The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Lesson Five, Number 4: Scoring

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Lesson Five, Number 4: Scoring

Scoring is another thing I am loath to give advice on, because I'm stink at it. But I have learned quite a bit this year, so I'll share what I do know.

One thing I have found it is helps to have a decent tool. I made a lame out of a coffee stirring stick from Starbucks and a double-edged razor blade.

lame

Although on a baked loaf it often looks like one would score across the loaf, in fact the lines one carves nearly run straight down the length of the loaf.

scored loaf

When the loaf is baked, the scores "blossom" and spread across the loaf.

A few other things are worth noting. Notice how one does not carve straight down into the loaf. If you like the look of a grin on your loaf, carve in at an angle, somewhere between 30 and 60 degrees from the vertical.

Also notice the depth of the cuts. I find I am happiest when I carve at least a half an inch into the loaf. On larger loaves I even go deeper. Under-scoring, by just breaking the skin of the loaf, like this:

under scoring

Results in a less attractive final loaves.

under scored baked

Notice that I also got the angles wrong and cut too much across rather than down the loaf. Live and learn!

Next tip: Number 3: Bake with High Heat.

Comments

JohnnyX's picture
JohnnyX

When I score my bread, the razorblade always seems to get stuck or drag in the dough. Any suggestions on how to combat this?
~JohnnyX

Floydm's picture
Floydm

(Looks around)

Me? Ha ha... no.

I've gotten better. If you take a look at one of my loaves from a year ago...

Ouch. I really would drag the blade and make a mess of the loaf. And that wasn't even a slack dough, which is much harder to score.

Books often say to score with a quick stroke, but I've found I make less of a mess of it when I take my time and slice gingerly. I also go back over my cuts a few times, which I think is a no-no but it has given me the best results.

Perhaps someone else who reads this will be better qualified and can give us both some tips.

mzublin's picture
mzublin

Does anyone know where to buy these "double edge razor blade" besides on line?  Thanks,

 Mzublin

djriccobene's picture
djriccobene

I think I can help you.

I dealt with this problem for years and finally happened on a solution.

I cold-proof my dough overnight in the refrigerator. I don't put any oil over it to protect the skin,

nor do I cover it. I want the skin to become dry. Dry skin is what helps you make a great cut.

That, and a sharp lame. You can order them online at kingarthurflour.com 

I do find that quick strokes work best for me.

 

Hope these tips help.

 

 

Willard Onellion's picture
Willard Onellion

Make swift slashes.
Wet the blade in water between slices.

ryan's picture
ryan

I like to use a new serrated knife quickly and lightly. I find the razor hard to use on doughs with less than perfect surface tension.

Happy Baking

Ryan Beck

caryn's picture
caryn

OK- over the weekend I tried to make the homemade lame as you did, Floydm, but from my advice I might say, "Don't try this at home!" 

I could not figure out how to thread the Starbucks's stick into the razor blade without cutting myself!!  It was just a tiny cut, but scared me from trying it again.  Any suggestions, anybody?

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

I use a design that is similar to Floyd's ... instead of the Starbucks stick I took a small, square stainless steel bar. In combination with a $5 set (10 pcs) of Walgreens double edge razor blades the bar turns into a self-locking device that make the installation of the razor blade easy and safe. It can be done completely without effort in a matter of a second and the blade can be removed for safe storage if you prefer. The blade can be positioned even on the very end of the bar and won't come off - the cutting motion will actually lock the blade on the bar.

This lame is way (way!) superior to the Matfer one I bought and gives you a lightweight and very sturdy handle - resulting in an assertive cut on the loaf.

On a straight bar your blade has a curved shape ... I am currently working on a curved bar the gives a straight cutting edge (depending on what and how you want to score)

BROTKUNST

caryn's picture
caryn

Thank you, Brotkunst for your quick reply.  I don't know where I would get a metal bar like you have, but maybe I should buy the one they sell here: www.sfbi.com/baking_supplies.html San Franciso Baking Institute. It looks like that one is curved yielding a straight edge, I think.

