The Fresh Loaf

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Scoring Bread, my endeavor to learn

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Scoring Bread, my endeavor to learn

I intend to get more serious about scoring bread. I want to bake pretty bread.  I’ve studied more post than I care to admit. I read everything I could find by David and Alan. YouTube is also an excellent resource. Today I decided to try some of the things I’ve learned. I wanted to bake a couple of loaves for my neighbor and myself, so I choose Hamelman’s Five-Grain Levain. I wanted to do a same day bake so I broke down and supplemented my levain with yeast. When it came to scoring I realized the seeds where not going to make scoring easy. Next time baguettes...

l learned that dough structure and shaping are important, so I did my best. I didn’t mix the dough to full development because I mix the seeds into the dough using stretch & fold. I did do 3 S&F.

I was keen to make sure the bread proofed properly. The bread proofed more quickly than I anticipated (I usually go starter only) so I placed the bannetons in the frig for a few minutes while the oven preheated. That seemed to work well.

While waiting for the loaves to proof I drew a Batard shape with score lines on a piece of paper. I practiced scoring with a chop stick and also a lame with the blade removed. 

I removed the bread from the bannetons and dusted off the rice flour. Then I took a marking pen and placed 4 dots on each bread. I planned for 2 scores per loaf. The dots showed me the beginning and the end of each score. Alfanso likes to score to the very end of the loaf. I tried to do that. I oiled the double edge razor blade and made sure it was sharp. I used a very low angle and tried to limit the depth to 1/4”. 

I did enjoy some improvement, but No Ears! They started, but they are not pronounced enough. I want to be able to lift the bread by the ear.

Do you think the longer Batard needed more over-lap on the scores? There is a slight narrowing in the middle.

Thanks for tuning in...

Dan

 

 

 

 

 

alfanso's picture
alfanso

Rome wasn’t built in a day and if you ever saw my earliest baguette attempts, that would be clear as day. Any improvement is a step in the right direction. 

Do take note that the batard that is pinched at the “waist” has a very wide band between scores. This, to me, acts as a belt that is constricting the center of the loaf. Try to have the overlapping scores be a lot closer together. Perhaps not more than 1/4” apart. 

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Narrower band, good tip.

I find that starting the slash is the most difficult. I guess there is too much thinking. Kind of like jumping off a bridge with a bungy cord attached to your ankles. You try to get up the nerve, and finally think you yourself, ”what the heck”. Throwing care to the wind - you take the leap. But I’d imagine that is not the experience of the accomplished bread scorer.

So what I think I need is confidence. To become confident, I need to get some successful scores under my belt. I need experience. 

Anyone have an idea how I could practice without having to bake a boat load of bread? Does play dough (I think David may have mentioned this) have a similar feel as bread dough? Can I mix a dough and then slash it, reshape and slash again, and again...? I want to practice so much that most if not all anxiety cease to exist. Confidence is what I need.

Any suggestions what dough and at what hydration would be good to learn with?

I am determined to learn this skill. It sure is great to have so many knowledgeable people so willing to help.

Dan

alfanso's picture
alfanso

Sticking to a lower hydration.  Mr. Hamelman concentrates his wares in the 66-68% range, which is just dandy for a nice stiff-enough dough.  Easier to gain confidence when you aren't swimming against the tide of higher hydration while still getting your scoring 'fro together.

I don't think that there's value to the bungee jump approach.  You can't be hyperventilating or overthinking this thang.  Relax, be resolute, relax, and remember - this only an inert piece of dough, you aren't saving lives here.

now, to address the practice.  Go ahead and make something resembling a baguette.  It doesn't have to be perfect, just something resembling one, ensuring a taut skin.  (Pre-shape and shape well, please).  Okay, here comes the payoff: baguettes and the like beg 4 or 5 scores per loaf.  So, not only do you get to practice  baguette rolling, but you get to make a slew of scores in a single loaf.  

