The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Scoring Bread - what to use?

Baker Bevis's picture
Baker Bevis

Scoring Bread - what to use?

Any hints or tips on what to use for scoring / slashing dough?


I currently use a knife but find it quite difficult to control the size and depth of my cuts, although admittedly that may also be down to crappy technique too...


I've seen a couple of posts about various scoring tools like lames; are they any good?

LindyD's picture
LindyD

David Snyder prepared a quite excellent scoring tutorial:   


http://tfl.thefreshloaf.com/handbook/scoring

Shaqgo123's picture
Shaqgo123

Learned a lot from the tutorial. For scoring I have always done well simply with a couple of different size Henckels, depending on the type of cut, and my 15year old,$25 presto electric knife sharpener that keeps the knives amazingly sharp. Never a drag on the dough.

Never saw the need to buy anything else.

Baker Bevis's picture
Baker Bevis

Wow, David's tutorial is absolutely fantastic. Thanks for the heads up Lindy!

wayne on FLUKE's picture
wayne on FLUKE

I just got a tomato knife based on David's recommendation. Bought from amazon.com and have only used it a couple of times, but I have had much better luck than with other knives or razor blades I have tried. The non-stick coating seems to be majic as the knive doesn't drag in the dough.


YMMV.,


wayne


 


http://www.amazon.com/Pure-Komachi-4-Inch-Tomato-Cheese/dp/B0029XHR02/ref=dp_cp_ob_k_title_0


 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Various bakers have had good success with a variety of tools. The tomato knife referred to above is a favorite of many.


The disposable lame pictured in the tutorial I now regard as a waste of money. They get dull extremely quickly. Good quality razor blades, with or without a handle are much superior.


David

proth5's picture
proth5

Let me chime in on this.  Tried them all except the tomato knife.  Yes, the disposable lame, the razor blade on a coffee stirrer (actually, pretty good).


Save yourself the pain.


Spend the $6 plus minimal shipping - get a proper blade/blade holder from TMB baking - or elsewhere - and good razor blades.  Worth every penny!


Pat

foodslut's picture
foodslut

....is a simple box cutter or utility knife - I use something like this:


http://is.gd/f2QpO


 

alabubba's picture
alabubba

Light Sabre, Creates perfect gringes, Never sticks to the dough and creates wonderful toasty slices!


 

proth5's picture
proth5

Do you have a link to a source for those?  Or must I start as a Padawan?


 

Chuck's picture
Chuck

My experience is it depends on what you're scoring (slashing); there's no "one best" tool for everything.


If the dough has a lower hydration "skin" (such as anything proofed in a couche or a cloth lined  banneton or basket or covered with linen while proofing), knives with small (closely spaced) serrations work better. One of the best is the particular Komatsu "tomato knife" (not just any old tomato knife) documented by David. Many "steak knives" work too.


If on the other hand the dough has a high hydration level and little or no "skin", something that uses (or at least looks like:-) one of those old-fashioned double-sided safety razor blades (dipped in at least cold water, maybe even oil) is the only thing that has a chance of working. (I've also tried single-sided razor blades such as are used to scrape paint off windows, but found them a little harder to hold and control.)


Lame's of various types are very common in Europe, but difficult and/or expensive to obtain in the U.S. And from what I can tell the "real thing" (???) doesn't work any better.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Hi Chuck,


The blade holder available through SFBI is easily obtained, inexpensive, and does a beautiful job.  I'll ditto Pat's analysis.


Like David noted, those plasticrap throw-way "lames" are pretty lame, plus come with a hefty price tag for limited used.


I have the Pure Komachi serrated tomato knife and used it for scoring until I ordered the blade holder and blades from SFBI.   Using a good tool designed for a specific purpose makes a difference.

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

Do not hesitate.  Line your blade up, and slash. Slash quickly and surely; any slowdown will cause the blade to drag.  I've found this to be true whether the blade is wet, dry, oily, or  floured.


This does not promise your scoring will be  pretty, only that the blade will cut; not drag and tear the dough.


cheers,


gary

Baker Bevis's picture
Baker Bevis

 


I knew TFL would be a good resource, but seriously you guys thank you! :D


I'm not sure I could trust myself with what is basically a razor blade on a stick, but I'll certainly try a lame out based on all your recommendations.


I guess as well I just need to be more confident in my approach true - thanks for the practical tips Gary! I'm not after pretty at the moment; I just want to be able to control what the dough will do :D


Thanks again everyone for taking the time out to help, you're all awesome.

bcsverige's picture
bcsverige

I worked in a bakery in Sweden and the head baker used nothing other than a small serrated knife. It was a pairing knife with a serrated edge. Worked perfectly. He had worked in France where they use a razor blade, but this worked even better. A simple plastic handled knife.

spacey's picture
spacey

Breadtopia apparently carries a lame and some blades now, too.  At the page for their product http://www.breadtopia.com/store/bread-lame.html
they also have a link to a video demonstrating scoring a baguette.


I'm quite a fan of wooden kitchen items, and our paring knife has a pattern-welded "damascus" like pattern on it, so I can't do much about it grabbing dough if I use it to score, no matter how sharp it is... I'm considering this lame now.


