The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Solutions for successfully scoring high hydration dough

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

Solutions for successfully scoring high hydration dough

My take on this topic.

1. successfully scoring 70% + hydration dough begins with properly shaped and proofed dough. A tight skin will be more conducive of a clean cut.

2. A sharp scoring utensil is essential.

That's all I have. I shy away from adding to much flour to the top of the shaped raw breads. I feel that could defeat the whole procedure I so carefully implemented. 

 What do you have for me?.....And go!

 

Benito's picture
Benito

I’m far from an expert being such a newbie, but cold dough right out of the fridge done its final proof seems to help the scoring.

David R's picture
David R

Just confirming and amplifying one of your points: A fresh, factory-sharpened disposable razor blade is far FAR sharper than all but the top .00001% of professionally-sharpened super-fancy kitchen knives. (Remembering that a great many professional sharpening services are not even very good, and home sharpening can be good but almost never THAT good.) If you suspect your kitchen knives might not be quite as sharp as those of the ten or twenty wealthiest and luckiest knife owners on earth, do yourself a favour and spend $2.50 on a pack of razor blades. 🙂

Note: even with the very best of skill and materials plus extremely good luck, no kitchen knife is as sharp as a factory-fresh disposable razor. It's just that the best are less far off.

 

(EDIT) Success is success; if you always score your bread with a sharp kitchen knife and it works just fine, then there's no reason to buy extra gear.

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

I tried both the blade and the knife neither worked for me on the 70% hydration baguettes. What I could try is an over night proof in the refrigerator then slice the cold dough. 

David R's picture
David R

Can you describe what happens during the stroke of the blade? Not your analysis of a dough defect, just a description of the action of (not properly) cutting.

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

With the stroke of a brand new Wilkinson sword double edge razor, the razor seems to sink into the dough and barley cut, Then as the stroke continues the dough starts  to pull. When the razor does cut the dough it immediately seals itself back together. The only thing that helped a little was holding the dough with my index finger and thumb east to west, while cutting in that area north to south. And that only helped a little. I am not great at scoring however I can usually get some resemblance of a cut. Note the oat bread. Then next maurizios baguettes another scoring fail. Lastly see the quick straight dough baguettes, they are of a lower hydration.

 

 

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BreadLee's picture
BreadLee

Those are spot on.  I like using lubricant myself.  Either water or my cornstarch wash.  I dip the blade in before making any new cuts.  

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

I did paint the dough with water and dip my blade. The dough was just to wet/ not tight enough to score.

alfanso's picture
alfanso

 

  • Good surface tension on the dough skin.
  • Sharp shaving razor blade.  I get four corners on a single double edged blade.  Each corner tip may last me as much as 100 individual scores or more.
  • The higher the hydration, the more "severe" the angle.  The weight of the high hydration dough (% water vs. % flours) plays a role in allowing the flap of scored dough to settle back down again.  Also dough with additives like fruit and nuts on or near the surface affects the weight of the scored flap.  
  • If the angle of the blade is normally at ~45 degrees for 65%-68% hydration doughs, then shift to as little as 30 degrees.
  • Proper oven steaming to inhibit the dough from setting too quickly and provide some lovely surface caramelization - the Maillard reaction.
  • Read dmsnyder's tutorial on TFL.
  • Also:  http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/45299/getting-feel-double-score#comment-347920

 For some homemade encouragement: 

Your posted pics of baguettes here seem to clearly be under steamed, indicative of the dull crust color, and also a likely culprit in any oven spring that you might have otherwise gained.

Baguettes, for most of us, including yours truly, are usually a tough road to hoe.  Time invested, paying attention to details and practice are one sure fire way to cure the baguette baking blues (as played by Bread).

alan

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

Thank you, Alan. for the in depth response! Your baguettes are truly a thing of beauty. You have inspired me to take this information and use it to do a much better job.

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

Thank you, Alan. for the in depth response! Your baguettes are truly a thing of beauty. You have inspired me to take this information and use it to do a much better job.

albacore's picture
albacore

Generally a razor blade is OK, but I know what you mean about the dough pulling with high hydration loaves.

When this starts to happen, I change over to my serrated ceramic knife. It's also good for loaves with seeds or "bits" in.

