How to make chewy crusty bread.

I’ve never been much of a baker, at least never much of a good one, but I want some good bread like the store I used to live next to had.

Just a good round ball with a think crust and nice and chewy heavyish center for stew dunking. But not hard and breaky crust. If I get the basic bread down, I may move toward souring the dough ultimately, but first things first.

And, as always, Looking on line for chewy crusty bread there are thousands of recipients. Some with just flour, yeast, salt, and water, some with a dozen ingredients. Some AP flour, some Bread flour. Some no knead, some multiple kneed. Some 2 hour rest, some overnight rest.

And every one has glowing reviews with comments that say “I loved this bread, but I changed the ingredients and the technique.” :smack:

I realize that it’s impossible to describe exactly what I want because bread can hit the description in a dozen ways. And final bread quality is more important to me than easy( I have a bread maker that does well enough at that),

Any suggestions?

For what you are aiming for, I think this is the best all-around recipe I’ve ever found. It’s very basic, and it works. People ask me to bring this bread every time there is a gathering, if that’s any indication. And there are never any leftovers if I serve it at a dinner party (even if I’m only entertaining one couple!).

I use ceramic bread cradles I make myself to bake this bread, but you could use any stone for baking.

1 ¾ cups water, heated to 110-115F
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
5 cups bread flour, plus a little extra while kneading
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon butter, quartered and softened

Dissolve sugar into warm water. Sprinkle yeast over; proof for 10 minutes. Add bread flour, salt and butter. Knead dough till soft. If necessary, add additional flour 1 tablespoon at a time until dough has a barely firm but not stiff texture. Dough should not be sticky or wet, but not very dry, either. You want it just on the cusp of sticky. Knead till smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes (4 minutes in a stand mixer).

Turn dough into a warmed, greased bowl. Cover with towel and allow to rise until double, about an hour. Gently punch down dough; divide in half and shape into 2 loaves, each about 14" long and 6" round (very approximate). I flatten each half out then roll it tightly into the shape of a rolling pin, tucking ends in.

Position oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 425F. Butter your baking stone and sprinkle lightly with cornmeal. Place each loaf into on the stone and allow to rise a second time, about 20 minutes. Make sure the stone is at least slightly warm before placing in the oven for baking.

Slash each loaf 3-4 times. Paint each loaf with beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds or whatever you prefer. Let bread continue to rise for 10 minutes.

Carefully place in the oven. Bake for 22-27 minutes, until loaf is golden brown and makes a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom.

Let cool for 20 minutes before slicing.

Hope this is the one you’re looking for!

No-knead bread sounds similar to what you’re looking for, and it’s dead easy.

No-knead? I was going to say that lots of kneading is what makes my challah nice and chewy.

When I make baguettes, and want a good crust, I put a bowl of water in the oven. I was taught to make it that way by someone who was Swiss by birth and had lived in Paris for many years. It makes a crust that is crisp but not tough.

I was thinking if I double-kneaded baguettes, and made them round instead of long, it’d be what you want.

Instead of kneading, time is used to develop the gluten. It accomplishes the same thing. And, yes, crispness of crust is determined by humidity, and you want higher humidity for crispness. The no-knead method addresses this by using a Dutch oven and a high hydration dough.

I’m giving it a try. 70 degrees isn’t really room temperature for me in winter, I’m cheap enough to stay around 60, but we’ll see what happens.

I did not offer a no-knead, Artisan-style bread because you specifically said you didn’t want a “hard and breaky” crust. Personally, it’s my favorite bread to make, but that’s because I enjoy the hard and breaky crust and it is, as mentioned, dead easy. I’m not sure it will yield the result you said you wanted, however.

Best of luck!

If you leave the lid off the Dutch oven, or take it out midway, you can vary the thickness of the crispy crust.

Yeah, I figure there will be some trial and error, and a few attempts at different ones before I get exactly to what I want. The good thing about homemade bread is that it is never bad(except when I do something really stupid), It’s just going to be a matter of tuning to the specific parts of good that I want until it’s perfect.

Spray the dough with water when you bake it, and add a pan of water in the oven while baking.
I just use standard Italian bread dough.
I also start the bake at 400, then drop it down to 350 after 7min. for the remainder.
Comes out similar to Italian crusty bread, subway/hotdog buns etc. what ever sizes you feel like. Adjust time in oven per thickness.

The times I’ve made it, I don’t recall it having a hard-and-breaky crust, just thick & chewy. In other words, what the OP asked for. It’s been a while, though. More recently I’ve had it at a local restaurant (I asked; they told me it was the no-knead bread) and it definitely was not a hard-and-breaky crust.

I agree, the no-knead technique will give a thick but not hard crust. I have a great cast-iron dutch oven from IKEA which is perfect for this technique – I follow Kenji’s instructions, with one variation: in step 3, I turn out the dough onto a piece of floured parchment paper for the final turns and shaping, then plop it, paper and all, into a bowl while the oven heats up. Then I just lift the parchment and drop it into the hot dutch oven. It makes the lid seal a little less, but that seems to give me just the kind of crust I like anyway.

I’ve also tried it without heating the dutch oven, just putting it cold into a cold oven, which gives different, but still good results. You could try that variation too. Sometimes it’s hard to resist slicing into the loaf while it’s hot - be warned, it won’t last if you do.

I taught a friend to make no-knead bread last week, after she said she’d pay $10 for the loaf I served with lunch!

I like the taste and crust of the no-knead bread I’ve made, but am not wild about the rustic texture (big uneven holes). Is that what it’s supposed to be like?

Do like when they make Portugeses rolls, open the oven and spray the half baked break with misted water!

It’s nice and chewy and crusty!

Yes, that’s kind of desired for this style of bread. Like see here for people asking how to make it so it comes out like that. IF you like smaller even holes, punch it down an extra time or two and give it a bit of a hand knead before baking. Basically, you want to “de-gas” the dough and get rid of the big air bubbles. Or you could also try cutting in some lower gluten flour like cake flour.

Or open the oven door a couple of times during the bake and quickly rub an ice cube over the loaf’s surface. Then toss the ice cube onto the baking tray and let it evaporate.

Read James Beard’s book Beard on Bread for the best advice on getting bread of different textures.

His challah recipe has a wonderful and chewy crust. I use the recipe in place of “Italian” or “French” bread when I’m making garlic bread at work.

I also use his pita recipe for pita pockets.

Really, try that book. As a professional baker it’s my very favorite for bread types and advice, although I have and like some others.

Try a wash of cornstarch and water to give a crispy crust. Apply said wash to the loaf before it goes in the oven and after you’ve slashed it(if you’re the slasher type) Halfway through, apply wash again. This also helps seeds to stick to the crust, assuming you’re a seedy individual. :smiley:

I paint my French bread with a mix of a tablespoon of water and one egg white to make it shiny, and put a pan with about a half inch of water on the rack underneath while baking it.

Regards,
Shodan

My no-knead bread sometimes turns out with the consistency of a bowling ball. I once wrecked a car while heading to visit my aunt, with a loaf of my bread as a gift, and I think the bread bruised me in the accident.