The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Scoring problems

dwfender's picture

Scoring problems

So I've been trying to work on my scoring lately but can't seem to get it in check. I'm using a lame and holding it at an angle as described in the myriad of videos. The problem that I am running into is that, regardless of the dough hydration the scoring always pulls the dough rather than cutting clean through like I see every baker do. I'm trying not to slice and then repeat and repeat and dig further and further into it. Once obviously makes a cleaner more even cut. For some reason my blade just never cuts so. Hoping some might have some tips or maybe methods of practice. I think I'm just going tommake a large batch of starter and practice on that before mixing it in to something else.

PastryPaul's picture

My old teacher used to say, "Be merciful. Do not saw at zee bread, slash it quickly and be done." Ok, so he had a flair for the dramatic, but he was right. Scores should be done in one assertive slashing stroke.

That being said, what you slash with is not vitally important. I've seen perfect scoring using a lame (both straight and curved), a chef's knife, a serrated knife, scissors, and even a straight razor.

My weapon of choice? My serrated knife, the same one I use to carve cakes etc,  mostly because it's always at my hip and I can never find a bleeping lame when I need it! Also, I am so used to its heft and balance that I feel I have much more control with it rather than a lame.

Now that I think of it, Teach would probably curse me out if he saw me pull out a serrated knife to score. What the heck, the scores are perfect anyway.

Besides... a "lame" in English is lame, no? LMAO



PastryPaul's picture

Get large sheets of paper and a Sharpie.

Make a loaf-shaped outline and slash with the sharpie. Slashes should be more along the loaf rather than across (oven pop makes it look more across). 5 to 7 slashes for a baguette. Each slash should overlap the previous by about a third.

I have found that it is easiest to sort of hover over the loaf where you want to slash and just go for it. Don't fret about it unless your loaves are for resale. Slashes are functional as much as decorative. They control oven pop by venting the dough. Even the most experienced sometimes screw it up.

For the heck of it, bake a loaf without scoring it. Chances are it will "score" itself. It won't be pretty but it will taste just fine.

HeidiH's picture

I find I can make the best slashes when I use a very sharp, smooth, thin paring knife that I "strop" a few times on the sharpening steel before scoring.  If I find part way through that it's pulling, I turn around and complete the slash from the other end.  Hope this helps.

jcking's picture

When you score is just as important as how you score. I find under proofed dough easier to score than perfect or over proofed dough.


thomaschacon75's picture

Almost immediately deflates. :(

Make sad me, but I usually know it's overproofed and crank the oven to a Lucifer-level comfort zone, and that usually saves the loaf, even after slashing.

Preferred weapon of choice is the double-edged razor blade.

250 pack for $40 at SFBI:

dmsnyder's picture

1. Read the Bread Scoring Tutorial (updated 1/2/2009)

2. You can use many kinds of blades. A razor blade attached to a handle is my favorite. Whatever you use, it should be super sharp.

3. A swift, unhesitating stroke is less likely to drag the dough.

4. Some find wetting or oiling the blade helps prevent dragging.

5. If you are using the disposable lame, lose it. It's junk, IMHO.

6. Practice, practice, practice.

Happy baking!


AnnaInMD's picture

Tomato knife !  Very sharp, merciless.  Best time for me to score is after fermenting in the fridge and dough still cold.

If it wasn't in the fridge or needs longer proofing on the counter, I find a sprinkle of water first and then slash makes the dough more accomodating. 

........  and always slash quickly  (I didnt want to say score)  :)

golgi70's picture

While I learned to score first and formost you want a double edge razor blade on a lame or stick.  different loaves call for "straight" and or "curved" blades.

This is easily achieved based on how you fasten the blade to the lame.  Example for heavy hearty loaves that need a bit more umph behind the slash I use a straighter double secured blade on my lame (through the bottom two notches then to the top)  For simple softer doughs I'll go just through the bottom straight to the top notch which makes a perfect curved blade.  (I know this may sound confusing and I hope you can see this in your minds eye).  

Agree with all the only way is fast.  

But to improve when you make "bad" cuts look at them see what you have done and then watch how the loaf opens to the cut.  Then you'll start to see where to place the cuts, how deep, at what angle and so on.  Over time watching how the loaf kinda twists open into the scores you'll "be the loaf" and then only practice will take you any further.  And yes even professional bakers make bad scores.  Go to a bakery and look over the scoring.  