Lance

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

Thanks for your input and idea. On my next trip to the Bowery restaurant supply stores, I will pick up a small paring knife size ceramic knife, to have another option. However, after I read some of the comments, I realize what I already knew. My baguette issues are more deep-rooted than just a slash in the dough. I am going to try and make one small batch of baguettes once a week until I reach "Baguette nirvana" that place of inner peace and bliss that many strive for and few reach! Ha! I kill me!

Cordially,

Will F.

alfanso's picture
alfanso

Hi Will,

Perhaps starting out baguettes at the 65% hydration range and working up from there.  Everything about them is easier for the initial slog through getting your chops down.  

I'd suggest starting out with something like the Hamelman Vermont SD which makes for a really easy great baguette.  90% KA AP type flour  @11.7% protein, plus 10% rye.  It uses a very liquid 125% hydr. levain, although you can decide on the % of hydration by making the appropriate adjustments, but keeping the pre-fermented flour % the same. 

This is it, and just came out of the oven 10 minutes ago.  You can do it too!

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

That is exactly what I am going for, The size and everything about them is perfect! I think I mentioned to you this is the bread of my childhood memories.  65% Vermont sourdough sounds like a plan!

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

each are these bad boys?

alfanso's picture
alfanso

by baguette standards. Shorter, based on my oven depth, and a little heavier.  The dough was scaled out to 1200g for all three, hence pre bake weight of 400g each.

According to M. Calvel, the now deceased French expert on bread, these actually fall into the category of "long batards" based on weight, length and number of scores.  But I'll continue to call them both.

There are a lot of folks who say that open crumb breads are the domain of high hydration dough, but that is not the case with this 65% hydration formula.  The crumb is fairly open.

albacore's picture
albacore

Alan, do you think it's the shape of the baggie that gives open crumb at that hydration? ie almost no height so no pressure from above and also rapid heat attack from all directions in the oven.

Lance

alfanso's picture
alfanso

has as much to do with open structure as do the skills of the baker - and a good time tested formula.  I've gotten just as much open crumb on this formula making batards too.

As David Snyder wrote years ago on these very pages - shaping the dough takes an iron hand inside of a velvet glove.

And one can't underestimate a good steaming process, as you well know.  More to it than that of course, but all of the pieces add up to the final outcome.

 

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

 

Italian baguettes. The pernice brothers, from the bread box in Canarsie Brooklyn would agree! The inside of my sad examples show some promise.

alfanso's picture
alfanso

And a manwich to go along with it.  And Kosciusko brand mustard to go with the Kosciuzko bridge.  How very Brooklyn of you!

If it's Italian it likely is a stirato.

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

the very best polish mustard money can buy. That and my two kids are the only good to come out of my first  marriage. However I digress, I am on vacation next week and I am going to give baguettes the old school try! One other question, my old reliable oven losses so much heat when I open the door. I see you work with the door open for what seems like an eternity! My oven would struggle greatly to recover from that. Also to the left of your water pan is another pan, is that a rolled wet dish towel? I put a tray worth of ice in a scorching hot pan to create steam. I guess that is just not enough? One last edit: I like your generous size baguettes a lot better that the traditional "Sticks" Yours are what I am shooting for.

 

alfanso's picture
alfanso

My baking stone is 3/4" granite (a US$20 piece of scrap cut to size) and it takes up the entire oven rack, save for circulation space near the oven walls.  So after 45-60 minutes, the stone apparently becomes a great source of being a heat sink.  It is electric.  And after every closing of the door, I force the oven to re-fire by resetting the temperature.  

This morning's bake had the oven pre-heat to 480dF.  By the time I closed the door and set it down to 460dF, the temp was displaying 435, but the granite was still at ~480.  And the bottoms of the bread never burn.

The two sources of steam are:

Sylvia's Steaming Towel on the left side, and on the right side is a 13x9 baking pan filled with lava rocks, which lives in the oven.  I pour two cups of near boiling water onto the rocks as my last act before closing the oven door for the initial phase.  By the time the oven is opened at ~the 13 minute mark, the water has already dissipated from the lava rock pan and I remove the steaming towel.   

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

Yes I saw your granite slabs, very cool setup all around. I have a very sensitive oven thermometer, I think I am paying to much attention. Also It could be the venting necessary in gas ovens hurts the recovery time. I am going to google sylvia's  steaming towel. Until I can get me some lava stones I am going to put some clean nuts and bolts in my water pan. Thanks for all the good information. I am going to prepare some levian tomorrow hopeful of a Saturday bake.

