Tips & Techniques

A Crunchy Topping That Will Improve Your Next Loaf of Bread

May 18, 2016

It was when I was doing a bit of research into the category of breads-named-after-animals that I came across another giraffe bread: tijgerbrood or tijgerbol (if you're in the Netherlands) a.k.a tiger bread a.k.a. Dutch Crunch.

(Things are confusing when it comes to giraffes and tigers: Sainsbury's supermarket in the U.K. renamed their tiger bread giraffe bread back in 2012. To which I say: Sure, it doesn't look like a tiger, but can we choose another animal, like a tortoise. Stateside, Wegman's sells a version called, somewhat mysteriously, "Marco Polo" bread.)

That characteristic split-spotted top, which looks like the cracked ground of a desert (petition to rename the bread Desert Crunch, please?) is made by painting bread dough with a thick coating of rice flour, yeast, water, and sugar right before it goes into the oven. As the dough rises, the topping shatters into a crisp top with fissures of doughy softness.

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If you live outside the San Francisco Bay Area, you may not be familiar with Dutch Crunch: When I told my coworkers at Food52 what I was making, most gave me blank stares. And if you have heard (or better, eaten) the bread, you might be unaware of its origins, which are, indeed, somewhat cloudy.

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Top Comment:
“I didn't see them at all when I lived in Seattle or Southern Indiana, but Dutch Crunch is definitely part of the "Hot Ham and Rolls" repertoire on Sundays here in Milwaukee. I still love picking off the top crunchy bits first. ”
— SpinachInquisition

Carey Jones reported over at Serious Eats that some trace the bread—"virtually unknown outside of the Bay Area"—back to 1909, at Galli's Sanitary Bakery (others say it was introduced to the U.S. as late as the 1960s and 70s). The history of the bread in the Netherlands is also uncertain: "Some speculate that Dutch traders were inspired by their trips to Southeast Asia explaining the use of rice flour," according to American Food Roots, but "others suggest that the bread has only been sold in the Netherlands since the 1970s, simply because there is little concrete evidence of any earlier existence."

Tiger bread #bread #baking #tigerbread

A photo posted by Emma's Dillemma (@emmasdillemma) on

I was most intrigued by the suggestion on the website of Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, that "pretty much any dough will work." Dutch Crunch "can be added to any type of bread," American Food Roots reiterates, "but it typically tops soft, slightly sweet French rolls, creating an intriguing contrast in taste and texture."

So I tried to Dutch Crunch-ify some challah. I made Joan Nathan's recipe. Once I had shaped the two loaves, I mixed together:

  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup rice flour

I let this mixture puff and bubble as the loaves rose. Once the challot were oven-ready, I painted one with the beige mixture and put them in the oven.

Looks strange—are you skeptical?

Sure enough, the rice flour paste cracked and split in the oven, creating a delicious crispy top. Both loaves were very good, but hands eagerly grabbed at that crackly topping.

If there's any way to improve an excellent challah (or brioche or sandwich bread) recipe, Dutch Crunch is it! Do be forewarned, however, that your beautiful braid will be overtaken. (It's worth it, I say.)

Dutch Crunch transformed the loaf on the left from a challah into something much cracklier-looking. Photo by Linda Xiao

And think of how you can play! Many Dutch Crunch toppings include sesame oil, which will give the topping—otherwise pretty tasteless, though with a slight floury-bitter edge from the rice flour—a flavor and fragrance. I imagine you could experiment with adding cocoa powder, or matcha, or almond extract.

Someone please make a chocolate loaf with a matcha crackle—I promise you'll get a million likes on Instagram!

What loaf should we Dutch Crunch-ify next? Share your ideas in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Deborah,Cummings
  • watercupcake
  • Donna Hayes
    Donna Hayes
  • Samantha
  • giuia.grady
I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


Deborah,Cummings March 3, 2021
I was tell a friend about ‘Marco polo rolls’ that Wegman’s grocery stores used to have in their bakery. I went searching for a recipe and found this! So excited! They used to have bagels too with this topping! May need to try that !
watercupcake June 7, 2018
Remember this from a local bakery in Chicago in the 50s and 60s. Loved this on their hamburger buns too!
Donna H. August 26, 2017
Yup, sure is, Loblaws sells it, has for years. In Alberta, anyway!
Samantha March 21, 2017
Uh, Dutch crunch bread is eaten all over Canada. Like as in every grocery store chain even bakes their own version kinda thing. I buy it all the time. I'm from Vancouver. It is not "virtually unknown outside the Bay Area"
giuia.grady October 14, 2016
Oh how I miss dutch crunch bread in the Bay Area - bakeries, delis, supermarkets. They were everywhere. I found such a similar recipe years ago and it's delicious. I can't wait to try this with any bread.
Annerieke W. May 26, 2016
Yes! My favourite growning up - we used to be allowed white bread only on saturdays and we always opted for the white tiger bread! All Dutch bakeries have them and the bread used to be very very fluffy with a crackly crust. The best!
Derek May 22, 2016
..Yes here in San Fran. even the local Safeway bakery makes them..don't remember them growing up on Long Island (does the Dugans truck still deliver fresh made baked goods? or is it long gone?)
Interesting on a challah...but obviously the most difficult step for me..(the braiding!) could be avoided and a loaf formed instead..with the extra crunch..thanks for this!
These were common in most local German bakeries (Long Island) growing up in the 70s (dating myself here) - they were called "rice rolls". I didn't see them at all when I lived in Seattle or Southern Indiana, but Dutch Crunch is definitely part of the "Hot Ham and Rolls" repertoire on Sundays here in Milwaukee. I still love picking off the top crunchy bits first.
MargaretB May 19, 2016
Interesting notes on the Bay Area connection-- I grew up in Wisconsin and remember Pick 'n' Save markets carrying Dutch crunch rolls in the bakery-- they were a treat to get when accompanying my mom on shopping trips. Have not found them in the Boston area, so it's great to have a recipe!
Christina C. May 19, 2016
Wegman's calls it Marco Polo bread because of the combination of the Southeast Asian style rice flour topping to the Western style bread, similar to the theory about the Dutch above. That's all.
Ellie B. May 19, 2016
If dutch crunch is pretty much like what I LOVE about most asian (taiwanese, hong kong style, etc.) breads like at 85 Degrees, then I'm so grateful for this post! It looks perfect and something I've struggled to find a method/recipe for.
mrslarkin May 18, 2016
Sarah J. May 18, 2016
Please share your results!! WOW!
Ellie B. May 19, 2016
that just sounds.....out of this world!!!! and scone is already out of this world, so.... ^_^
Nornee May 18, 2016
When I was a child in the 60's on Long Island, NY, we would go to the Tulip Bakery in Floral Park after church on Sundays. One of our favorites was the rice roll, which had Dutch crunch on top. I'm not sure if that's what they called them, or just what we called them (I was a little kid!).
HalfPint May 18, 2016
I'm in the SF Bay Area and yes, Dutch Crunch rocks, though I never thought to apply to any other bread than a sweet French roll. Too bad it's starting to heat up here or this would be a weekend project.
Carmen L. May 18, 2016
Ohhhhh yes! I knew it rang a bell...I saw this everywhere in SF