Happy Baking and I hope this makes sense (you'll need a lame and double edged razor blades to have any understanding)  


dmsnyder's picture

"Lame" in French means a blade. The thin metal lames referred to above are actually meant to be used as is - without an attached razor blade. One end is sharpened and is used to score breads. When you insert the end of the lame into a razor blade, you could refer to the entire device as a lame, but, if you are referring to the lame as the handle for a razor, it is not a lame any longer. It's just a handle. The French word for a knife handle is "manche," which literally translates as "sleeve."


MangoChutney's picture

Well, thank goodness.  I had gotten a queasy feeling that we were slashing our breads with a weapon of war intended for cutting the tendons of fleeing enemies.  False cognates can be cruel.

golgi70's picture

Nice bit of info that often mis lead by other bakers and websites selling the tools.  The "lames" we buy have rounded ends and I couldn't imagine cutting bread with them.  So we use those "lames" as a manche for a double edged razor blade.  Nice to know though.  

So as for my post I am referring to the stick (manche) when I say lame.  And I am describing how I set up my manche to be  lame with a double edged razor blade in a couple different ways.  

Hey David if your ever up in Northern California be sure to stop in the Loleta Bakery and check out my bread.  


dmsnyder's picture

That's my favorite lame too. I like that you can easily bend the manche and blade to whatever curve you need - straight for boules, curved for baguettes and bâtards.

Wow! Loleta is practically North of Northern California! ;-) 

I get up to Ft. Bragg once or twice a year but haven't been to Humboldt Country for about 40 years. If I get up  there, I'll look you up for sure.


golgi70's picture

Yeah its a ways up North but it would great to meet you and show you what this areas up and coming bakery is doing.  Plus it's always worth the trip up into Humboldt for numerous reasons.  If you bother to visit be sure to get in touch so we can meet and I can give you some of my creations for tasting.  

Be well and happy baking



AndyM's picture

I'm in full agreement with the advice that quick movements are best when scoring.  I'll add two suggestions that helped me when I first learned how to score:

First, especially when scoring batards and other "long" loaves, in which the cuts run nearly parallel to the length of the loaf, think about where the movement is coming from in your arm.  I find that the most effective scores come from movement that is almost entirely at the shoulder, and that my wrist is almost entirely fixed in position throughout the cut.  There is also a very slight articulation at the elbow from the beginning to the end of the cut.  But overall, the motion is very much a "whole-arm" motion.  Keeping the movement focused at the shoulder allows for a quicker, more powerful stroke, and allows for the pressure to be pretty equal from the beginning of the cut to the end of the cut, leading to more symmetrical scores.

Second, a suggestion for some causes of sticking blades: if you find that at the end of proofing, just before scoring, the surface of the loaf is very moist (which it should be), and has a sheen to it (which is not a bad thing), then you can let the loaf sit uncovered for a minute or two until the surface of the loaf has dried out just a bit.  You want it to stay soft and supple, but if a bit of that surface moisture dries up, then your blade has a much better chance of going into the loaf without sticking.  The inside of the loaf will still be very moist and sticky, so you still want to use those quick, confident strokes while scoring, but if you can get past the surface layer without sticking, you're half the way home.

Hope this helps,


dmsnyder's picture

Your second suggestions brings up the issue of how you proof your loaves. Proofing in a banneton or on a linen couch with the seams up will result in surface moisture being absorbed. As you say, a slightly dryer surface makes scoring easier.


Chuck's picture

Even when proofing "freestanding" loaves right side up, I cover them with some couche cloth (linen) to wick away a bit of moisture from the surface. I find they slash better that way. (Another suggestion along the same lines is to let the proofed loaf sit uncovered for the last 2-5 minutes of proofing before slashing.)

However you do it, arranging for the surface (1/8 inch?) of the proofed loaves to be a little lower hydration than the overall loaf may help slashing. I also find especially helpful wetting the blade with a bit of cool water and slashing quickly (if you have time to "think about what you're doing", it's too slow:-).

bakeshack's picture

One area in your baking process that you might want to look into is also the development of the dough itself.  If you have developed enough strength and tension in your dough, slashing it with a very sharp blade should be less troublesome even with a high hydration dough.  The next time you make bread, try focusing on your initial shaping as well as the final shaping, making sure that you develop that tension on the surface of the dough before placing it in your proofing basket or couche. 

Hope this helps.  


dwfender's picture

Hey guys. Those last two comments were perfect. After final shaping I proofed it under a dry towel rather than a wet one. Then about five minutes before baking I removednthe towel and let the dough sit uncovered. Slashed it just fine. I'm going to see if it's consistent. Thanks for the help.