The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bloomer slashing/ Lame adventures

ActiveSparkles's picture

Bloomer slashing/ Lame adventures

Having recently ventured back in to bread making, I found myself making some pretty poorly shaped and generally poorly executed loaves. I decided the best way forward was to start from scratch.

With this in mind, I have been working from Paul Hollywood's Bread, a great book which had the added bonus of starting with the very basic recipes to build your bread knowledge on.

Having spent many hours researching kneading techniques and shaping many doughs to varying degrees of success. I still found my basic bloomer to be springing out in all sorts of odd shapes and angles once it hit the heat of the oven. After a bit of googling and general internet digging-  I established that my slashing of the dough, or lack of it- may be to blame.

I have always tried my hardest to avoid slashing bread, or doing it so poorly that it really might as well not happened at all. I found that I was overly heavy handed most of the time, deflating more than my fair share of dough just before it was about to be cooked.

This was one I stumbled upon a video on youtube of someone using a tool I had never seen before, what to me looked much like a razor on a stick.

What was this mystery object?

I did some more digging and came across the term "bread lame". This seemed to be the answer to my question.

This article on this very site (and goodness only knows why I didn't come here first) provides amazing detail and insight into why scoring/slashing can be a very important step in creating a great loaf shape.

So I ordered one of these amazing things from the internet (an admittedly cheap one by standards, but I will invest in a better one once this one has run its course.

My first few outings trying this tool were far superior to my earlier attempts- but you can see that I am still dragging the blade a little. (you can see where it has pulled the dough, even after cooking.)

So I persevere, and my slashing is gradually getting better and better, and thus the shape of my loaves are getting better as well. 

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog.


Bakingmadtoo's picture

I am still working on the whole slashing thing too. I bought a lame, but really don't like it that much. I tried a blade on a chop stick, which was better for me, but still not good. I now either just hold a blade or use a very good bread knife. I think I like the bread knife best. I guess it is all a matter of finding what you feel comfortable with. You can see the improvement really clearly in your photos. It is nice to have pictures as a record to cheer yourself up when you turn out a really rough looking loaf and feel giving up!

ActiveSparkles's picture

I have seen many different solutions to this problem, I even considered buying a cut throat razor and trying that! I wish I could do it with a bread knife, I have tried every knife in the kitchen and I can not nail it like I can with the lame.

You are right, it is nice to have a record of these sort of things. They cheered me up to no end today, I turned out a couple of particularly poor Malt loaves. "At least I can use a lame pretty well!"

Thanks for the comment. Appreciate it.

ElPanadero's picture

Scoring your bread is not simply about making it look good, it is primarily a way to manage and control the way in which the "bloom" or oven spring develops in the first part of the baking.  Score in the wrong place or way and the loaf will come out like some genetically altered freak of nature :-)

Now, something to note from your photo there is that you are NOT getting much bloom imo.  Where you have scored the loaf there remain 4 V shaped holes in the bread.  What should have happened is the dough inside those cuts should have bloomed and risen up and out much more.  This will be more to do with your hydration level and handling of the dough than scoring.

Second point I would make is that in general I would not score a loaf perpendicular to it's long length as you have done here.   I would go for one long deep score along the length of the loaf but just to the side of centre.  This will provide a large area for the dough inside to bloom up and out and (imo) give a better looking result.  Alternatively try a "wheat grain" shape with one long score down the middle and 3 diagonal scores each side. 


Thirdly, in terms of the "Pulling" or "tearing" of the dough you are experiencing whilst you score it this is a common problem, and is often experienced when making say baguettes.  Usually it is high hydration doughs that you get this with. A way to ease this is to put the prooved loaf into the fridge for say 5-10mins before you score and bake it.  This firms up the outside and makes it easier to cut through cleanly.

Lastly, I would say that there isn't any one utensil that will satisy all your scoring needs.  A straight lame is useful for some things, a serrated knife useful for others and a curved lame (like the one in your photo) useful for baguette scoring to produce the characteristic ears.  One just gets used to different tools for different bread.


MarieH's picture

One thing to add to the wonderful post by GL, keep slashing! You will get better with experience. you have to slash with fearless confidence. I know it sounds silly, but it really works to slash with a quick light hand - like Zorro. 

Bashert's picture

I agree with the comment from MarieH... Zorro is the right mental image. Every time I forget this, I regret it. Slash, slash, slash... move on. Fast and no going back over a slash to "make it better". Also, it is an obvious thing, but the sharper and cleaner the razor, the better. I was using the same curved, yellow handled lame you pictured for a long time... so long that it became dull. As soon as I ordered myself a lame with replaceable razors (another recommendation), I realized just how dull and hard to work with my previous lame had become. All of the sudden, with my new lame, scoring became fun again! Good luck!