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

stirato= ironed. For what ever that is worth!

David R's picture
David R

stirato more generally is "lengthened by pulling on it" - that may or may not have something to do with the bread.

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

It comes to my attention, that my mom cooked so many things that screamed to be accompanied by good bread! I submit my moms lemon chicken thighs. With twenty first century substitutions Boneless skinless thighs take the place of on the bone full fat. 

David R's picture
David R

In the Paris area, the word baguette if taken strictly means only up to 250 grams. But I think in general any long skinny bread is still a baguette - I'd tend to judge baguette vs not-baguette by diameter and not by weight, but I guess that's one reason why I'm not qualified to be French. 🙂

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

250G thrown around quite a bit when talking about "sticks" A passage from a non-contemporary poet comes to mind. A rose by any other name woud still smell as sweet. Smile....

David R's picture
David R

Exactly. And the source I read was careful to specify that such a 250 g limit is peculiar to Paris - other areas of France are apparently not stuck on this number.

Any big city develops quirks - and locals from those big cities may believe that their local quirks have always been worldwide law. 🙂

alfanso's picture
alfanso

the man who quite literally wrote the book on French bread, The Taste of Bread, a baguette has an unbaked weight of 350g.  250g is the estimated post bake weight.  Page 74 in the English language version of his book. 

The photo that accompanies his text and table says "Various sizes, shapes and slash patterns of French breads".

Now nobody has to abide by this unless one is in a competition, and apparently your source doesn't, at least for Paris.   But if there is a stake to be put in the ground, I believe that most bakers look toward his book as a primary source.  

BTW, I believe that he was the person who coined the term "autolyse" for baking and apparently which stuck, whether or not it had been in use for just about forever.

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

The search begins for a better than good copy of, "The taste of bread" You know what is funny? I have trouble reading hard copy books now days. I much rather read a recipe on the computer. Maybe my old eyes? Fyi  The old eyes are hurting my work performance too. Fine work with small parts was always a strength of mine. Alas time marches on!

BreadLee's picture
BreadLee

Man that is well stated and oh so true! 

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

I think I got it right. There is a lot more to baking bread than hands in the dough! Nice exercise for my feeble mind! 65% hydration final dough, with a 125% hydration levain.  (1% bowl residue allowance added)

 

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

Levain build #2 is 5 hrs. in and peculating along nicely! I woke up last night/this morning at 2:00 AM and remembered I forgot to build on levain build #1. 16 hrs. did not seem to negatively effect the culture.

Photo is of the second and final levain build at 5 hrs. of fermentation. (7:30 AM) I am prety confident I can move to fermentolyse at any time. (As soon as I can drag my sorry azz out of bed)

Very liquid levain @ 125% Hydration

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

This is what we have after the fermentoylese and a 5 minute ride in the Bosch universal plus.   Now to the bulk ferment, will preform stretch and folds at 45 min. & 90 min. Last 30 min. untouched.

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

After the prescribed two hour bulk ferment, with the before mentioned stretch and folds, I feel the dough is not yet ready for retardation. Thus the timer is set for one more hour of bench ferment untouched.

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

The extra hour of bench fermentation really added some volume. To the chiller we go! I am planning to shape at 7 PM. I really like this recipe in that the baguettes are shaped and ready to bake directly after the retardation.

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

Pre-shaped and resting peacefully

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

I am pretty happy with the pre-shape and shaping step. I feel like I pulled the skin plenty tight in the pre-shape step. The 15 min. rest made the final shape and roll go very smooth. Tomorrow I need to up my slashing game and find a wat to give these bad boys a nice steam bath. For now, back into the cooler. T Minus 14 hrs. till bake. Smile...

BreadLee's picture
BreadLee

You've got it going on.  I ran across this today.  The dude illustrates slashing those baguettes. I set the link to the exact spot in the vid.  Good luck! 

https://youtu.be/RgqPli_sLLM?t=400

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

Did you know? It is a proven scientific fact if you go through the steps of a complicated procedure in your mind over and over (sleep on it) your outcome will be as if you physically, hands-on practiced the operation. Thank you for the link.

