Achieving Bread Perfection: Solving the Dilemma of Tough Crusts and Underbaked Centers

There’s nothing quite as disappointing as eagerly slicing into a loaf of freshly baked bread only to discover a tough, crunchy crust while the center remains underbaked. Fear not, bread lovers, for we are here to guide you through this baking conundrum and help you achieve bread perfection. In this article, we’ll explore the possible causes of this problem and offer practical solutions to ensure that your future loaves are baked evenly and perfectly. So roll up your sleeves, preheat your oven, and let’s rescue your bread from its crusty but underdone state!

Understand the challenge

When faced with bread that has a tough crust but is underbaked in the middle, it’s important to consider the science behind baking bread. The crust forms due to the Maillard reaction, which occurs when heat interacts with the sugars and proteins on the surface of the bread. Meanwhile, the interior of the bread needs sufficient time and heat to cook through and achieve the desired light and fluffy texture.

Possible causes and solutions

Oven temperature and timing:

Inadequate oven temperature or baking time can be major culprits. If your bread’s crust is browning too quickly while the center remains underbaked, consider adjusting your oven temperature and baking time. Lowering the temperature slightly and increasing the baking time will allow the heat to penetrate more evenly, promoting thorough baking from crust to core.

Oven rack placement:

The position of your bread on the rack can also affect doneness. Placing the bread too close to the top of the oven can result in excessive browning and a tough crust. To counteract this, move the rack to a lower position in the oven so that the heat is distributed more evenly and the crust does not become too crispy before the center is fully cooked.

Internal temperature:

Using an instant-read thermometer to measure the internal temperature of bread is a foolproof way to determine doneness. For most breads, a temperature of around 190-200°C (375-400°F) indicates thorough baking. If the crust is getting too dark but the center hasn’t reached the desired temperature, you can loosely cover the loaf with aluminum foil to prevent further browning while the interior finishes baking.

Shape and size:

The shape and size of your bread can also affect how it bakes. If the loaf is too large or thick, it may take longer for heat to reach the center, resulting in an underbaked interior. Consider dividing the dough into smaller portions or shaping it into a flatter shape, such as a baguette or ciabatta, to promote more even baking throughout.

Resting time:

Allowing bread to rest and cool properly after baking is critical. While it may be tempting to cut into a freshly baked loaf, premature slicing can trap moisture and result in a gummy, underbaked center. Patience is key! Allow the bread to cool completely on a wire rack before enjoying its delicious texture and flavor.

What other factors can affect the crust and texture of bread?

In addition to the factors mentioned in the previous answer, there are a few other elements that can affect the crust and texture of bread. Let’s explore them:

  1. Dough hydration: The amount of water or liquid in the dough, known as dough hydration, plays a significant role in bread texture. Higher hydration levels tend to result in a more open and airy crumb, while lower hydration levels can result in a denser texture. Adjusting the hydration of your dough can affect the final crust and interior texture of the bread.
  2. Steam: Steam during the early stages of baking is critical to achieving a desirable crust. It helps keep the surface of the dough moist, allowing the bread to expand and develop a crisp crust while the interior bakes. Using steam in the oven can be accomplished in several ways, including placing a tray of water in the oven or using a spray bottle to mist the dough before baking.
  3. Flour type: Different types of flour have different levels of protein, which affects the development of gluten and therefore the texture of the bread. Bread flour, with its higher protein content, produces more gluten, resulting in a more chewy texture. All-purpose flour can produce a slightly softer texture, while whole-wheat flour produces a heartier, denser crumb. Experimenting with different flours can yield different results.
  4. Yeast and fermentation: The type and amount of yeast used, as well as the fermentation process, can affect bread texture. Longer fermentation times allow for better flavor development and gluten formation, resulting in a more open and tender crumb. Proper proofing of the dough ensures that the yeast has enough time to work, resulting in a well-risen and evenly textured bread.
  5. Baking Surface: The surface on which bread is baked can affect crust development. Baking bread directly on a stone or preheated baking sheet helps to evenly transfer heat to the dough, which promotes better crust formation. On the other hand, baking in a loaf pan can result in a more tender crust due to the enclosed environment.
  6. Additives and enhancers: The addition of ingredients such as fats (like butter or oil), sugar, eggs, or milk can affect the crust and texture of bread. Fats can contribute to a softer crust and more tender crumb, while sugar can improve browning and moisture retention. Experimenting with these ingredients allows for customization and the creation of different bread textures.

By considering these additional factors and making adjustments, you can further fine-tune the crust and texture of your bread to achieve the desired result. Remember, baking bread is a wonderful blend of science and art, so don’t hesitate to explore, experiment, and discover your own unique bread creations.


With the proper adjustments in oven temperature, baking time, rack placement, and shaping techniques, you can eliminate the problems of tough crusts and underbaked centers from your bread-making endeavors. Remember, baking is an art that takes some experimentation and practice to master. So don’t be discouraged by a few missteps along the way. Embrace the challenge, implement the suggested solutions, and soon you’ll be enjoying perfectly baked loaves with a crust that’s just right and a center that’s wonderfully tender. Happy Baking!


Bread has tough, crunchy crust but is underbaked in the middle – how to fix?

To fix bread with a tough, crispy crust but an underbaked center, there are a few steps you can take. First, adjust the oven temperature and baking time. Lower the temperature slightly and increase the baking time to promote even baking throughout the loaf. Also, consider placing the bread on a lower rack to prevent excessive browning of the crust. Checking the bread’s internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer can help ensure it’s fully baked. In addition, proper shaping, size, and post-baking resting time are critical. Experimenting with dough hydration and incorporating steam during baking can also help achieve the desired crust and texture.

Why does my bread sometimes have a tough crust but is underbaked in the middle?

There are several possible reasons for this problem. Insufficient oven temperature or incorrect baking time can be factors. Placing the bread too close to the top of the oven can also cause excessive browning of the crust while leaving the center underbaked. In addition, the size and shape of the loaf, dough hydration, yeast activity, and even the type of flour used can contribute to uneven baking.

How do I fix bread with a tough crust and underbaked center?

To fix this problem, try adjusting the oven temperature and baking time. Lower the temperature slightly and increase the baking time for more even baking. Placing the bread on a lower rack may also help prevent excessive browning of the crust. Checking the internal temperature of the bread with an instant-read thermometer can ensure thorough baking. Proper loaf shape and size, as well as adequate post-baking resting time, are also important factors to consider. Finally, experimenting with dough hydration and incorporating steam during baking can help achieve the desired crust and texture.