 


*edited for spelling

jackie9999's picture
jackie9999

I agree ..I bought a disposable lame a few years ago and never liked it. I like that wooden one of Breadtopia's in the above link but they're out of stock.  I also like the idea of a 'no drag' Komachi tomato knife and amazon.ca carries them but alas, they're also out of stock :(


Guess I'm not meant to shop today!

spacey's picture
spacey

Eric from breadtopia expects to have a few more lames on monday.  I'm probably going to order one, and covers for my baskets, when the come in.


 


*edit* and they're in, and I've ordered.  I've got enough issues to improve with my breads, let's see if this reduces that count by one.  At least the taste isn't one of my issues.

proth5's picture
proth5

I've seen this same debate over and over on these pages.


A lot of what drives preferences is what we learned on.  I used a serrated blade at the behest of the baker whose in shop I "worked".  To me it felt awkward at first because I had simply gotten my muscle memory using a different tool. I can't say that it ever did a superior job, in my hands, to my lame.


The Breadtopia lame is simply my favored blade/blade holder with a cherry handle.  The author does not like my little, light blade holder because it is easily lost.  Because I store mine on a magnetic strip at hand by my work area ("In the hand, or on the stand...") I love the lightness and size of my blade/blade holder.  Chacun a son gout, I guess.  (But I'll stand by the "Do not buy those plastic lames where the blade cannot be replaced"  Save yourself the pain.  And I've liked the metal blade holder better than any of the whittled down coffee stirrers I've ever tried.  $6 just isn't that much money.)


I do like the thought (not posted on this thread) of a more sturdy blade when slashing large numbers of loaves containing "nuts/fruits/etc. as they will knock a blade off most blade holders.


I chuckle from time to time when bakers suggest they use the tomato knife because it was already there.  I've done a lot of cooking in my time, but have never owned a tomato knife.  I was always told that one test of a properly sharpened chefs knife was that it would cut through a tomoto skin on its own weight. So, there you have it.


In the end (besides a properly sharp blade) it's a matter of dedication and practice to learning to use the tool.


And to quote "my teacher" - "Mental mise en place"


Happy Baking!

Chuck's picture
Chuck

Quote:
I've seen this same debate over and over on these pages. ... In the end...it's a matter of dedication and practice to learning to use the tool.

Yep, so long as we assume there's only one best answer, we can debate endlessly.


But my experience suggests that different tools are better for different doughs and procedures. I keep both kinds of tool ready at hand, and use one for loaves with a low hydration "skin" (or entirely low hydration) and the other for wetter surfaces.


(Maybe some of the debate is really because different bakers tend to always make one kind of loaf and have little experience with the other:-)

proth5's picture
proth5

that my point really was that it is not so much the quest for the one tool that will give us instant perfection the first time we use it, but that once one has settled on a tool or a set of tools, that one must practice a bit to get the success we crave.

proth5's picture
proth5

I wasn't going to belabor this, but - gotta be me.


I did read your first post.


In general, I prefer some moderation in the hydration of my doughs, but I have worked with higher hydration doughs - particularly when I do whole wheat - but I've baked more than one type of dough (although not in the past year - because I've been "away".)


I have used/been instructed/been ordered to use a "razor onna stick" for all of them.  My first attempts weren't always too great.  But I practiced and got better.  On all types of doughs. I now find the tool equally applicable.


I do change the curvature of the razor depending on how the scores are made, but  that's a fine point. (And something greatly facilitated by the metal blade holder)


Your contention is that I should find this not as effective on my lower hydration doughs.  I absolutely do not. 


I'm not saying you are wrong - for you.  In your hands and for the way you work and how you have practiced, you may find it easier to use one tool over the other. 


But the blade/blade holder with a sharp razor blade is my preferred device for all scoring.   Because that's how I was taught and that's how I practiced.


Which is back to my point.

Chuck's picture
Chuck

You've convinced me it's better to choose just one scoring/slashing tool and practice-practice-practice with it until you're an expert in its use in all situations. (Does TFL allow me to change my mind in mid-thread?-)


(I still think the fact that my side-by-side comparison of tools to try to figure out for myself what tool was "best" [not just "good" or "satisfactory" or "reasonable" or "workable" or ...] sometimes produced different answers on different styles of loaves may help explain why this seems to be an endless debate.)




(BTW, others shouldn't read the exchanges above as completely accurately reflecting what I previously intended to say  ...but that's what I get for writing such unclear posts:-)

spacey's picture
spacey

"The author does not like my little, light blade holder because it is easily lost."


Quite a consideration for me, as my work area is in the kitchen and my daughter is about to start toddling. I don't want to lose track of something as dangerous as a razor on a stick.


 

shansen10's picture
shansen10

I use a clip, a wooden stick, and a single edged razor.  Simple, efficient, inexpensive.

jackie9999's picture
jackie9999

Quote:
*edit* and they're in, and I've ordered.  I've got enough issues to improve with my breads, let's see if this reduces that count by one.

