperature, you could either risk browning the bread too quickly or not enough.
The type of oven and the recipe you’re using can also contribute to the browning of your bread. For those of you that use a fan assist (convection) oven, the bread will actually brown faster since everything cooks faster. On the other hand, if you’re just using a standard non-fan (conventional) oven, your bread will brown and cook more slowly.
Most recipes do call for a conventional oven, but some recipes, especially if they’re from the UK, might be using a convection oven. Convection ovens cook at around 20°C higher than conventional, so it’s important to account for this by increasing or decreasing the temperature you bake your bread at.
Make sure that your oven thermostat is working properly. You want to make sure that the temperature you set your oven to is the actual temperature it’s reaching. Use an infrared thermometer to take the temperature of your oven. If it’s off by a significant amount, you’ll need to get it fixed or adjust the thermostat to fit the recipe.
Don’t overdo it with the steam or you’ll be preventing the browning. If there’s too much steam in your oven and your bread doesn’t bake for very long, you won’t get the level of browning you might want.
The crust can be affected by how you’ve proofed your dough. Overproofed dough won’t get a very good crust. When you let your dough proof too much, the yeast uses up all the sugars in the flour, so you don’t get the dark caramelization on the bread.
How To Get A Better Crust
Getting a good crust on bread is desired by nearly all bakers because it’s a big part of the bread-making process. Without a good crust, it’s arguably not ‘good’ bread.
Assuming that you’re wanting a darker, tastier, and overall better crust, here are some tips that you can use to improve the way your bread browns.
Use Less Steam
Steam is great for many types of bread. It helps you get a lovely oven spring, can stop your bread from drying out, and it can actually give a nice shine to your crust.
The problem is that you may use too much steam without baking your bread for long enough. Baking with too much steam on bread like rolls or baguettes may leave them looking a little paler than you might like.
Try cutting back the amount of steam you’re creating in the oven or take the steam out at some point during the baking process. The steam is great for preventing burning and giving your bread a nice rise, but too much of it can cause problems.
Use A Dutch Oven
Instead of adding steam to your oven, you can use a dutch oven to make great bread. Dutch ovens are generally used for round-shaped bread such as Sourdough and trap the steam to get a nice oven spring.
Generally, you’d bake your bread on high heat with the dutch oven lid on before removing it to get that lovely crust.
This method prevents too much steam from being created and leaves you with a lovely golden-brown crust. There’s no added steam as it’s only coming from the bread itself.
Try A Higher Temperature
If your bread isn’t getting as dark as you might like, you can just try putting the temperature up a notch.
By increasing the temperature, you’re increasing the rate that it cooks and heating the sugars in the dough to a higher temperature. These sugars then caramelize better and leave you with a darker crust.
If you increase the temperature of your oven, make sure to keep an eye on the dough so you can make sure it doesn’t brown too quickly.
Add Some Form Of Sugar To Your Dough
Adding white sugar, honey, molasses, or any sweetener to your dough can do a great job of creating a better crust on your bread. Since there will be more sugar, the outer layer of the bread will be able to better caramelize into a dark and tasty crust.
Just a small amount can go a long way to improving the color of your crust. You’re likely not trying to make your dough sweet, so you don’t want to taste the sugar.
Just add some dry sugar into your dry ingredient or a wet form of sweetness to your wet ingredients before you mix everything together.
Use A Glaze
By using a glaze such as an eggwash or just plain milk, you’re allowing the crust of your bread to get a deeper color and a shine.
Right before you put your bread in the oven, simply take a soft-bristled brush and gently brush the glaze onto your plump dough. Avoid putting so much on that it pools around parts of your dough. Just put enough on to cover the dough in a thin layer of the glaze.
After baking, you’ll be able to take your bread out and you should notice a beautiful golden-brown crust.
Proof It Right
When you’re baking any kind of bread, you need to make sure that you’re proofing it right. If you’re overproofing your bread, you’re losing the natural sugars in the flour, so your bread doesn’t caramelize.
You have to proof your bread right or it’s not going to end up the way you want it to.
To make sure you proof your bread right, you need to either proof it until it’s doubled in size or use the poke test to see that it’s ready. You’ll know it’s ready when you poke your dough with your finger and the indentation doesn’t spring back immediately. It should spring back very slowly. If it doesn’t spring back, it may be over-proofed and you should get it in the oven right away.
To slow the rate of proofing, you should put your dough into the fridge. This slows the proof drastically and can save you from ruining your dough.