My kids love fresh bread. Specifically, the love eating the warm, soft middle and then handing me the harder, darker crust. This systems actually works pretty well for us as I think the crust is where the flavor is at. But what if I could get the simplicity of a no knead loaf with a softer crust that still had some appealing flavor but would meet with my kid’s approval? Challenge accepted.
How to soften the crust?
Add some olive oil to the dough. Fats work as tenderizers in breads by coating some of the proteins and inhibiting some of the strands from linking up and forming gluten. Don’t add too much, though, you definitely need some gluten or it won’t hold it’s shape and rise.
What about honey?
Adding honey to bread dough can to multiple things. First, like olive oil, it coats the proteins and can help hold in moisture. Added moisture can keep the crumb and crust a little more tender.
It can obviously add sweetness but can also provide some natural darker coloring and browning, leading to a nice finished product but still a slightly softer crust than traditional no knead, no add-ins bread.
The high acidity of honey (avg. pH 3.91) helps inhibit mold growth in bread which can extend its storage time for a few days.
For this recipe, I went with a hearth loaf baked in a cast iron (4 qt) Dutch oven. Despite the wetness of the dough, the crumb remained pretty dense but with two cups of whole wheat, I was pretty happy with the rise. It looked dense but definitely didn’t taste dense. The crust was distinct but much softer than a more traditional no knead without any fat add-ins.
The soft dense texture would make this ideal for baking as a traditional sandwich loaf. It makes great morning toast and works equally well sopping up soup or stews for dinner. Though I do miss the extra crusts that used to come my way.