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On a handful of occasions I've had bread in a restaurant where the crust is thin but very crispy, almost as if it had a couple layers. It looks crackly and gives easily to pressure. It's not a thick hard-to-chew crust. The inside is wonderful and soft. I'd call it "Italian bread" but I don't think that necessarily describes it.

My crust tends to turn out nicely colored, but 1/8"-thick and sort of soft/damp (like leaving bread out on a humid day) but also not terribly easy to chew.

Does anyone have any tips on how to get a crispy thin crust like this at home?

Bonus: What do you call this kind of crust? (It seems like "crusty" usually means hard thick crust, which is not what I want).

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Are these breads with a uniform crumb or some time of laminated or layered roll or croissant? –  SAJ14SAJ Oct 28 '13 at 19:07
    
Specifically, I'm thinking about breads similar to an italian or french bread, not a layered pastry crust sort of thing. –  Dave Oct 28 '13 at 22:53

3 Answers 3

Assuming that this is what you want:

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This kind of crust is made with steam injection. Normal household baking methods will give you a thick crust, which is usually also hard. Wetting and covering it right out of the oven will give you a chewy crust. If you bake the bread in a fitting pan and tweak the recipe, you can get thin, almost non-existant crust, but also soft, like sandwich bread.

For what you see in the picture, you need standard French bread dough (60% hydration, AP flour) and a blast of steam in the oven at the beginning of baking. Sadly, homemade steam methods which rely on evaporation won't work, because there is a limit to the amount of water which will evaporate even of high temperatures, and you need to get more steam inside than that. So, you'll either need a pro oven or a steam modding (which only works on an oven with vents, unless you are prepared to drill a hole into the oven cavity).

For extra tweaking the crust, you can use a glaze. We had a question explaining the different glazes and their results.

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In some breads, a thin crust can be achieved by brushing the dough with oil and baking at a high temperature. Wetter doughs will also frequently have more crisp crusts.

At restaurants where the bread is really crackly, there's also a chance that the bread had been frozen. Par-baking bread, freezing it, and then baking it to the correct color tends to give bread a very (sometimes excessively) crisp crust.

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1. Enclose the bread

An easy way is to trap the bread's own steam while it's baking. Some options:

  • Wrap or otherwise enclose the bread in foil while baking.
  • Place the bread on a cookie sheet. Place a metal pot, upturned, over it so that it is completely enclosed. Further enhance this by placing the bread on a piece of tin foil, then on a rack or grill (or anything that will keep it off the hot surface), before covering with the upside down pot.
  • Place the bread inside the pot and seal the top with foil. Again, if you can keep it from touching the bottom of the pot, you can get an even thinner crust.

Bake the bread while enclosed, and then for the last 5 minutes, remove the pot and let it bake uncovered.

The first stage (enclosed) will give you a bread with virtually no crust, and then in the second stage (not enclosed), a thin crispy crust will form.

Note that this crispy crust will not last long in any kind of humidity! Re-heat to dry it out again if you want to eat it crispy.

2. Freeze the bread

Another way is to let your bread rise to the point a little before it should be baked (depends on side of bread). Place it in the freezer in a freezer bag. Once frozen, wrap it in foil and bake it directly. Don't thaw it. You'll achieve the same effect—zero crust, then bake another 5 minutes to get a nice crispy crust.

Note

If you want a very fancy crispy crust that cracks and sings coming out of the oven, you will need to use fancier techniques or get a steam injection oven. Lots of people achieve this without a steam injection oven, however. I recommend www.thefreshloaf.com as a spot to read from / talk with people who are really into this and have thought of all kinds of crazy ways to get maximum crispiness out of their crusts. Check out Txfarmer's bread here. She doesn't use any special oven and still gets amazing results, probably by placing bricks/oven stones in the oven, and enclosing the bread somewhat as I describe above.

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When you suggest keeping the bottom of the loaf off the hot surface, is that to prevent the bottom from getting a crust too early? And, for that last 5 minutes, would you move the loaf to be directly on the pizza stone after uncovering it? –  Dave Nov 3 '13 at 0:05
    
Yes, the idea is to keep the bread "in the air" and away from direct heat while the inner dough is heating up. You should be fine just exposing the bread and letting the steam escape. If your oven is relatively airtight for some reason, leave the door ajar. –  Lee K-B Nov 4 '13 at 3:30
    
You should also note that most crackly crust breads are high hydration (ie >75%) and baked at high temperatures (450°-500° F) –  Lee K-B Nov 4 '13 at 3:32
    
I wasn't aware you had a pizza stone. I don't have one, so I don't know what result you'll get. To be quite honest I bake 90% of my bread on tin foil! –  Lee K-B Nov 4 '13 at 3:33

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