So go ahead and make a batch of 3 or 4 loaves and you will be able to practice a dozen or so scores all at once.  And, generally speaking, who really cares if they come out as bathing beauties.  Your primary goal is being met.

kendalm's picture
kendalm

And not the information technology band width - you can almost go even thinner (although not recommended the point being that thinner is better than wider) 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hey, Dan.

Your loaves look pretty good, actually. While the 5-grain levain is one fine tasting bread, as you have noted, all those seeds make scoring harder. 

Alfanso is the baguette man. I would select a simple bâtard or a baguette scored with a single longitudinal cut for learning. Don't neglect boules. Scoring them is very different technically but an important basic skill, IMO.

Meanwhile, you are off to a great start.

David

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

 l’m happy with the results. I baked 4 baguettes @ 220 grams each. Used txfarmer’s basic baguette recipe, but I changed the hydration from 75% to 67%. No use making it harder on myself.   http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/31945/straight-method-baguette-good-starter-baguette-practice.  I choose this recipe because it could be baked quickly. And even though I lowered the hydration and used commercial yeast, I was pleasantly surprised by the crumb and taste.

Besides scoring practice, I’m also getting a chance to improve my baguette shaping skills. I noticed that the baguettes that we’re shaped fairly tight produced much better scoring results. 

I found an old post about oven steaming by Gary Turner.    http://www.thefreshloaf.com/comment/395757#comment-395757   He uses a steam machine to add steam through the oven vent. I’ve been trying to work the details out for the last year. I thought I would have to drill a hole into the side panel of the oven in order to inject steam without having to open the door. I hated to start drilling into my oven. You can imagine how thrilled I was to stumble upon Gary’s solution. I immediately started removing panels on my oven. I already had a steam machine. This is the unit I used.   https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0000DF0RB/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Is it possible to have too much steam during the initial steam injection period? You won’t believe the steam cloud that this method produces. Gary told me that he’s used this method for the last 4 years with no damage to his oven. I’m estimating at least 10 times more steam than I have been able to generate in the past.  And I’ve tried it all...

If I can figure out YouTube, I’ll post a short video.

The image below shows steam escaping out of the bottom of the door. There may be a vent outlet there.

 

 Any critiques welcomed. I still don’t have the ears I’m looking for, but thanks to the help I’ve received from you I have a path forward.

-Dan

alfanso's picture
alfanso

really good shaping, superb crumb, nice deep coloration on the crust, and some pretty darn good scoring for early trials.  With some occasional setbacks, it only gets better from here on out.   I think that most people would be quite happy to see those emerge from the oven.  Congrats.  Alan

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

That steamer deserves a "Super" label compared to mine. That great a pressure and capacity would would call for steaming times measured in seconds instead of minutes.

Have fun. ;)

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Can I inject too much steam? Any advice on the amount and duration of steam?

Using other methods, I never had enough steam. Now I can fill the oven with as much steam as I want.

Dan

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

I went back to Hamelman and Suas to reread what they say about steaming. In both cases, they assume a commercial oven. Since you have a powerful steamer, I feel that their comments are applicable.

  1. Both agree to pre-steaming the oven immediately prior to loading.
  2. Immediately after loading, steam the oven with the vent closed.
  3. There is a small variance in the recommended timing. Hamelman suggests a four to six second burst, while Suas calls for a lesser time. Suas's formula methods have steaming time in the area of two seconds. Hamelman calls for a secondary burst (he calls for another "hit" of steam) for sourdough breads after a minute or two lapse.
  4. You can have too much steam, as excess will delay the formation of a skin, allowing the loaf to flatten.
  5. How do you know when enough is enough? The initial steaming should form a thin (let me repeat, thin) layer of water on the dough.
  6. Close agreeance between them on opening the vent after one-third of the bake time.

After rereading about steaming, I think I might be over steaming my own hearth breads. (Note the thick crust in my pic)

gary

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Very useful information.

I was so excited about the outrageous amount of steam this system produced, I definitely waaaay over did it :-)

Also, I don’t remember to pre-steam the oven before the bake.

