The Fresh Loaf

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Scoring woes... whussup wi'dat?

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tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

Scoring woes... whussup wi'dat?

Hey All,


 


  I seem to be having trouble with scoring loaves lately... I usually use a razor blade, but it's not working so well.  Even with a new blade, the slicing action kind of 'grabs' the dough rather than slicing cleanly through it.  The weather's been warm lately, so maybe my dough has risen more prior to slicing and that changed it, or maybe the skin of the dough is different in these conditions ...even though I cover dough with a damp towel and plastic while raising.


  So what's the secret for producing clean slices when scoring the dough?  Do it before it's risen all the way?  Spritz the dough with water first?  Grease the razor blade?  Powder the dough with flour?  Fold the dough into itself more effectively and add more tension to the surface?  Don't use a razor blade?  What?  Just thought I'd ask the experts around here and see what they would say... The bread's turning out great, but my dough forming and scoring techniques leave something to be desired!


Thanks,


Brian


 

flournwater's picture
flournwater

I am no expert.  I've only been caught in the vortex of bread making for about six months, but I have come to prefer using a serrated knife blade for scoring.  I have tried the razor blade technique; it works quite well.  But nothing I've tried has done a better job than a serrate bladed knife.


http://www.amazon.com/Henckels-3-Inch-Serrated-Paring-Knife/dp/B0001XAJ52/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1247434929&sr=8-7



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Cooking202's picture
Cooking202

that scoring is about half-past-beautiful.  With some practice perhaps there's hope for me yet.  Thanks for posting.


Carol

Pablo's picture
Pablo

Hi Brian,


I just wanted to be sympathetic.  I'm in the same boat.  Sometimes it goes great and sometimes... well... not so great.  I use a double edged razor blade on a lame.  I like it. 


:-Paul

proth5's picture
proth5

And I can only give you the words from "my teacher":


"Mental mise en place."


That, and many people find that wetting (not whetting) the razor blade helps.  I never do it, but some folks say it helps.  I also find that sometime I get jagged edges if I catch the back of the blade on the dough.


Of course there are the other words of wisdom from "my teacher":


"Everything must be perfect"


So, do not discount that the warm weather has made some subtle changes in your dough or your shaping.  Good tension on the surface is certainly helpful in getting clean scoring.


Sorry to be cryptic... Hope this helps.

Ambimom's picture
Ambimom

Using razor blades scares me; knives don't work for me, but kitchen shears work every time.  Of course I'm not into fancy cuts...just a line across the top.  My bread is for eating, not admiring; though I do admire them anyway.

Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

Don't score before it's risen completely.. that will destroy the surface tension, and your scores will split wide open... 2 things that you definitely don't want.


Greasing the blade can help. Oils, veg, canola, olive, all work there. Dip or apply with a paper towel. You can also use cooking spray applied to a paper towel, then wipe the blade. Lightly misting the tops of the loaves can soften the dough a little, if the warmer weather has caused the crust to start developing (even slightly).


Know how you're going to score, take a breath, and do it quickly and fluidly. When you start ripping a few loaves, you might start a mental process of over compensating, that's normal. Try to relax and find the right rhythm. It's better to make the initial pass a bit shallow, and then if necessary you can go over an area here or there that needs touching up. Once you find your rhythm and you're on the right path again, you can try scoring a little deeper to get it all in one pass. Practice = )


- Keith

xaipete's picture
xaipete

Some rye breads need to be scored before proofing because if you scored them just before putting them into the oven, they would deflate.


--Pamela

Davo's picture
Davo

I've made rye bread up to about 60% and scored as normal and it's worked. Weird stuff though which you don't really knead.


With 100% rye sourdough I've made it with - as I've always seen - no scoring. It just cracks itself. I've seen others do this with 70% rye and it cracks it's own nice pattern. I think it's because there's not much gluten to keep some bits tense while others give way at a first weak spot and all the give is at that point - which leads to turtle-heads and such with higher proprtion wheat breads.

xaipete's picture
xaipete

Yes, I agree that ryes are a little weird. I was thinking about Leader's little blue loaves that I made earlier this year. They were scored as soon as I put them in the pan. That rye dough seemed very delicate as I worked with it.


--Pamela

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

Ok, well it sounds like I'm not going crazy.  My forming techniques have gone to pot lately too... the dough really seems to wind up quick and not want to fold again.  Seems odd to have to wait 10 minutes between each move... Or maybe my gluten development is better, or the warmer weather did something there too?  80 F to 91 F ...pretty warm for Fairbanks, Alaska.  Hmmm, I might try a fillet knife.  Part of the problem might be the holding of the razer blade in my hand rather than finding a wood stir stick to insert into it to make a lame... I'll keep trying.


