How do I make sure the crust of a baguette, etc. turns out a nice golden-brown when baking?
The trick is steam and high heat.
- Heat your oven up to 450 F (230 C).
- Bring a pot of water to boil on your stove.
- Once boiling, pour the water into a deep roasting pan on the bottom shelf of your oven. If you can place it directly on the bottom of your oven (it doesn't obstruct vents) then that is ok too. 1" (2.5 cm) of water is enough.
- Let the steam build up for 5 minutes
- Spray your baguettes with water, they should be rather nicely wet. Don't forget to slash them as well
- Put your baguettes in the oven on the top shelf. BE CAREFUL opening your oven. Don't let the steam blast you in your face or other exposed body parts. Let it dissipate a bit.
- 5 minutes into baking, spray the baguettes again (be careful)
- 10 minutes into baking, spray the baguettes again
- 15 minutes into baking, carefully remove the tin of water from the oven
- Let bake for a final 20 minutes
Depending on how even your oven is browning the crust you may need to turn the pan at the spray intervals.
A light brush with an egg wash will give you a nice color to your bread every time.
Crack one egg into a bowl and add about ½ teaspoon of water. Wisk the egg well. After your dough is formed and ready for the oven, brush a light coating of the egg wash onto the dough and put it in the oven. After that, cook as you normally would.
Another thing you can try is to use a recipe with a little sugar in it. That will also help brown the crust as the sugar on the exterior of the dough will caramelize and give a nice color.
I also agree with the other recommendations of cooking with some steam in the oven. I do that every time I
Another possible method is to bake the bread in an oven-proof pot with the lid on, which will help to keep the steam in. This is essentially the method I use in baking no-knead bread, which uses a dutch oven. I bake the dough for 30 mins with the lid on and 15 mins more with the lid off. The result is crusty brown bread.
The technique I use is a slight modification of the one Peter Reinhart describes in The Bread Baker's Apprentice (a must-have for any serious home baker, in my opinion). I put a heavy-duty commercial half-sheet pan on the bottom of my gas oven and a baking stone on a middle rack, preheat it to 500°F and boil some water. Then, when the bread goes on the stone, I pour a cup or so of boiling water into the pan and close the door. This is a great way to get steam burns, so be careful. Reinhart says to open the oven and spray the walls with water a few times at 30-second intervals, but I've never found that makes a huge difference.
Use a dedicated sheet pan for this, as after a few loaves it'll look like it was run over by a truck. I've also heard of using a cast iron skillet in the same role.
Here's what I did today to get a browned crust:
I added a cube of ice to the beaten egg (instead of 1/2 teaspoon water suggested by Al Crowley) and sprinkled a pinch of saffron on the ice cube (it shouldn't go inside the whisked eggs), then after a few minutes the ice cube melted and made a really nice orangish red color.
There you go:
Another point is, you must bake your breads in a very high temperature, that's the point of getting golden brown crust.