Dan

kendalm's picture
kendalm

These look great and your observation about tighter loaves (ie a more taught surface tension) gets more pronouned ears is spot on.  To get to the piint that you can pick up a baguette by the grigne seems to be more about spring than anything else.  Keeping in mind the thinner the loaf the more spring required to expose enough lobe that you can grab it and if the oven spring isn't there, no amount of blade angling or cutting technicalities will compensate for lack of spring.  Case in point -

 

 

I used to agonize over many of these blade technicalities bit as of recent just focus on putting the cuts in the right place on the loaf (some of the things Alan pointed out above) - as far as blade angle goes, I will just come in a 90 degrees and don't really worry about the entry angle - that I think is one of the more distracting technicalities -   So long as proofing is on the mark and oven temps and setup is good, a lot of the finer points on scoring are just that, fine details which in many cases can distract from some other important factors.  So far it doesn't look like you are having too much of a challenge anyway these are great looking loaves, just chiming in to remind that its easy to obsess over things that may not be as important as others (ie blade angle) 

 

 

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

I appreciate your input. Actually, I have been investigating angles. I’ve slowed down YouTube videos to 1/4 speed so that I could examine more closely the entry and angle of the lame into the dough. Even though the baker said to slash at an angle, it looked (in slow motion) like the lame was nearly perpendicular to the loaf. I’ve noticed this on a number of videos. I can’t remember seeing any angles as shallow as 22 or even 33 degrees on any slow motion video. Being an obsessive sort, I’ve been shooting for 22 degrees. I may start out my next test at 45 or larger. I’d like to get other thoughts on this. David and Alan, please comment. As I gain skill and confidence I’ll test from 22 - 90 degrees. I’m learning that it is best to vary only 1 or 2 things at a time. That way the test is not over complicated.

Help me understand this. If the slash is made at 90 degrees to the loaf, how can there be an ear on one side and a smooth transition (no hump) on the other side?

Words can’t explain how much I appreciate your time and help,

Dan

Kendal, that baguette is outstanding. It looks like you baked in a home oven. How do you steam your oven?

alfanso's picture
alfanso

nor on their success at what angle they use - assuming that they are successful at scoring.  

Here are two screen shots of me scoring a 68% hydration dough.  As you can see, the angle of the blade is not perpendicular, nor is it at any sharp angle at all.  This seems to be an "appropriate" angle to score these relatively low hydration doughs.  In truth (but why should I start now?) I really haven't a clue as to what angle I do these at - it works and I choose to not be any more concerned with it than that.  At least for me it works.

Now, if this was at a higher hydration, like 76% or 78% my score would be more sharply angled, and probably a little less deep into the dough.  My feeling is that higher hydration doughs, being that they have a heavier concentration of water in the dough than lower hydrations doughs, are heavier, so to speak.  I'm not discussing the overall weight of the dough itself, but rather about the flap that one is making during the score.  if the flap is not sliced "thinner" - meaning it is at a less sharp angle, then the dough is heavy right there, and there isn't sufficient body to support that weight.  Hence, the flap may well decide not to open, or even flop closed.

 

kendalm's picture
kendalm

You are talking to someone who lives day in day out with real ocd which ain't no fun bit its sure a helpful thing when it comes to baking (look at the positives I guess). Main thing to note is that you are on the fast track to amazing loaves and not far off. You noticed the same thing about many of the videos where they over emphasize angle and then demonstrate at near 90 degrees. I do think that in some cases its a bit of a,political illusion considering the lame has a curve and that sort of tricks the eye into thinking they are going in at around 90. In other cases they sure are slashing directly down - some,of Alan's pics below look like downward cuts but closer inspection you can see the blade curves in. As for how can it be that an ear develops with a straight down cut, well I dunno ? I would guess it has something to do with the surface tension being unequal just by virtue of the pattern - after all the real quest is to get a gringe on each side and one is always going to be more pronounced than the other (since nothins ever quite equal). Actually in reality in my case I ststed that I sort of come,down onto the loaf from above but there's probably a slight angle - so yeah its one of those things that when you first started it seemed impossible but jist due to practice, well things just work better. The reality is that you'll obsess and try that and that and eventually develop your own unique way. All the advice is there mostly to help prevent going down paths that are flat out wrong so you don't trial and error every little thing. Oh yeah oven! I have a gas oven and use lava rocks as well as a towel to plug the vents amd retain steam. That's another thing - it took many tweeks to figure out just how much water to use - too much and I noticed the internal temperature dropped much, too little and too dry a crust with less expansion. Everything is a balancing act right ? Ever bake is a minor adjustment for a minor improvement but as already mentioned man your bread looks great. Just keep on having fun !

