Why Does Bread Crust Go Soft After Cooling?


Over the years I have had many home bakers turn to me with this question.  “Why does my bread crust go soft after cooling? ”  The answer to this question is quite complex as baking is a science and there are many parameters that can affect this unwanted result.


The main reason for making your crust go soft is moisture. This moisture comes from inside the bread so when cooling, you must give your bread enough room to breathe. Keep your bread on a cooling rack with enough space under it.


Sugars, milk and other ingredients can also contribute to a soft crust.  Let’s examine all of the things that can make a soft crust. Lastly keeping a steady temperature is crucial.

What are the conditions when cooling your bread?

The way your bread cools is crucial for a crispy crust.  When your bread is ready and you have pulled it from the oven it is important to put it on a cooling rack with plenty of space underneath the bread. Having plenty of space underneath the cooling rack is important because if the bread is too close to the counter the heat from the bottom of the bread will bounce off your counter and back to your bread where it will collect this steam and make your crust soggy.

If your bread is in a baking pan or on parchment paper make sure to remove it from the pan as soon as you take it out of the oven and place it on a cooling rack.  The same goes for bread baked in a crockpot ( baking in a crockpot is a very popular and effective way to bake bread at home these days ).

WRONG

  • The bread was not removed from the parchment paper
  • there is not enough space underneath the loaf for air-flow

Make sure that you are cooling the bread in a dry space. If it is very humid where you are cooling your bread it may cause your crust to go soft as well. You can cool your bread in your oven as well. try this:

RIGHT

  • Good heigh for airflow above and below
  • No obstructions between the loaf and the air like parchment paper.
  1. Take the bread out and place in on a rack on your counter ( raise the rack with some baking pans on each side to support it to make sure you have enough clearance
  2. Take your baking plate ( stone or steel or whatever surface you use ) out of the oven
  3. keep your oven door open in order to cool it
  4. stick the bread back in the oven on one of your oven racks ( you can do this right away as home ovens cool down quickly and you don’t need it to be fully cooled.)
  5. keep the oven door open halfway to let it cool down further.
  6. now close your oven door further but keep it open just slightly and let the bread cool this way. do not close your oven door completely as your bread is still releasing moisture and you don’t want to create a sauna.

Keep your crust crispy for days

So you baked the perfect loaf and the crust is crispy. A day later you go to grab your loaf and you notice that the crust has gone soft. Or, you bought a nice loaf at a bakery, it was perfect! you invite friends over for dinner and when you pull out the loaf of bread to serve you notice the crust is soft. This is a very simple issue to fix.

If you bake the loaf make sure you cool it properly and mentioned earlier.

After your loaf has properly cooled or if you brought a loaf of bread from the bakery, put the bread in a paper bag and store it in a dry place. To keep the bread fresher for longer you can put the loaf with the paper bag inside a plastic bag but DO NOT under any circumstance close the plastic bag. Make sure the plastic bag is open to allow the moisture to escape. This will slow the drying out of the bread and will keep you loaf fresh for about 3 days.

Back in the day, everyone used to have bread boxes. This was the reason for them. To keep your bread nice and crispy. If you do not have a bread box you can put the bread in a cupboard or you can put it in your oven. ( while it is inside the paper bag).

Do not put the bread directly in a plastic back. The plastic bag traps all of the moisture inside and softens up your crust.

A great tip to bring back your bread to life before serving is putting it in the oven at 170 degrees Celsius or about 335 Fahrenheit for about 5- 10 min. Your bread will be good as new!

NOTE: As you are reheating a loaf of bread after it has been fully cooled you are drying it out even more. For the short term you will revive the moisture in the bread as the water still trapped in it will turn in to vapor / steam, and give you a nice thick crispy crust with a sof and moist crumb.

After that reheat, you pretty much have to finish this loaf off as it will not have enough moisture to sit around for much longer.

Should I freeze my bread?

If you baked your bread and are not intending to eat it the same day or a day after I suggest you put it in a plastic back and freeze it. Never keep bread in the refrigerator, this will dry out your bread. When you want to eat your bread just take it out of the plastic bag and leave it on the counter ( NEVER MICROWAVE BREAD ).

It will take around 30-60 min to thaw out. After the bread has thawed out, pre-heat your oven to 350 Fahrenheit or 175 Celsius and put the bread in for about 5 min. Your loaf will be good as new.

Not all bread will have a crispy crust.

In order to have a crispy crust, you must have the correct recipe. If your recipe calls for sugars or other sweeteners like honey or even malt this can cause your crusts to be soft no matter how you bake them.  Milk and butter can also have this effect on bread. So make sure you are using the correct recipe.  Try baking a  french bread or a sourdough bread or an Italian bread for a crispy crust.

You will notice that right after baking bread like Challa or Brioche (bread that has a high sugar content, along with milk or butter or both) come out crispy out of the oven. After cooling they go soft.  If you want to serve them with a crispy crust you will have to reheat them before serving and serve them hot or warm.

