If any food can be considered a staple, there is no need to look further than the loaf of bread. Bread is used for countless different meals and recipes; on top of that, there are plenty of different kinds of bread for you to choose from when you are looking at baking some. With as many different bread types as there are, there is truly no shortage of bread for any situation.
There are some breads that have a more neutral flavor and are more often used as a vehicle for other ingredients, such as white bread being used for a traditional peanut butter and jelly sandwich. There are other breads that are used almost exclusively for certain dishes, such as naan bread or panini bread. And then there are some types of bread that have their own purposes, such as brioche or challah bread.
On top of all of this, no matter what kind of bread you are working with, you can use it for several different recipes. Sometimes people will use bread for sandwiches or sandwich-adjacent foods; other times, people will use bread to soak up broths and sauces of other dishes. Some breads are used in breadcrumbs and others are eaten on their own.
When it comes to perfecting your bread dish, there are a few things that you need to consider. Of course, you will want to make sure that the texture of your bread is exactly where you want it to be. You will also need to make sure that if you are adding anything to the bread itself, you accommodate those add-ins accordingly. However, a lot of people overlook one crucial aspect of breadmaking: the crust.
The crust of the bread serves a few different purposes. It can be considered a protective layer covering the soft, delicate bread inside. It can also be an important part of the bread’s texture, such as with baguettes or sourdough bread. When you are making bread, it will be important for you to consider what kind of crust you want.
You will also need to think about how you are going to maintain the crust of the bread. Over time, as the bread loaf ages, the crust will naturally soften. This is a natural part of the bread’s ageing process and it can start happening within days of baking the bread. If your bread depends on having a solid, crisp crust, you may want to prevent the natural crust softening of the bread any way you can. Thankfully, there are a few different ways that you can go about doing this.
The Standard Solutions
Of course, different types of bread are going to require different solutions for keeping the crust nice and appropriately crispy. The ultimate method that you use will depend entirely on what is in the bread you are making and what you used for the crust itself. The solutions here are going to work the best for fairly standard bread loaves that aren’t special or unique in any way, such as your typical white bread loaf.
More often than not, people who are avid about making sure that their bread retains the properties it needs to be tasty will want to make sure that they have the proper equipment to store bread in. The best thing that a person can invest in for the sake of their crispy crust, is going to be a high-quality bread box.
It can go without saying that you shouldn’t store the loaf bare on the countertop but there are good reasons why you should search for a bread box specifically. Bread boxes, especially the more expensive and higher-end versions, are made specifically to balance the humidity and air circulation that the bread receives from the rest of your kitchen.
Humidity may not affect the crust directly but it helps to keep the interior soft and delicate. When the interior of your bread loaf is stale, the crust will feel softer by comparison. Likewise, air circulation helps to keep the crust of the bread crisp, ensuring that the overall texture of your bread is exactly what you want it to be.
When searching for a breadbox, you should try to invest in as large a box as you can afford in your kitchen space. The larger of a box you use, the more potential circulation your bread can get, allowing it to stay fresh and crisp for as long as possible.
Depending on what you are looking for in your breadbox, you may want to look at some of the variants in material, including ceramic, bamboo, and enamelware. Each one of these has its own properties, meaning that some materials will be better for certain types of bread and for people looking for certain results.
Another typical solution that you can look at will involve making room in your freezer and placing the entire bread loaf into the freezer. Freezing the bread may seem counterintuitive but it can easily work in your crust’s favor as long as you don’t freeze the bread for more than two or three months at a time. Any longer and you end up risking freezer burn and altering the overall flavor, texture, and consistency of the bread.
By freezing the bread, you can slow down the process by which it goes stale. This will leave your bread in the exact state that it was in before you put it in the freezer, which is presumably a very fresh state. The interior of the bread should remain soft and delicate while the crust remains crispy and solid.
What makes freezing an even better option for bread is the fact that when you reheat bread after it has been frozen, no matter if it is in an oven or a toaster, you actually restart the gelatinization process of the starches. This leaves your newly reheated bread springy, chewy, and full-bodied, potentially in a better condition than it was in when you first put it into the freezer.
