a friend tried baking bread recently and found that the crust of her bread always come out a bit too chewy. it's like biting leather!
i then realized she was using a regular pan like those you use for baking cakes.
well, if you desire a softer top crust, apparently you need to give it some "moisture" during the first few instances of baking. err, not quite like this...
what you want to ensure is when the bread initially starts baking, you want to have some moisture in the oven. i guess this way come at the end of baking time, the top won't lose too much moisture.
some folks put a pan of hot water to create steam during baking. not only is this arduous, i'm not quite sure i want to handle hot water when i'm opening the oven door.
a better solution will be to use something like a "dutch oven" where you bake the bread inside a covered pot, then remove the lid almost at the end of baking time.
better still and the one i uses all the time, is to use a lidded bread loaf pan like the above. keep the lid on for more than 2/3 of baking time and remove the lid at the remainder 1/3 of baking time.
as i usually bake at 180c for 45-minutes, i usually have the lid on and place the dough + pan into the oven for 30-35 minutes, then remove the lid for the remainder 10 minutes.
through this, i found out that if i desire a chewier crust, take out the lid earlier.
if i want an even softer crust, leave the lid on longer.
quite easy eh?