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I'm making sourdough bread and am pleased with the results except that the crust is too hard and crunchy. Inside it's great, moist and a good even crumb. It makes great toast too, but I would sometimes like a chewier crust. Could the oven be too hot? I'm baking at 200 C Fan (the recipes usually suggest 220 C but that burnt my loaf! I think my oven might run hot.

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    General tip: Many receipes suggest baking temperatures for electric ovens. The baking temperatures for fan ovens are often 20°C lower. – Ching Chong Sep 17 '14 at 9:33
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    If you suspect your oven temp is running hot, grab yourself an independent and trustworthy thermometer to get some proof. – logophobe Sep 17 '14 at 17:10
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How do you store your bread after baking and cooling it? Because I live in a desert climate, I can't keep it uncovered or in a bread box, so I put it in a big Ziplock bag. This tends to soften the crust into a chewier texture for me when I go to slice it the next day.

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All you need to do is wrap your bread in a tea towel after you bake it, that will soften the crust and make it chewier. Some good information in this question here even though it is asking the opposite of what you are:

How do I get crispy but thin bread crust?

Adding steam to the oven will actually make your bread more crisp.

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    "Adding steam makes it more crisp": While technically correct, the role of steam is that it delays crust formation. So I find the crust to be thicker on steamed loaves. Not sure I'd call it "crunchy". Denser, perhaps. – Grey Dog Sep 17 '14 at 18:32
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Do you steam it in the oven? Many recipes call for a small pot or tray of water in the oven, or spritzing the oven walls themselves to increase the baking moisture. This is especially important for sourdough breads for the very reason that you mention.

Are you using a convection or a standard oven?

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You could also opt for a higher protein flour which yields a chewier bread, overall.

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(1) The best way to insure a softer crust - at least softer on the surfaces that are exposed in the oven - is to brush the dough with milk before baking it. For sourdough bread, I would recommend using buttermilk if you have it (every bit of tang helps).

You might also consider replacing some of the liquid in your bread dough with milk - that will contribute to a softer crumb and to a softer crust overall.

If you choose to try using some milk in your dough, scald it first and allow it to cool to room temperature or whatever temperature your recipe calls for - or use milk made from instant (w/o scalding). For a milk wash - just use your milk "as-is."

But back to my original point - milk washes soften crust.

For what it's worth - egg washes promote color and shine on crust but don't soften it.

Finally - water washes and steam in the oven generate a crust the is MORE crispy (professional bread ovens often have steam injection to promote a thick crisp crust that is all the rage in "Artisan" breads).

(2) As far as the temperature of your oven is concerned, you might also consider starting your bread at 220 C - then reducing the temperature to 190 C after 20 - 30 minutes. The higher temperature at the start helps promote "oven spring" (the initial pronounced rise) - the lower temperature that follows helps bake the bread through w/o torching the crust.

(3) If you really want to control the baking of your bread, I would recommend using an instant-read thermometer to determine when your bread is done - look for an internal temperature of around 95 C.

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