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Scoring problems with Baguettes

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Mason's picture

Scoring problems with Baguettes

Hi Everyone,

I am playing with a highish hydration dough for baguettes using DonD's method and amounts for Baguettes a l'Ancienne with Cold Retardation

I have been baking for many years now, and have yet to develop a consistent grigne on my baguettes.  Certainly I can't get anything as elegant as Don's scoring.  Everything seems to go fine, except the scoring.   

As you can see from the image below, I get some parts to open up, but not much. The end slash of one loaf opened well, but the others, not so much.

I'm not complaining; it's great tasting bread, with well caramelized crust and good holes in the moist crumb. I get good compliments when I take it to parties.  But my friends and family have fairly minimal expectations.  Im trying for more, though, mostly for my own enjoyment and edification.  The visual impact of a good grigne eludes me.

After S&F and retarded fermentation and rising, the dough is easily doubled in size and full of large bubbles.  My method for shaping involves:

  • Folding the sides into the middle to stretch the outer skin and form a ball, then rolling the dough tightly  and sealing the seam.  Bench rest for about an hour.
  • Final shaping involves flattening it gently into a rectangle, folding over the two ends into the middle (for more even ends of the laves) and then rolling it towards me to develop tension, and sealing the seam.  Roll out gently (starting at the center, of course) to about 20 inches long.
  • Final proof is in a linen couche, seam up. 
  • When done I gently roll each baguette onto a strip of parchment, seam down, and transfer these gently to a large edgeless baking sheet I use as a peel.
  • I bake on one and a half square pizza stones, with the lower rack containing a baking pan full of lava rocks, to which I add boiling water before scoring and after loading, for steam.  

When I score, I'm using the improvised razorblade and cofee stirrer lame in the picture (new blade; this is the second batch of three scored with it).  I wet the blade and cut at a 30 degree angle from horizontal with a confident, smoth "slit".  But it does not slide through the dough easily, it always sticks a bit, and I often have to go back and open a couple of places with a second slash on the same line.  Could it be over-proofed?

When I score the loaves, the high-hydration dough is relaxed and the baguettes flatter than they are round. The fact that one end of one loaf has better development suggests that it's perhaps a tension-while-shapin issue.  Perhaps I need to develop more tension?    

The oven has a pretty good vent, though. In the oven the slashes open, but then afer 5 minutes seem to "heal" into smoothly round loaves without tearing further as I'd like them to do. Perhaps the steam does not stick around long enough, and I need a slow-release method (wet rolled towels heated in the microwave, perhaps)?

This batch today I made a double-mix.  The baguettes I made today are from half the dough that did not get the cold retardation (for a party this evening). The other half is currently retarding in the fridge for the night, for another event tomorrow.  I'll be baking that batch tomorrow afternoon.

I'd appreciate any advice that might help improve tomorrow's batch (or other batches; I make these every month at least, if not more).  Thanks a million!


Yerffej's picture

King Arthur flour has some great videos on scoring baguettes,  so does Ciril Hitz.  The links have been referenced on this site many times or you can do a web search.  Watch the videos very very closely paying attention to every little detail.  Do what they say and you will be on your way to great scoring.


Mason's picture

That Ciril Hitz video with the marker is great.  Thre KA videos I have seen before, but Hitz is very helpful. Thanks for the suggestion.

Mason's picture

Shaping video by Hitz that David Snyder posted here is also very very helpful.  I'll try this method with today's batch.  Thanks again!

BurntMyFingers's picture

I've recently focused on baguette shapping and have been making daily batches for the past couple weeks. Maybe my experience is helpful since it seems like once you "get" baguettes they virtually shape themselves, but until then they are a mystery.

An hour for bench rest seems like a long time. Also, seems like you're handling the dough pretty aggressively at this early point. Try a few sprinkles of flour on the outside, transfer to a second board, fold in on itself or roll up gently and let it bench rest without further intervention.

I don't have any concerns about the rest of your process... sounds fine. I've gotten big ears, no ears, big holes, no holes depending on the flours and balance of ingredients, all things you continue to test and refine....

Mason's picture

Ther hour bench rest was probably excessive.  I was following DonD's method, which calls for dividing dough straight from the cold retardation, so the bench rest for one hour is also to allow the dough to come to room temp.  I didn't need that so much with this batch.

Ill try to be more gentle with the first shaping, too.

LindyD's picture

His video on scoring baguettes gives great detail.  He even uses a black marker on a baguette to delineate the scoring area.  Great stuff.

Mason's picture

That scoring video is not one I have seen before, and is indeed helpful.

Marie-Claire's picture

Scarification is the most difficult thing in making bread. This is a coup de main that is acquired by practising.
To prevent the blade sticks, you can dip it in a glass of water before starting. It helps.

To allow scarifications to open, the dough should have tension : If it is over-fermented , it will not open.

My advice : it is less difficult to succes with a single long scarification, over the entire length and in the middle of the baguette, than many apertures. Try this the next time.  If this scoring opens well, it is not a problem of overproofing.  So you will know that you have to work on gesture.

Hello from France !


Mason's picture

Good advice, Marie Claire.  I am dipping the blade in water already.  I'm thinking that it might be a problem with over-fermentation. I'll try that experient of one long slash on one loaf from my next batch (today's batch is again for taking to a party, so I'll aim for uniformity today).

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

Succcessful scoring is about speed and depth.

Go fast (just don't cut yourself) and to a depth of at least 1/4".

