The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


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Floydm's picture

I made Magic Squares yesterday, which the kids are happily snacking on right now.  We also made pecan-cranberry bars and shortbread cutout cookies, which the kids decorated.

Since the oven was on and we were snowed in, I also made pizzas.  We had pesto pizzas, one with shrimp and the other with chicken.

Happily I have enough dough left over for two more pizzas, so I'm excitedly waiting for lunchtime.

I'm baking a sourdough loaf to go with a pot of soup tonight, and I'm thinking of making a holiday bread, something similar to a Stollen or Clayton's Pain Allemande Aux Fruits.  I forgot to pick up marzipan, but I have plenty of dried fruits, nuts, and Amaretto, so I ought to be able to come up with something tasty.

BTW, anyone else notice that we crossed post number 10,000 here?  That is pretty exciting.  The site just grows and grows.

dmsnyder's picture

This topic is not about the auricular anatomy of elves (or Vulcans). It's about scoring breads.

Scoring loaves creates a visually pleasing pattern, and it helps control the expansion of the loaf as it bakes. This was discussed not long ago in this topic:

The San Francisco Sourdough breads I baked today illustrate a more "advanced" aspect of scoring that is alluded to by both Hamelman (in "Bread") and Suas (in "Advanced Bread & Pastry.")

San Francisco Sourdough Breads (from Peter Reinhart's "Crust & Crumb")

Detail of bâtard crust, with "ear," grigne" & "bloom."

So, what is the point of an ear?

What Suas called "the classic cut" is parallel to the long axis of a baguette or a bâtard. The cut is made with the blade at a shallow angle to the surface of the loaf. The cut should be shallow - about 1/4 inch deep. Paradoxically, this shallow cut results in the flap lifting better than a deeper cut would, thus forming a nice "ear." Hamelman (pg. 80) points out that "a deep cut will simply collapse from its own weight."

The angle is also important. "If the angle is not achieved and the cut is done with the blade vertical to the loaf, the two sides of the dough will spread very quickly during oven spring and expose an enormous surface area to the heat. The crust will begin to form too soon - sometimes before the end of oven spring - penalizing the development of the bread. If the cut is properly horizontal, the sides of the loaf will spread slower. The layer of dough created by the incision will partially and temporarily protect the surface from the heat and encourage a better oven spring and development." (Suas, pg. 116.) 

The second photo, above, illustrates a fairly nice "ear," but it also shows that the bloom occured slowly, as it should. Notice that the color of the crust in the opening has 3 distinct degrees of browning, decreasing from left to right. The darker part on the left obviously opened first and was exposed to the direct heat of the oven for longer. If the bloom occured too rapidly, it would have a more even coloration. For example, see the photo of the boule, which was slashed with the blade held at 90 degrees to the surface of the loaf:

Boule scored with the blade held vertical to the loaf surface. Note the even coloration of the bloomed crust.

In summary, in order to achieve an optimal bloom in baguettes and bâtards, one must attend to 3 variables when scoring them:

  1. The cuts should be almost parallel to the long axis of the loaf.

  2. The blade should be held at about a 30 degree angle to the surface of the loaf.

  3. The depth of the cut should be shallow - about 1/4 inch.

Variable shading of the bloomed crust confirms that the desired slow but prolonged opening of the cut during oven spring occured.

Cool, isn't it?


parousia's picture

After 1 year from the birth of our son I have returned to baking bread. The steam thing for crust and rise has never worked for me with certainty, and my wife thinks that it is a bit overly dramatic to have plumes of steam in the kitchen. So, I started to get the outer surface of the loaf really wet and every 5 min(for the first 15-20 until starts rising) remove the loaf and re-wet. All this from a cold start.

A child has been a phenomenal aid to the motivation of time management and systematic trial and error.  For those visual learners out there, I would like to share this side by side comparison below.