Brian

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

Ok, well it sounds like I'm not going crazy.  My forming techniques have gone to pot lately too... the dough really seems to wind up quick and not want to fold again.  Seems odd to have to wait 10 minutes between each move... Or maybe my gluten development is better, or the warmer weather did something there too?  80 F to 91 F ...pretty warm for Fairbanks, Alaska.  Hmmm, I might try a fillet knife.  Part of the problem might be the holding of the razer blade in my hand rather than finding a wood stir stick to insert into it to make a lame... I'll keep trying.


Brian

Davo's picture
Davo

If the dough is "binding up" and won't fold, just try a higher hydration. If I can't do repeated french folds, I reckon my dough it too dry. It (for mine) should be pretty wet and soft when first mixed. Don't worry - it comes together and "cleans up" with a few short folding kneads at 10 min intervals. You bread will be airier if it's softer, too - just hink how much easier the balloons are for those bugs to blow up...

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

I've been experimenting with hydrations around 65% plus or minus, and I did make a Reinhart (his first french bread in Crust & Crumb) recipe/formula this weekend ...I allowed the hydration to be just a little higher than usual this time, and it really changed things.  Normally, the dough is sticky/gloppy/messy and it comes together after a couple of french folds, then after the bulk ferment, 99% of the stickiness is gone and the dough is silky and beautiful.  This time however, it remained sticky right through to the end although the loaves turned out fine.  The crumb was ever so slightly denser than usual, but it did have the typical arrangement of larger holes in varying sizes.  Got good oven spring.  Ugly scoring :).  Everybody else thought it was great, but I still vote for Vermont Sourdough as being the french bread recipe that I like the best.


I think one of the issues with the scoring is that the final ferment has been at room temperature, and our house has been hovering around the upper 70's.  Unlike what Reinhart asked for (due to refrigerator size), I did not do the final ferment in the fridge with fully-formed loaves.  I did an overnight (45 F) bulk ferment, warmed the dough the next day a bit, then final forming and etc.  The warmer temperatures did speed up the rise, and the loaves were a bit softer than usual by the time I tried scoring them, and unlike refrigerator-fermented final loaf forms, there wasn't the usual condensation dampening the dough as it warmed up.  I probably had a slight toughening of the skin on the dough occurring or something.  Ok ...that's cool.  Observe, think, learn, repeat.


Brian


 

Dragonbones's picture
Dragonbones

It's tricky! It seems to work better for me with firm doughs proofed freeform, slightly UNDERproofed, and misted so they don't get too much skin, but then lightly floured right before scoring, with an oiled single-edge razor. A sharp serrated knife works ok, and very sharp, pointed little sewing scissors work ok too, especially if there's a skin. With a razor I sometimes get a touch of jagged tearing or a spot or two where it doesn't cut through if there's a skin, but if the loaf is slightly underproofed and firm, I can go back over it without deflating the loaf.


I'm not doing any baguettes yet, so I haven't had a chance to practice the long, confident quick slashing skill.


If I proof in a spiral willow brotform, I want those nice flour spirals on it, so I can't mist it or flour it. In that case, I just use the razor. I jab the corner in to start, then slowly pull it along, stopping when it catches and re-oiling it then resuming. I even got a nice, long spiral to work this way (I couldn't have done it with a quick, confident slash, due to the long, long spiral cut, which was inspired by Eric's work.)

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

Thanks, I think this corroborates most of what I observed in my discussion concerning making Reinhart's first french bread recipe in Crust & Crumb above.


Brian

DonD's picture
DonD

Hi Brian,


My experience with scoring is that it depends on so many variables and every single one will have to be right in order to get a good result:


1- Scoring technique. I prefer a double edge razor blade on coffee stick. Quick, smooth stroke 1/2" deep at 45 degrees angle. This will come with lots of practice.


2- Any dough hydration above 70% will be tough to score.


3- You cannot overproof the dough before scoring.


4- You have to load the loaf in the oven immediately after scoring.


5- The shot of steam at the beginning of the bake is crucial.


6- You have to have good oven spring to get a good lift for the scoring "ears".


Good luck!


 


Don

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

Thanks, Don.  I'm assuming that since you prefer a double-edged razor blade on a coffee stick, that a curved lame is your preference.  Do you find that a curved lame works better than a straight?


Brian


 

DonD's picture
DonD

Brian, I find that with the home made curved lame, the straight coffee stick prevents the curved blade from cutting to the 1/2" depth that I prefer so I use 2 sticks and sandwich the blade in between on a diagonal and tie both ends with a small rubber band. That way I have a straight lame and I can control how much the blade is protruding for my depth of cut. Also I find that a straight lame has less drag than a curved one.


Don

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

That's interesting.  I think I'll try something like that as well.  I've got plenty of razor blades and junk in the shop to twiddle with.  Maybe I'll epoxy a little stick to the side of the razor blade.  Hmm.... Either way, we'll find out Saturday (baking day around here.)


Brian


 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Some members have found the TFL Handbook Scoring Tutorial helpful.


David