The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


MommaT's picture

I'm lame with my new lame - Help!

January 2, 2009 - 9:35am -- MommaT


I received a wonderful new lame this December and just can't figure out how to use it.  

I have tried to follow the directions in Hamelmann's "Bread", but even with this guidance, it seems I can't get a nice cut - more like a drag through the dough.

Is this a problem with my dough?  Or my technique?  (possibly both)

ANy help is greatly appreciated!  I'm about to go back to my serrated knife for slashing and I know that's not for the best.  :-)



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?


ejm's picture

seed and grain bread

Our multigrain bread recipe has a fair amount of rye flour in it. I still haven't found reasonably priced rye flour so decided to replace the rye flour with wheat flour and some corn flour. This is the great thing about bread recipes. They are pretty forgiving and substitutions can be made fairly easily.

The dough was somewhat slacker than it is when it's made with rye flour. But it still rose well. Ha. Almost a little too well.

After mixing it, I left it to rest for about an hour rather than the 20 minutes I thought I was going to leave it. It had risen considerably and only required about 5 minutes of kneading instead of the 10 to 15 I would have given it.

I did manage to shape it in time though. It was just starting to approach the top of the rising bowl - pretty much perfect amount of rising. Okay, maybe a little bit over-risen....

Too bad I saw dmsnyder's post entitled The effect of scoring on loaf shape AFTER the bread was already in the oven!

I almost didn't score it at all - it was on the verge of being over-risen (cough). I was going to score it crosswise but then decided I like the look of the length-wise score. However, if I'd known it would cause the bread to flatten, I would have gone with the crosswise slash - or herring bone. Next time....

Still, in spite of being allowed to overproof, the bread turned out beautifully! It was so pleasing that we decided to use it as cinnamon toast for dessert (after wonderful chicken and vegetable soup made from the carcass of our Thanksgiving roast chicken). When we sliced into it, the aroma was fabulous. I will definitely be making this variation again.

seed and grain bread
ehanner's picture

Bakery slashing

October 8, 2008 - 2:39pm -- ehanner

My daughter recently moved into a near suburb on Milwaukee's South side which is known for great Italian and Serbian foods. Now that I think about it, it's a pretty well rounded area with many ethnic restaurants. I was happy to find a neighborhood bakery just down the street that had 'European Bakery' on the sign. Today I had a little time so I stopped in.


Subscribe to RSS - slashing