Also, keep in mind, some flours like rye need a lot of moister. If your bread has a high rye content (65% or higher) or you are making a pumpernickel bread, for instance, it will be difficult almost impossible to get a crispy crust. These kinds of bread usually have a very tight crumb ( meaning the dough is very dense) and the crust does not get particularly hard. These doughs have high moisture content in them even after baking.

Is your bread fully baked?

One of the ways the moister can affect your crust is if you did not bake the bread fully and there is too much moister in it. When cooling, the bread releases all this moister and causes the crust to go soft.

For most loaves of bread, the internal temperature should be between 190 – 205 Degrees Celsius ( 375-400 Fahrenheit).  These are the recommended temperatures for most bread.  Make sure to check your baking instructions for your specific bread. If you don’t have instructions try to use these guidelines.

Another way to check and see if your bread is ready is by knocking on the bottom of the bread. If you hear a hollow sound this means your bread is ready to take out of the oven.

Did you bake your bread at the right temperature?

If you baked your bread at a temperature that is too hight it will cause the bread to brown and crisp too soon and you will not form the proper crust. When you will take out this bread to cool it would have too much moister in it and will then release lots of moister back to the crust causing it to be soft.

keep your oven temperature as steady as possible throughout the baking process

This is one of the most important baking tips I can give you about getting a nice crispy crust.  Keeping your temperature evenly is super crucial. 

How to keep your oven temperature steady while baking?

When baking bread you must try to keep a steady temperature. this sounds simple enough but there are many mistakes I see novice bakers do and a lot of misinformation on the web about this.

As you know you will need steam in your oven in the initial stages of baking. What most people do or instruct you to do is they preheat the oven and when it is ready they tell you to load the bread in and then stick a tray with water to create the steam.  This method takes too much time and keeps your oven door open for too long.  you lose too much heat in the process and your temperature will fluctuate. Also, after your oven has reached its baking temperature and you had enough steam most people will tell you to take out the pan with the water.  This method is WRONG.  I will shortly explain how to correct this just hang tight.

Another factor causing temperature change especially in beginner bakers is turning down the temperature in the oven when they fear the bread is getting too dark too soon or catching color too soon.  Keep the temperature steady. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE TURN DOWN THE HEAT.

If your bread calls for a bake at 380 degrees Fahrenheit (200 Celsius)  than you must keep it at that temperature throughout the bake. Don’t worry if it is a bit darker than you expected it to be. It won’t burn that fast, trust me. It takes a long time to burn the bread. 

As promised here is how to keep your oven temperature steady with having steam.

  1. preheat the oven
  2. put a pan with water ( for the steam) in the oven and let the temperature get back to the initial baking temp.
  3. when the oven has reached the initial baking temperature ( usually this is about 40-60 degrees higher than the temperature you will bake the bread at the rest of the time) put your bread in
  4. close the door and drop your temperature setting to the desired baking temp. eg. if you baking temp is 380 your initial baking temp will be around 420-440 or so. after you load the bread turn the dial down to 380.  ( i know this is a bit confusing. As I said; you don’t want a fluctuating temperature. I will explain shortly )

By placing the water in the oven before loading and letting the oven get back to the correct temperature you will be able to avoid letting the heat out. Also, do not open the oven after the steam stage is done to take out the pan.  You will need to experiment here before baking to see how much water you will need to have steam in your oven for about a third of the bake. If your bread takes about 40 min to bake you will need steam in the oven for about 12-15 min.

step 4 might have been a bit confusing so let me expand on it.  The only time you want the temperature in the oven to fluctuate is in the initial stage of baking. Your oven must be very hot in the first 1/4 of the baking process.  If you were to set your oven to the bread baking temp, let’s say 380 F, you would lose too much heat when opening the oven door to load the bread.  You want your first 10 min or so of baking to have high heat and have it drop slowly to your baking temperature. I hope this clears it up.

Is your crust thick enough and has been baked properly?

As mentioned above. Baking your bread at the proper temperatures is important to create the correct cust initially.  If the crust will not be thick enough, it will never be crusty after cooling. There is always moisture escaping the bread when cooling.  This is why it is important that your crust has developed properly to the correct thickness and has had all the moisture from it removed from it. Steam is the secret to building that crust.

The reason for steam in the oven serves 2 purposes. 1. it keeps the outer skin of the bread elastic allowing it to rise without bursting and 2. it cooks or boils the skin creating a crust. The longer you have steam in your oven while baking the thicker your crust will be. So if you notice your crust is too thin you now know that you did not have enough steam and vice versa.

So…

I hope this article solved your soft crust issues. Whether it was a result of faulty cooling, incorrect storage or somewhere along the way in the baking process. Thanks for stopping by. Be sure to browse around, you might find some other helpful articles.

Amit

Hi, my name is Amit. I started baking at a young age at my father's bakery. I hope I can answer some of your questions and hopefully you will find some hidden gems to help you out with your home baking skills.

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