I make bread almost every day. I put it in for final fridge-proving overnight and get up early (with the oven on a timer so it is up to temperature by the time I get up and a baking tray in the oven so that the raw dough goes onto a hot tray) to bake it.
I know. How lucky is everyone in my house.
There are many great things about baking your own bread but you can also custom-bake the crust so it suits you/what you’re going to use the bread for.
I usually bake sourdough bread at 220C for thirty minutes. This is how I’ve been doing it for years and it affords time for the bread to bake, and cool, in time for making sandwiches for packed lunches. And the first packed lunch leaves the house at 7.30am so you can perhaps work backwards and work out how early I get up.
(No-one makes me. I like to get up early and as the bread bakes I tidy up and get ready for the day.)
The crust on a 30 min loaf is quite thin, golden brown, it wouldn’t stop the room at a party but it’s good for anyone who can’t, or doesn’t like, very crusty bread.
But lately I’ve been craving really thick, dark, chewy crusts. To do this you need to bake for about 45 mins minimum but the longer you go the thicker the crust.
Of course if your oven is too hot it will also be too burned so you need to play with the temperature. However, what works for me is this:
250C ten minutes
220C twenty minutes
down to 200C for another ten if it’s looking too burnt, if not keep it at 220 for another ten minutes.
Yes I know this is 40 mins but timings are really tight in the morning which is why I blast it with a 250C heat to begin with.
My shelf is on middle and my oven is on normal oven (not fan) setting
The crust is amazing. I love it with butter and apricot jam.
I also stick an ice cube on a tray under the bread to allow for maximum oven spring (rising). Nothing beats the bread when it’s first baked – but cooled as I hate hot bread – and I will fight anyone for the crust-end, or ‘il culo’ (the bottom) as we say in Italian.