In order to properly freeze your bread without causing it more harm, you will want to put the bread itself into a sealable bag, remove as much air as you possibly can from the bag, and then seal the bag. From here, it can be placed in the freezer for as long as you need (as long as you don’t keep it in too long) and you will be able to reheat it in the oven or the toaster whenever you are ready for some crispy-crusted bread.
Preventing the Crust From Softening
Another key time that bread crust softens is immediately during the cooling process, after you have taken the bread out and set it down so that it can reach a temperature at which you can cut it. By making sure that you allow for it to cool down in a way that keeps the crust crisp, you can further extend the crust’s crispiness lifespan.
There are a few things to remember about keeping the crust crispy while cooling the loaf of bread. For one, you are going to need to make sure that you have plenty of room underneath the loaf of bread as well. If your bread loaf is too close to the countertop, then the heat radiating off the bread will bounce off the room temperature countertop and back into the bread, where it collects as steam. This steam will then add moisture to the entire bread loaf, including the crust, which will then begin to soften.
If your bread-making methods involve using parchment paper underneath the bread, you need to remove this as well as this will have the same effect as the countertop on the radiating heat of the freshly cooked loaf. Ultimately, your bread should have good airflow underneath the loaf and it should be removed from any pans, pots, and paper that may be underneath it if you want it to cool down while preserving the crispiness of the crust.
If the bread is in the oven, you should leave the oven door open for a good five or ten minutes to let the bread cool inside of there as ovens are often a perfect environment for the bread to cool as well as bake. As it cools and you need more space in the kitchen, you can eventually leave the oven door halfway open so that there is still airflow to help the bread cool but you will also have more space to work in your kitchen. Never close the oven door completely or else this will create a bread sauna and a bread sauna is the opposite of what you need when you are looking for crisp crust.
The humidity of the bread’s environment will undoubtedly affect the way that the bread’s crust cools as well. If your bread is cooling down in a humid environment, the bread is going to naturally pick up the moisture in the air. Since the crust is the first thing that the humid air will touch, this will be the first place the moisture enters, causing your crust to gradually become softer much more quickly than it should.
Remedying Soft Crust
In the event that you notice that your bread’s crust has gone soft and soggy before you were able to put it in an environment where you could keep it crisp, there are a couple ways that you can try and salvage the crust. For one, you can attempt to freeze it.
There is no guarantee that freezing the bread and then subsequently reheating it will bring some crispiness back to the crust but if a crisp crust is a crucial part of your perfect bread, then it may be worth giving it a shot. You will want to use the proper bread-freezing methods in order to avoid further altering the consistency and texture of the bread when you are ready to attempt to freeze it.
You can also try to cook the bread a little bit more. Cooking the bread a bit will help cook away some of the moisture that has set into the crust of the bread but it will be a delicate balance of making sure that you do not overcook the bread and turn the soft interior into something akin to dry, stale bread.
You can either reheat the bread in the toaster as slices of bread or you can reheat the entire loaf of bread in the oven. Reheating the bread as slices in a toaster will allow you more margin of error as you will presumably have more slices to work with if the first pass of reheating doesn’t provide the results you want. When reheating in the oven, you heat the entire loaf, meaning that if something goes wrong, the whole loaf is affected rather than just one slice of the bread.
Never, ever microwave bread. This will not produce a crisp crust; this will result in a soggy bread mess that you cannot do much of anything with.
When attempting to reheat the bread, you will want to take things slowly and carefully as you can always add more heat to the bread but you cannot reverse the cooking process. You will want to start with lower heat settings at first to see if you can cook some of the moisture out. Depending on just how soft the crust is, you may even need to go beyond the lowest settings on the toaster or oven.
You will want to take care not to burn one side of the bread when you are cooking it in a pan in the oven. There are plenty of precautions you can take to ensure that this doesn’t happen, ranging from using parchment paper to separate the pan from the bread and using other materials to prevent burning.
If all goes well, you will be left with a warm, crisp-crusted loaf or slice of bread that you and your family can enjoy. You will always want to make sure that if crisp-crusted bread is important, you work with breads that are capable of forming a crisp crust as some bread types are simply incapable of producing a crust that is particularly crisp.