The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Slicing heavy breads

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Carl Bergensis's picture
Carl Bergensis

Slicing heavy breads

Any recommendations on a knife for cutting dense bread such as pumpernickel and vollkornbrot? I recently bought a bow knife, but it bends too easily. I have a good bread knife, but it's basically wedge-shaped like most knives, hence too thick.

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

A well designed and built bow knife should be able to handle just about anything; the relatively thin blade is under tension to keep it straight. I regularly use a homemade bow saw to re-saw various hardwoods, up to 10in wide into ⅛in  thick boards. (I'd give my left arm for a good band-saw, though :))


Be sure you've properly adjusted the tension. If that isn't the problem, try the hardware store for a coping saw of sufficient size, or even a hack saw.


cheers,


gary

flournwater's picture
flournwater

I agree witih Gary's assessment 100%.  The only other tool I've found effective for cutting heavy breads is an electric carving knife.

SCruz's picture
SCruz

We all bake the occasional doorstop, but I'd hate to think I needed a cross-cutting saw or a bow saw to cut my bread on a regular basis.


Before going to the hardware store, I think I'd check to make sure the dough had proofed sufficiently prior to baking.


Jerry

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

He's talking about heavy, dense rye breads; pumpernickel and vollkornbrot. One needs a thin, narrow blade else the bread will glue itself to the blade, making it damned near impossible to cut. Consider the cheese knife, a wire mounted in a harp. To use said thin, narrow blade, a bow or harp is necessary to keep the blade straight. The suggestion was, if the knife could not be tensioned properly, or if the frame was not strong enough, to look into coping saws. A common coping saw size will have a 10" harp and a 5" clearance, with a very thin blade about ⅛" wide.  Likewise, a hack saw can be used. Its blade is thicker and wider, but still much thinner and narrower than any conventional knife can be.


My point about re-sawing planks with a bow-saw was to demonstrate that thin blades can do serious work when used in tension. I am not suggesting that wood or metal cutting blades are necessary, but that coping and hack saws offer a reasonable substitute for a conventional or weakly bowed knife where slicing heavy rye breads is required.


And, do not confuse a heavy rye loaf with a brick. Take the standard, store bought 1½ lb sandwich loaf. The same size Pullman pan makes a 4½ lb pumpernickel; three times as dense. If your sandwich loaf were as dense, it would be a brick, but for pumpernickel,  it's normal.


gary

Carl Bergensis's picture
Carl Bergensis

Thanks, Gary. I find that on this and other froums people answer without really reading the question. As you said, for pumpernickel, it's normal. I used to by a vollkornbrot from a local botique bakery and it was a monster to slice.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Carl.


Knives that are stamped rather than forged usually have an equal thickness. Forged knives are regarded as higher quality, but have a triangular cross section. For your needs, a relatively inexpensive stamped bread knife might actually be superior.


One knife that is very popular among TFL members is the Victorinox 10.25 inch bread knife. I recently bought one myself and am extremely pleased with it so far. It is extremely sharp and cuts crusty hearth breads like butter - no compression of the crumb and no fragmenting of the crust. I have not used it on a dense rye yet, but I expect it to perform very well.


David

flournwater's picture
flournwater

David, that's some very good information.  I had never given a thought to the drag affect of knife blade profiles as a factor in bread slicing.  Thanks for that technical input.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

french chef's knife.   I also have an electric slicer... :)  Both get gummy, that just happens and is not a sign of bad bread.  Run the blade afterwards under cold water and clean it before it dries on as hard as cement.  I also have a long carving knife that works well.  Don't use a serrated knife for pumpernickel, it just makes the edges crumby and avoid flimsy or flexible  blades -- a good way to cut yourself along with your bread.  


Right now one of my favorites has oval dents spaced evenly the length of the straight blade just above the sharp edge, great for slicing cheese too!  It's purple but I don't think the color has anything to do with it's ability to cut.

Carl Bergensis's picture
Carl Bergensis

Gary,


The coping saw worked well, thanks.


Carl


 

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

You're quite welcome. I'm glad I could help.


cheers,


gary