Don't hesitate and get a little bit angry. :D

Mason's picture

I do think I need to cut deeper.  I'l be brave (and a little more angry) next time.  Thanks, Thomas.

wally's picture


First off, baguettes are really hard to achieve good grignes with, and especially for an amateur baker who isn't producing them by the hundreds every day.  So don't be hard on yourself.

A couple observations:

1- It looks to me as if you are scoring them diagonally.  Go back to the KA videos on baguettes and watch again how they are properly scored - the lines are almost straight down the baguette with an overlap from cut to cut.

2- If your oven is venting you'll never get your grignes to open.  The heat will seal the top crust of the baguette and you'll never get the oven spring you need to open up those cuts.  There are many steaming methods listed on this site.  Find one that allows you to have steam for about the first 10 minutes of the bake, and if possible, some bursts of steam when youu load them and for the first couple minutes. (Cast iron frying pan in bottom of oven filled with lava rocks will do the trick - water is carefully tossed onto them).

3- I would not preshape these as boules (rounds), but roll up the rectangle of dough you've cut (so it looks kind of like hay that's rolled up).

4- Bench rest should be about 20 minutes.  No longer.

5- Tension, as so many have mentioned, is also critical.  And again, it's hard for the amateur baker to get it right.  If you are too rough you end up with a tight crumb; too loose and your baguette has poor shape and is ugly.  The soft spot is somewhere between those two extremes.

6- Finally, I think 30 degrees from horizontal is probably creating some of the problem.  Go for a steeper cut of 45-50 or so degrees.

Good luck!


Mason's picture

Thanks, Larry.

I'll try shaping more gently and for less time.  I do pre-shape as rolled up rectangles.  I'm going to use Hitz's elegant and gentle shaping method in the videos linked in my earlier response above.

Slower-release steam also seems to be needed.  I have been using a pan of lava rocks, but I still think the steam is gone after 5 minutes.  Im reluctant to lose too much heat by re-steaming after 5 minutes.  

I have considered using copper tubing to slowly drip water onto rocks with the oven door closed.  But my wife is reluctant to have our oven looking like a science experiment.   I have used the method posted on this site (e.g. this one by SylviaH) of using rolled-up towels soaked in boiling water and microwaved to boiling, which also seems to work well.  (I still have a couple of singed towels I used once or twice for this purpose.)  It's just more effort to set up than pouring water on lava rocks.

I'll also cut on a less shallow angle (which I see in the videos by Hitz above).

wally's picture

Mason, I've had great luck at home using a combination of SylviaH's towel in a pan of water, and, lava rocks.  The steaming towel will ensure a constant source of steam; the lava rocks produce short bursts of steam that are critical in the first two to three minutes after the baguettes are loaded.  I throw a cup of water on them immediately after loading the bread, another cup after one minute has passed and a third and final cup once one more minute elapses.

It works!  I'd post a pic from a baguette bake yesterday but it's on my laptop at home and I'm working from my iPad at the bakery.


Mason's picture

Sort of.  Used the towels and lava rocks, but did not add water again and again during the first minutes.  I'd like to, but I'm afraid of losing too much oven heat.

Using the combination of lava rocks and towels sis produce good steam, though.  The oven was still steamy enough to fog up my glasses a bit when I turned the loaves after 10 minutes baking.

See the picture I'm about to post below for the results.

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

Larry, how do not lose the heat in oven?

If I tried the method you specify above, my temp would go from 500 F to 250 F by the end of the process.

I use Sylvia's method now, but I open the oven once (to put the towels and loaves in) and once after 15-20 to vent/remove towels.

castorpman's picture

Scoring befuddled me for several months, now it's no problem.  I'll quickly describe what I do.

Recipe: 2c flour, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp yeast, ~225ml H20 (slightly less that 1 cup)

Mix, rest 30 min, knead and rise 45 min, S&F and rest 45 min, S&F and rest 1 hour, overnight in fridge, letter fold and divide, rest 30 min, shape and rest 30 min on floured cotton cloth - seam down  

Transfer to Silpat, seam up, slash with a dry razor (I don't agree with Marie Claire about this) and cook 15-20 min at 500F

I have tried different hydrations and the razor does catch ( and less when dry) but then gives, the rhythm is sort of "one two, one two, and through and through" (like the Jabberwock).

Mason's picture

For the next batch, I reduced the final proofing time, increased the steam delivery time (lava rocks as well as hot wet rolled towels), changed the shaping to Hitz's method, and tried to follow Hitz's advice about the scoring being along the top rather than diagonal.

The scoring seems better.  No grigne, still.  But a promising improvement.  One loaf was malformed; lessons learned about the different shaping technique making the loaf longer in the shaping-for-tension.  

The nearest one in the image below shows the best reslts in terms of opening well during baking.  All were tasty, with great open crumb and a reddish-brown, crunchy, thin, well caramelized crust.

I see a definite promising direction for improvement.  I'll keep working on it.  I'll try a slightly lower hydration next time.

Thanks again!


thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

One method that works for me (to get grignes) is to score at an extreme angle, almost like you want to scalp the loaf with your scoring.

Surface tension is key, though, because without the tension, there's no "pulling up".

(Surely this post will win an award for how not to not to use words to explain something. Sorry!)


Update. Second try. Think of frosted cake. Score as if you're trying to lift the frosting from the cake.

Ack. That's worse.

I'll have to make a video.