BreadLee's picture
BreadLee

Wow amazing.  I didn't know that! I'll try to do it more often.  I have found that  I more often solve complex problems in my sleep.  I can solve complex math problems better then too.  Lol!

Now I just need to sleep all the time.  

David R's picture
David R

You don't learn it in your sleep, you learn it on purpose while awake. BUT - if you don't get a proper sleep afterwards, it all slips away from you again. Both the strong focus on [whatever it is] while you're awake, AND the full night's sleep afterwards, are essential.

Something happens during sleep, in which the short-term memories you formed during the day are sorted out and transferred to long-term memory. If you don't get the sleep, then your memories never "take", and you're left with nothing.

David R's picture
David R

I love your new word "peculating"! I guess you meant percolating, but peculating is much more interesting - it looks like you borrowed it from Italian, where "peculato" means the kind of embezzlement in which a public official steals money that was meant for government projects. Anyone whose sourdough starter is savvy enough to get a government job and siphon some cash, must be doing something right. 😁

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

Here I am thinking You were referring to fermentolyse! Alas, it was my poor spelling skills. I blame it on a less than adequate public education system in N.Y.C. in the '60s and '70s. Oh no! I just gave away my age! The sad thing here is, I am not sure it has improved all that much.

David R's picture
David R

No way! Don't sell yourself short! For you to come up with such a great word (sure, people up north need 50 words for different types of snow, but New Yorkers need 50 words for different types of ridiculously expensive apartments, and Italians unfortunately need 50 words for different types of corrupt politicians 🙂). You nailed it!

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

Sorry if that 's to off-color for this group I could not resist! Anyhow, I woke from my slumber at this late hour (what else is new) Curiosity got the better of me, so I snuck a peek. All systems go!

 

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

I want to have everything in place and figure out, mainly how I am going to implement Sylvia's steaming towel technique. I think I have it sorted. The oven is cranked up and pre-heating. In addition to the towel, I will supplement with ice into the scorching hot broiler pan.

I almost forgot to place the probe of my very accurate oven thermometer. I carefully placed it in the already hot oven. The door was open for a few minutes, I found that the temperature did in fact bounce back rather quickly. Smile

Benito's picture
Benito

Can’t wait to see how well they turn out!

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

A visual examination reveled the baguettes are holding an indent. This is it, the end game! I so hope I did not build this up for a huge let down!

BreadLee's picture
BreadLee

Where's those slashes? 

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

May have helped humidify the loafs! Ha! I kill me!

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

The French baguette so simple such a table staple. This humble bread is one of, if not the most difficult of the French bread's to master. Alas, baking just a few baguettes only a few times a year is not conducive to mastering the techniques required. It was necessary to take inventory of my recent bakes. On the advice of my friend Alfonso, I took a step back and lowered the hydration for this bake to 65%. Also under the tutelage of Alfonso, I opted for a tried and true formula, Hamelman's Vermont sourdough. The formula was scaled to yield 1200 grams of dough. Even adding 1% bowl residue allowance, I came up short, not exactly sure why I ended with only a minuscule amount of bowl residue. Not a huge deal, just curious. The actual yield, was three baguettes @ 395 grams, instead of 400 grams.

The photograph of the finished loaves revealed that my slashes needed to be at a more severe angle along the length of the loaf. That is an easy fix next time. The jury is still out pending the crumb shot. Thanks for your help and encouragement Alan!

BreadLee's picture
BreadLee

Those look great! Nicely done.  

Benito's picture
Benito

Beautiful, congratulations 

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

I was hoping for a little more air. I think my dull bread knife may be part of the issue. All and all, I am very happy with this bake. I now have a good result to continue to build on!

Thanks to all for following along with my obsessive compulsive, long winded posting! Smile. You see my friends, I am legend in my own mind! He, hehe, he, hehe, he. 

 food and indoor

David R's picture
David R

Solution for dull bread knives: If you're going to spend serious money on any knives, let it not be your bread knife! You should "cheap out" on the bread knife (hopefully not the $1 type, but get one very easy to afford), so that when it gets dull, you won't feel bad about just chucking it out and buying another one.

(If you know someone who loves sharpening serrated bread knives and you have a fancy bread knife, then by all means pay them to do it - but I bet you don't know anyone who loves that job. 🙂)