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How do I get darker sourdough without burning it?


I made my first sourdough bread recently. The friend who gave me the starter also gave me a basic recipe attributed to Ed Wood, which I followed (1 cup fed starter, 3.5 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 cup water). The dough behaved as I expected through the two rises. I baked it on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper at 425 F for 60 minutes. This was in my oven's standard heating mode (called "bake" on the panel), not heat from above ("broil") nor convection (fan). The oven is only a couple years old and as far as I know is working properly and calibrated correctly.

The sourdough loaves I've seen have a nice deep golden-brown crust. Mine... doesn't. I considered whether I should have baked it longer, but the crust was already pretty hard and I was worried about making a brick. But I've never made sourdough before, so that was a guess. While the crust is hard, the inside is soft and has the texture I expected.

What do I need to do to get the richer crust color I expected? Is this only achievable with a dutch oven (which I don't have)? Should I use a loaf pan instead of a sheet? Should I have made a few smaller scores instead of one long one?

Here's a picture of my results:

light-colored loaf

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It could be a problem with your oven's heating mode. Where I'm from, we have different heating modes like heat from top and bottom or using a fan to circulate hot air. Could you please add additional information about your heating mode if applicable? Did you add water to create a more humid environment in your oven (for example by putting a bowl with water into your oven while baking)? Zerotime about 2 months ago

@Zerotime I've edited to add that information. My oven has a convection (fan) setting but the recipe didn't say to use it so I didn't. (I don't think I've seen that much for baking.) I did not add a pan of water (hadn't heard of that before). Monica Cellio about 2 months ago

2 answers


When you baked your bread, you most likely missed some heat from above. (And it seems that the oven you use might be designed that way, meaning that preheating uses top and bottom elements but retaining heat is only done via bottom elements.)

In order to achieve a brown crust and a nice inside taste, you want the the heat to be evenly distributed in your oven. It's important that your bread is heated from the top and the bottom. The top heating provides you with a brown crust, the bottom heating ensures that your bread base is strong enough. The best option to achieve this is to use a two-sided heating option so that your oven generates heat from the top and bottom elements and retains it with top and bottom elements.

If you can't do this, you have alternatives. One is to use a grill or broiler function the last minutes when baking. Usually, grill and broiler elements provide heat as long as they are turned on so be sure to only do this in the last minutes of baking. Turning on a grill function from the beginning will surely burn your bread.

Another option is to brush your crust when baking with various "glazes". There are a lot of options, common ones are beaten eggs, egg yolk or coffee. You can also adjust the actual ingredients to bake different breads: breads with malt are naturally browner while pumpernickel breads are as dark as it gets. (If the whole bread is darker, it's not as apparent when the crust isn't as brown as desired.)

One thing you should always do is to provide a slightly humid environment in your oven. Humidity helps the inside of baked goods to remain mainly soft even though the outsides are dry and firm (the crusts). Breads especially taste better that way1: Contrary to cakes who often have fruit toppings or fillings that provide additional humidity, breads lack liquid-heavy ingredients. To solve this problem, you can coat your bread with water before or during baking or put a small bowl with water in your oven. (If you have an oven with a steam function, you can also just use this.)

To make your crust perfect, it's also a good idea to coat your bread with water as soon as you take it out. The water evaporates almost instantly and leads to a crust with a slight gloss.

  1. Breads also have other advantages from increased humidity. When baked in a more humid environment, a bread has increased elasticity, meaning that, for example, the probability of crusts tearing up is reduced.



Did you use a wash?

A water wash (a few tablespoons of water applied to the top about halfway through) can give you a crispy crust.

An egg wash (whisk an egg in a bowl with a small splash of water) applied when the loaves go in can give you a darker, glossier crust.

Finally, make sure the oven is completely preheated before the bread goes in.

1 comment

I did not; thank you for these tips! (The oven was completely preheated.) Monica Cellio 27 days ago

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