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

Yes, Caryn ... that comes very close (looks like steel) and I think their price is fair. Also their prices for the other items are very competitive and I am glad that you posted that link - Thank You. I like the fact that the profits go to a good cause.

 

BROTKUNST 

2brownbraids's picture
2brownbraids

2brownbraids/ Vancouver, BC

thank you for the link, I have been looking for a good lame for the longest time. 

cogito45's picture
cogito45

I use a japanese chopping knife which has a six inch blade with almost no curve to it.  The secret is sharp, which these knives lend themselves to.  I never let the blade touch anything but food and the board, and I sharpen it regularly.  An added bonus is easy vegetable chopping.  You are more likely to cut yourself with a duller blade.

geno4952's picture
geno4952

Ace hardware has those Auto Load Snap Knives for about $4.00. They work fine for me. You can get then with blades of different sizes from very small to quite large. When a blade gets dull you just snap it off and you have a new sharp one.


http://www.acehardware.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3544867&cp=2568450.2629220.2629225


Geno

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

I'm with Ryan. I have tried sharp knives of different sizes and even a trimmer with a razor-sharp blade, but by far the easiest scoring tool to use in my experience is the humble serrated knife. I was given this tip by a pro baker, and it works!

RuthieG's picture
RuthieG

I was given some razor blades that my husband's father used when he was a barber.  They are about 2 inches long and are not double edged, they have a rounded edge on the other side.They do a beautiful job.  They are called Personna Hair Shaper Blades and made of stainless steel...


 


 

BarcaC's picture
BarcaC

I wished I had seen your post before writing mine. My husband also received some barber supplies and tools from his dad. Among the items were several new boxes of surgical stainless steel blades manufactured by PERSONNA for shaving and hair shaping. I'm in agreement with you, they do a beautiful job scoring dough! I've been using the same one for a year and I bake every day. A box of 5 blades can be purchased online or at most beauty supply stores for just a few dollars.

BarcaC's picture
BarcaC

My husband inherited some barber tools from his dad many years ago. Among the items were several beautifully crafted (whale bone, ivory and tortoise shell) straight razor handles for shaving and hair shaping. The handles are used with surgical stainless steel blades which are extremely sharp and (best part) will not rust or twist like some flimsy double edge razor blades. Manufactured by PERSONNA, the blades are readily available online or at any beauty supply store. These long, single edged blades are so well constructed they can be used to score bread dough even without the straight razor handle. I've been using the same blade to score bread every day for a year now and it is still extremely sharp... no tearing of delicate dough! A package of 5 blades is about $3.00 and can be seen here: http://www.purtlesupply.com/personna-hair-shaper-razor-blades-carton-1.html

rksmall's picture
rksmall
sixthavexp's picture
sixthavexp

I have this knife and it dulls really quickly.  I would whip out these razor blades I have but they are industrial and have machine oil on them.  I'm going to try the serrated knife tonight.

thihal123's picture
thihal123

Wouldn't an X-acto knife work? They're sharp, though not as flexible as a razor blade, I think.

handymanchef's picture
handymanchef

Hi everyone, this is my first comment.

Even though I am British, I have lived in Central Brittany for 9 years and played about with making bread for some time.  However, over the last month or so, I have got really serious about making some proper artisan breads.

I too have had problems scoring my breads before them going into the oven.  Every single blade I possessed would rag the bread, sometimes to the point of it slightly deflating - bad news.  I have recently used a double-sided razorblade and covered one side up with some card, which seems to work OK.  I have just ordered a surgical scalpel handle and some curved scalpel blades and I will see if this works any better.

However, having seen the 'French lame' which they have for sale on the KA site, I might see if I can get one of those, although it might be difficult getting them to send it to France.  I am also going to ask in our artisan boulangeries, which we have many of, what they use and, if it's possible, to get one from them.

I will let you know. Happy baking!  handymanchef

PeterS's picture
PeterS

Try wetting the blade before you score.