Paul Merry

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    The crust is the repository of some special flavours. So, the crust is, of course, the shell of the bread, so it has a purpose that it protects the bread, but it is also the repository of special flavours because in the late phase of the oven there’s a combination of things that happen on the surface of the bread. And heat, again chemistry, and it’s known in science as the Maillard reaction, but what’s happening is that amino acids and starch are gelling on the surface of the bread. And then, in the intense heat of the oven, special things happen, and the brown, rich caramel colours of the crust form, but they also get spiked with a great range of flavours when this is happening. So, crust is special. And when you’ve fermented less successfully, less skilfully, the good-looking crust will not occur. When you’ve overfermented and the yeast has been left working too long in the dough, it robs the dough of the surplus sugars, which would form good crust, so then you get boring and pale crust. So, at a glance, the appearance of the bread will often tell what’s happened during the whole fermentation journey. So, you could be disheartened and displeased with the bread when it comes out pale and without a good crust. Sometimes with a cracking-up crust, or a surface that’s breaking up and pale — things like that — you’ve had a bad day.