It seems that the loaf did not quite double. As can be seen by the rip at the upper left, it could have proofed a while longer, maybe until it showed a more pronounced clearing of the lip of the bread tin. The wetting technique allowed me to get this rise whereas before with steam I could not.

Below are 3 pictures:

  1. The first successful sourdough 65% hydration.

    1. Crust was way too thick on the sides from the baking tin(450deg and too long time)

  1. Same sided by second loaf same formula(for size and rise comparison).

    1. The first had just crested the lip of the baking tin but expanded to fill the shape of the tin.

  1. The second loaf but the horizontal consequence of over proofing.

    1. filled with sharp cheddar and cracked pepper, while a monster to look at, it is to be reckoned with next to a pot of homade chicken soup.

      Strangely the second loaf at 65% hydration, when folding, when overproofed felt more like 85% hydration at mixing.

Merry Breadmas and may this season be full of life to you and your kitchen,


loniluna's picture

Ten inches fell outside overnight, so I made this:


Fiance-approved rosemary focaccia. Pretty sure I found the recipe on here, but I can't seem to find it anywhere now.

And, as requested, a massive photo of the crumb:

I have no idea what focaccia crumb is supposed to look like, and I kind of don't care, because this was absolutely amazing warm dipped in olive oil.


nbicomputers's picture

rathar that scater this all over the board i will post all holiday bakinmg pics here and some of the formulas that were used

the picks first and i will edit in the formulas when i have time this is only the start and have many more days of baking left

please do not "reply" to any ot the posts with pictures . that wat i can go back when i have time and edit  in the formulas just add a post at the end of this blog page thanks

White pan bread YES that is my scale in the backround (i have been baking for a long time)


i should say that these are all the same wieght but the tall one was in a 6 inch pan and the others were in 7 inch pans  they did not collaps i realy neet to get more 6 inch round forms. no excuse for me not having them.

Checker board Cake

Pound cake





SylviaH's picture


                                                                                                                                                                                                              This is a recipe I made

called Steakhouse Blackbread...It is made with a combination of Rye, Whole Wheat and Bread Flour...It turned out to be a very nice dense, tender, flavorful dinner roll...I was very tempted to add some time I will as raisins would go very good with the rich flavor.


cbtb's picture

Hi Everyone:

This is my first time on this website and have a question for you all. I am a recreational baker. I bake sourdough bread every weekend and have several brotforms. Several years ago I found a beautiful brotform with a starburst design on the bottom and am looking for more designs, does anyone have any suggestions of where to find them?

proth5's picture

I am not much of a photographer and well, I am never exactly "happy" with anything I bake. I can always outline the flaws or specific things that could stand some improvement.

But  I decided to show this week's bake - come what may - and here are the results:

Batch 1: Baguettes

I emphatically do not use the Bouabsa technique.  My primary reason is best kept to myself, but to put forth some other reasons, I don't have the timeline or the space to do the cold retarding. Also, it could be (and has been) argued that by pre-fermenting a portion of the flour in the levain build, that I achieve the benefits of the retarding and that the retarded final fermentation is redundant. I do an overnight levain and then bake the things the next day.  No commercial yeast and 65% hydration.  Here's one intact and one cut in half to show the crumb:


I seem to have slipped back in technique to getting less pronounced grigne than I have in the past, but although the photo does not show it well, the slashes did show small ears.  The slashing is uneven as is the shaping and I need to buckle down and get that straightened out.  I recently got a new blade holder and I think that I need to get used to it.  I really can't fault the crumb (or the taste.) This is nothing extraordinary - this is what I get every week.  Some would bake these more "boldly" but I prefer this coloring. A tartine with house made cultured butter and a good salame - that's good eating...

Batch 2: Fougasse

Since this is the time of year that I need to render lard, I always get a lot of cracklings and it seems a shame not to use them somehow.  So this week I made a fougasse with cracklings:


This is just a standard fougasse recipe made with a levain base - 68% hydration, 10% whole wheat flour with .8 oz of cracklings for a 1 pound fougasse.