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Is the problem with too much steam because the stream drives down the temperature in the oven? Is there any other reason that would cause too much steam to be a deterrent?

I have the ability now to flood my oven with steam. You know how obsessive folk are. “if a little is good than a lot is...” hehehe

Dan

Yes, Kendal. I too sympathize for those that are obsessed. We’re doom to be dissatisfied. There is only perfection. To the perfectionist second place means you were the very best loser. <sad> And we know that on this earth there is no such accomplishment. Yet we strive...

kendalm's picture
kendalm

So I don't have an internal thermometer and so, cannot really confidently make any claims about temps only relay experience and come to general conclusions. After all it took many attempts that involved tweeking every step and then one day things all come together and I know if. I follow my own protocol then certain expectations are met (spring flavor etc etc). As for steam this seems to tie back to oven spring and ive come to recognize that flooding my lava rocks with to much water results in less spring. As you probably noticed I like to do thin loaves which even further complicates ear development jist by virtue of the lower volume to surface ratio (ie, there's only a little volume and a lot of surface meaning you'd better fully max things out to get the desired expansion) - just a little too much water and the loaves won't fully pop. I can only attribute that to the fact that the oven is investimg energy into the water and thus, sucking away from what could otherwise go into the loaf. That's just a theory and would require a thermometer to prove so whether its right or wrong at least in this opinion too much water might be a problem but, that doesn't mean too much 'steam' if that steam where being generated by something else that isn't the oven. I would think that if you had an external heating unit that injected really hot steam into an already hot oven that it wouldnt be as much an issue as is the case with home oven makeshift steam systems (lava rocks towels etc) - but I digress, at the end of the day (well, year ) its just honing in on little technicalities - in my case half a liter of hot water goes on the rocks every time no more no less - boomshanks ! Bread that makes you feel like you conquered planet remulak !

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Does curvature of the blade cause drag?

I can see in the bottom picture of Alan’s post were the lamb is angled nicely and the curve of the lame is not contacting the dough. But I’ve seen quite a few videos where it appears the user has the curve of the blade in the dough.  I would think this would cause tremendous drag.

I know that the french lame has been in use for a long time. I think the curve of the lame is there to allow the baker to kind of “scoop” under the top layer of dough. Is this so?

Does anyone know were I can get an uncurved double edged razor lame? I might like to try one.

Dan

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

Have you tried folding a few layers of adhesive tape over one edge to give yourself a safe place to hold?

I haven't used one like that for scoring dough, but it works a charm in violin making for intricate cuts or as a scraper to give a glass smooth surface.

gary

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Yes Gary, I do have a double edged razor blade that is taped on 1 side. Thanks for the idea, though. I keep looking for a special tool or anything that will make the score perfect. But I believe that only practice can provide the experience that will lead to confidence. And then finally success.

I’ve been studying how to make play dough. If I make it myself, I can vary the “dough feel” and maybe make it more realistic. If I can succeed that could really catapult my learning curve,

Gary, do you actually make violins?

Dan

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

A long time ago, and not well.

Regarding Play-Doh, my doughs always have a skin, if thin, after the final rise. Will your play dough simulate that? I think it might not be worth the bother when it's so simple and cheap to make up a small batch of real dough for practice, then eat it with dinner. :)

gary