How to get a nice browned crust on bread?

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Assistant Cook
May 15, 2004
it seems i never get a nice darkend crust with "white, Italian, or French" breads unless I am adding whole wheat to the mix.

After browsing thru the forum here i stumbled into the "Braided Loaves" or Braided Loaf topic... and saw the picture of the results.

I've tried egg washes, water washes, more steam, less steam, longer bake times, and hotter bake temps... all these in all sorts of combos.
But i still only get a blonde or speckeled loaf.

I made a couple loaves tonight testing out my new mixer and both came out smelling great but light colored crusted. I let it go a few extra minutes hoping for a darker crust but had to stop so i wouldnt burn the bottoms.

Someone mentioned a while back that I should take the loaf and turn it upside down directly on the oven rack for a while before its done.
Is this what you all do?

I never have a problem with the taste or texture of the bread but I am getting tired of blonde loaves.

Any help wouold be appreciated.

I don't know if this helps, but I have noticed much more even browning since I started baking with my baking stone. My braided challah used to brown in one area before the other, but now when I use my stone, it browns everywhere uniformly at the same time. I can now produce some pretty darn dark challah loaves. (not that I want to mind you, I prefer a light golden color) My guess is the stone evenly absorbs and distributes heat, eliminating hot spots.
Yeah, I have been wanting a baking stone but have yet to get to one of the home centers that sell the larger unglazed tiles.

what is purturbing is that the bottom crusts always come out nice. I currently use a set of old baking sheets that my grandmother bought almost 70 years ago (or longer). Over the years they have developed that deep dark patina from wear and tear that turn out great bottom crusts on everything. now if i could just get the rest of the loaves to get that nice mahogany color as well.

LOL I was lucky enoough to get her baking sheets and equipment but not her baking secrets. When I was a kid, I guess i should have paid more attention when she was baking. I didn't miss much when she was cooking or canning. But back then i was more interested in eatinig her baked goods than how to make them.

I would crank my oven up to around 500*. I wonder what would happen if you brushed the dough with olive oil??
I have A stone in my oven for bread and pizza. I cook at 550*, and they seem to turn out fine. I brush olive oil on my pizza crust, and it browns right up. My vote is to go get A stone or quarry tile. If you get quarry tile, you can get more than 1 and put them together in the oven. Keep us posted! Good luck.

You should try brushing your bread with butter instead of an egg wash, I find that this browns the crust much better then eggs or cranking up the heat.

Hope it works!

is interesting how different people in different results using the same methods. I don't use in baking stone. I baked and from 335 degrees to 475 degrees depending upon the recipe and have no trouble getting a good brown crust but I don't get the deep mahogany color. It for a rich color I use a a wash with the yield
Sorry about the errors above. I yried using a dictating program to write it. Looks like I have some more training to do. :) And OK

That last line should have read saing an egg wash with the yolk.
Old Coot, that was my next plan till i get the baking stones I have been wanting, using a whole egg wash including the yoke.

thanks everyone for the ideas!


As soon as the bread comes out of the oven, brush the top with butter or margarine and the heat from the bread will "cook" the butter and brown the top.

i don't know if this is the reason, but i put a cassarole pan of water on the lowest rack. i also you a egg wash with the whole egg. maybe this is help
I've got a pizza stone in my oven as well. I've used it for years, and have very good results baking. The stone does even out the temps. However, I have found that by having the stone in the oven, it usually makes the oven burn a little hotter than the dail is set for. I always use an oven thermometer and go by that, instead of the dial.
O.K. In the last couple of days I did some “scientific” experiments on browning and proofing. (I need to ge a life, don’t I?)

Made a small batch of simple white bread dough and divided it into .45 lb lots, formed into ½ in. thick x 2 ½ in diameter bun shapes.

1 rose to 1-1/2 volume and baked at 500 F for 19 minutes, no coating
1 rose similarly, punched down, reformed and rose again as above, and baked as above, with whole egg wash coating.
1 allowed to rise to its maximum, punched down, again rose to max, brushed with milk (1/2 & ½) and baked as above.

Results: Crusty buns. Almost no difference in color. And the first one had the best size and texture, although none were what I would consider to be light and airy.

Then I made a French Sourdough baguette using by usual 3 day sourdough (1 c bread flour, 1 c water, 1 tsp salt, 1 pkg instant yeast). Added 2 c bread flour and put outside in sunlight to rise. 20 minutes and it had more than doubled. Punched down and formed baguette, again put outside in sunlight to rise. 20 minutes and into the cold oven set for 400 F for 28 minutes.

Result: near perfect French sourdough baguette.

Then tested egg, milk, butter, and sugar smeared on a sheet of paper and baked. Butter did not brown. The other 3 browned similarly – almost no difference in color. Conclusion: Time and temp control browning more than what type of coating is used.

I’m baffled by the results of the buns. Did not expect the single rise to come out the best.

I got into the habit of proofing my dough in the warm sunlight because the house is kept at about 75 F all the time, and the dough rose too slowly – took an hour to an hour and a half.. Tried a warm oven, and that sped it up some, but a bit of a nuisance heating the oven to the right temp. When summer came, I figured the warm air (mid 80’s) would work better, and it seemed to, But yesterday was sunny but cool – low 70’s. And still the dough rose very fast!

So I conclude it is not the warmth of the air,m but the direct solar radiation that makes the difference. Which seems not too surprising: Direct solar infra-red (heat) is a shorter wave-length than reflected infra-red, so it penetrates much deeper into the dough. Also, “wild” yeast (being a plant) normally grows on the surface of fruits and berries, etc., in sunlight, receiving both solar infra-red and ultra-violet. So apparently yeast is “happier” in direct sunlight.

Or maybe I’m jst nuts. :D
Get an oven thermometer and check if your oven is at the temperature you set it at, alot of ovens are several degrees over or under what you set it at ,then just adjust to what you need.
Also if your oven is really old it just may not be up for the job as elements burn out etc.

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