The crust on just about any loaf of bread is often the most important part for two reasons: it’s nutritious and flavorful. Jam packed with all sorts of healthy vitamins and minerals, each bite will reveal deeper, more complex, and tastier flavors. Of this there is no room for argument amongst bakers across the globe.
However, try expressing an opinion on your preferred texture of bread crust and you’ll find that heated debate soon follows with two camps quickly forming on opposite ends: the camp of hard crusters on one corner and those who love soft crusts on the other.
Now we at TastyBakings sit on the side of soft crust, especially so when it comes to sandwich bread. The good news though is the simple fact that giving your loaf a softer crust is actually way easier than giving it a crispy, crunchy crust.
The bad news? There’re just so many methods to pick from! Down below we’ve listed 4 of our favorite ways that’ll let you develop pillow soft crust. Just read on, experiment, and enjoy!
1 – Tangzhong Method
Don’t be intimidated by its unique name. The Tangzhong method is simple when you break it down – all you do is pre-cook a small portion of your loaf’s flour in hot water. This allows the flour to gelatinize and when incorporated with the rest of the uncooked flour later, it will produce a far softer loaf overall that’ll feel chewier and fluffier when eaten.
If you’re thinking that this sounds similar to a roux, you’re not wrong at all! It’s pretty much leveraging on a similar idea.
To set it up properly, start by exactly measuring the amount of flour you’re using for your sandwich bread. Take about 8% of that flour and mix in five times the amount of water into it.
Transfer it onto a suitable cooking pot and stir gently on low heat until the liquid resembles a sort of gluey, sticky, almost mochi-like consistency. This could take up to fifteen minutes depending on the ambient temperature of your kitchen.
Once done, let it cool down to room temperature and simply incorporate it to your original recipe once you’re ready and prepare yourself for a pleasant surprise.
2 – Yudane Method
Another similar method is the Yudane method which also leverages on pre-cooking raw flour. However, instead of simply cooking the flour over a stovetop, boiling hot water is used here instead.
You’ll have to use a bit more flour than usual here too – set aside a fifth of your flour and pour it into an appropriate bowl. Measure out exactly the same amount of water as your prepared flour (we suggest going by weight instead of volume to ensure the most accurate result possible) and bring it to a boil. Once piping hot, pour it over the flour slowly.
This will essential ‘scald’ the flour, leading to gelatinization that’ll lead to a chewier, softer loaf overall. Of course just don’t forget to let it cool off for at least four to five hours otherwise the heat will kill off any yeast you use!
3 – Pullman’s Tin
A Pullman’s tin for sandwich bread is as essential as owning a solid pizza stone if you’re a pizza aficionado. With its sturdy metallic design and rectangular shape, any piece of dough thrown in between its cold metal walls will come out perfectly square and soft.
The beauty of using a Pullman’s is simple: they ensure consistency in terms of size and through the alchemy of contained heat, constrained expansion, and ingenious engineering, they will produce loaves that have remarkably soft crusts. The tin was invented specifically, after all, to do away with hard crusts!
Using a Pullman’s tin does require you to be mindful of a few extra steps though. Firstly, before placing any dough inside, you absolutely must lubricate the tin with oil or something similar like shortening.
Skipping this step will cause your loaf to stick onto the metal walls and will cause nasty tears on your otherwise perfect sandwich bread. Second, ensure that the tin never reaches more than 50% capacity before baking.
You have to leave a little space to ensure your loaf gets that sweet oven spring – skipping this step will almost certainly produce an unappetizingly dense loaf that might even seep out of the tin, causing a huge mess in your oven.
Finally, once everyone is done and baked, simply wash the tin with warm water. Much like a cast iron pan, it improves with age as the oil forms layer upon layer of delectable goodness. Using something harsh like soap paired with a metal scrub will only serve to remove all this.
4 – Brushing
Sitting as probably the simplest and most affordable method on our guide, all you need for method this is a suitable pastry brush, milk, and some melted butter. Honestly, you can even substitute a brush with your bare fingers. Just don’t forget to be extra gentle when handling your dough though.
When it comes to brushing, we suggest you use milk just before the bake and after the final proofing. Not only will this lead to a much softer crumb and crust, but it’ll also impart a lovely golden brown color on your loaf that’ll catch the hungry gaze or any passerby.
After it’s finished baking, remove your loaf from the tin and get ready to glaze it with some melted butter. Upon first stroke you’ll immediately notice how your loaf will thirstily soak up the butter like water on hot sand. Keep doing this and soon you’ll have a loaf that’s as soft as the stuff you’ll find in your local bakery!
Now what this does is provide much needed moisture to your loaf. This prevents things from turning dry and crinkly and instead, moisture (and by extension, softness) is accordingly retained.
Don’t forget about timing your brushes though. Only brush your loaf either before or after it finishes baking. Brushing it mid-bake will require you to open your oven which’ll let out huge amounts of heat which will negatively impact your loaf’s baking process.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can I use the above methods on any type of bread beyond sandwich bread?
Unfortunately, in our personal experience, the answer to this commonly asked question is no. If you’re the type of eater who fancies pillow-like soft crust on your bread, you should probably steer clear of the more ‘traditional’ of breads.
We’re talking about things like baguettes and ciabattas. While you can technically try the above methods on these types of traditional breads, you’ll almost certainly end up ruining them. What we mean is that in these types of breads, a hard crust is essentially the focal point of the entire thing!
Conversely, for breads that are known more for their softness and richness like challahs, brioches, and even pumpernickels, feel free to knock yourself out.
Are Pullman’s tins expensive?
A good Pullman’s tin is worth its weight in gold. With that said, they can be quite expensive, but this is often for good reason. A Pullman’s tin is essentially akin to a cast iron pan: they get better with age.
With proper love and care, you can expect your tin to last for decades on end so yes, they are certainly expensive, but you should really think of them as a long term investment in your baking adventures.