LOL...thanks spacey, I'm with you!


I've ordered mine today..I think it's gone up in price since I looked before - maybe the TFL effect :)

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

to name a few.  Then there are knives (how boaring) and scissors, axes (great for a split and flinging half the dough into the woods) your teeth (yes,just bite into it and feel bearish) a shark's tooth - any age from present to 4 million years old, a blade of grass, edge of a piece of paper (gotta be quick) or a secret agent shoe with hidden blade.  Even a hat pin dragged across the dough will work!  That reminds me...  a horse blanket pin is also good.


Arrow head, obsidian blade (for that stone age feeling) or just something out of the kitchen.  Now how come we don't come up with a "sampler" of cuts like one can make with stiching?  Hey!  I can dig a picture of slashes on my chocolate box.  You not?


Mini

lumos's picture
lumos

I've been more or less happily using a razor blade on a flat bbq skewer for several years, after having, not so successfully,  tried small sharp knives (both straight and serrated blade), craft razor blade and several types of scapels my surgeon friend stole from his hospital (Have you ever heard of the lack of funding at NHS hospitals? :p).


But I noticed a tip of the skewer sometimes catches dough when slashing, I decided it's 'bout time I should get a real thing and ordered 'Bordelaise' professional lame from BakeryBits(UK)  because it can be used with regular razor blade so that you can replace it easily/cheaply whenever it becomes dull.


It arrived on Friday at last....and I'm at loss.


Both the description on BakeryBits site and promotion video says it can hold the blade in both 'gentle curve or straight as required' but I haven't managed to  figure out how to curve the blade even after spending hours and watching the video tens of times.


Can someone help me, please?

jackie9999's picture
jackie9999

Nice looking lumos ...he's a little rough on handling the dough though :)


From looking at the video, I'd guess you just manually bend it into shape...hence that metal piece..no?  Not sure I like that solution though..wouldn't the metal stress/break over time?

lumos's picture
lumos

Thanks for replying, jackie.



I'd guess you just manually bend it into shape...hence that metal piece..no?



Yeah, that's what I suspected, too, so I tried bending the metal core gently (only gently, just in case I want to return it to BakeryBits if it didn't work), but the metal straighten itself back as soon as I leave my hand from it. It might stay bent if I put more pressure but that means you have to bend it back with considerable force every time you want to use it as straight blade?......Sounds bit weird, doesn't it?


 If it doesn't work as I expected, I will return it to BakeryBits and may go back to my old flat skewer....

spacey's picture
spacey

The page for the lame from breadtopia has a short video showing Eric (the proprieter) bending a razor blade to fit on the lame.


So, from my limited understanding of metallurgy (aka my geeky but limited obsession with kitchen knives and sharpening at one point) the metals involved are spring steel, which has a high tensile strength (means that when you bend such a material, it doesn't permanently deform).


The razors are disposable, and they are what bends the most.

highmtnpam's picture
highmtnpam

I sacrificed a whole batch of baguettes and scored, re-shaped, scored, etc  Then I would let the dough rest and rise again and then score again.  I use a lame from SFBI. It came with 25 extra razors so I always have a fresh sharp one. Sometimes i spray a little oil on it, other times not.  But sacrificing 1/4 of a batch of any bread and practicing scoring really works!!  Pam

jackie9999's picture
jackie9999

My Komachi tomato knife and Breadtopia's lame arrived this week and I just tried them for the first time so I thought I'd pop back and give my review.


The Komachi is great - the dragging/pulling of the bread when scoring has plaqued me, but this tomato knife slices thru and leaves a nice clean cut. It cuts so easily and that I wonder if perhaps I cut too deep.


The lame, well...I had a disposable plastic one and that's exactly where it's gone..in the bin. I did keep the cover for the new lame though, so not a total loss. This new one from breadtopia does what it should. I laid it atop the bread at a 45% angle (curve toward the bread) and pulled it across the top with a slight pressure. It left, what I assume, is the proper slash. With my old disposable one I would go back over the cuts and turn the bread around to touch up the ends - that wasn't needed with this lame. Thanks Eric :)


I'm very pleased with both purchases.  Thanks to all for the suggestions! Now to try out this danish dough hook that I wanted to try.........



 

carefreebaker's picture
carefreebaker

How did you like the danish dough hook?

jackie9999's picture
jackie9999

Danish dough hook isn't much good IMHO ...


I use silicone spatulas that I pick up at the dollar store and find they work much better. It doesn't seem to really blend the wet/dry very well..plus I hadn't considered that it may scratch my stainless steel mixing bowl from my cuisinart! I'd read so much about the dough hook I thought I'd give it a try..but to be honest I'm pretty sure it'll be in the bottom of my junk drawer soon. Oh well..the lame and komachi make up for the one bad purchase :)

breadisyum's picture
breadisyum

I was reading this thread and thought I should share the tool I use for scoring bread. I think it's by far the best knife for bread scoring. It really makes it easy to make the perfect score every time. Once a friend let me try theirs I ordered one and used it ever since. Here is the link:            

http://www.alfi.com/product_p/absn-0102.htm