Yes, I got a thin spot on the large cut.  Darn.  Usually I have some restraint with my bread eating, but I had to tear into this one.  It had a crackly surface and a tender interior lightly flavored from the fat and studded with little bits of piggy goodness.  Very nice.

Batch 3: Home Mill

And then there is the home milled whole wheat levain loaf:

Whole Wheat Levain

This is the most variable of my breads as I contend with variations in both the milling and bread making process.  This was made with hard white wheat milled the same day as the bake. This is a fairly typical loaf although it has spread out more than I would like and I think that it would benefit from a tighter shaping.  The loaf is made at 74% hydration and the crumb tends to vary at different spots on the loaf, although from my point of view there is nothing really wrong with the crumb.  This is my lunchtime sandwich loaf and I prefer the fillings not to drop through. The taste is...delicious.

All breads were baked on a stone with steam - some water in a pan on the floor of my oven and much water sprayed with a pressure sprayer on the stone.  After reading the Suas book's section on steaming I am ever more convinced that in my dry climate and the relatively low hydrations of my doughs that just retaining the moisture by covering my baking breads would not achieve the objectives.  Due respect to the people who use this method, but with my old oven (It will be replaced only when I find "the one.") and no more effort than it takes I'm sticking with steam. Record cold yesterday in the Mile High City - I didn't mind the oven having to preheat.

So, not a bad output for a day after I have finished my seasonal cooking (and shipping) and was determined to take it easy.

Hope you-all enjoy the photos and Happy Baking!

mcs's picture

Sometimes when you find a recipe, it takes a little adjusting to make it turn out how you would like.  Sometimes after lots of adjusting, you come back to the original recipe and find out it was great how it was.  This is the latter.  If you'd like to find the recipe, and method, both Jane (janedo) and David (dmsnyder), among others, have written about it quite a bit here, and have both had much success with this recipe and variations of it.  Anyway, using that as a baseline, I'll mention the adjustments I made to the method, and/or explain the pics.  Oh, and just as a reference, i made (4) 16 oz baguettes in 24" wide pans.
-pic 1 during the first 60 minutes when it is mixed/folded 3 times, I left it in the mixing bowl for the entire period.  After the initial mix, I scraped the hook and bowl and covered them to rest for 20 minutes.  At 20 minutes, I put the hook back on and let it 'mix' for 5 seconds to allow the machine to do the folding.  I repeated this process for all 3 folds.  I was trying this in an effort to avoid adding any extra flour late 'into the game'.
-pic 2 shows the 4 baguettes after scaling and 23 hours in the fridge
-pic 3 directly after preshaping, they were placed on a canvas, seams up,  for 45 minutes and into the proofer (78 degrees, low humidity)
-pic 4 final shaping them 45 minutes later.  I shape them the same way I shape my loaves with the seam away from me.
-pic 5, 6  To experiment, I final proofed two on a canvas and two directly in the pans.  All 4 were placed in the proofer together and all 4 baked on the baguette pans at 415 for 23 minutes (convection).

-pic 7 The top two rose in the canvas, the bottom two in the pan.  It's hard to tell from the picture, but the bottom two are slightly wider with flatter bottoms, the top two look a little more 'uncontrolled'.  Probably could've used a longer final proof to mellow them out a little more.



Anyways, the flavor is great with these baguettes and they have replaced my previous recipe as 'The Back Home Bakery' baguette.  Thanks to Anis, Jane, and David for making this possible.


Pre Shaping and Final Shaping


Eli's picture

Levain Honey Oatmeal Loaf

Great toasting and breakfast bread. Very tender and soft. Converted this from a commercial yeast recipe I have been making.

Honey Oatmeal Loaf


Breakfast of Champions!

Second Loaf got much better rise, however I should try a larger pan. These are perfect gift size.Honey Oat Loaf Levain



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