The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

scoring high hydration dough

benjamin163's picture

scoring high hydration dough


Am I right in thinking that if you are working with a dough of 70% or over you will never end up with a loaf with proper 'ears' that you can pick the bread up from?

I score wet dough with a sharp razor edge and I try and go deep but the result is always the same. It comes out with the bread having risen but not through the score which has closed up on itself leaving just a slight slash, as illustrated in the baguettes But when I use a dough of about 50-60% I get a successful rise, as illustrated above.

Also, does anyone have an opinion on how hot the oven should be when you put the bread in? What temperature assures the best spring? Should I use a cold oven and let the bread rise as the oven gets warmer or should I use a hot oven and 'shock' it into rising?

Any help gratefully received

UpsideDan's picture

"Classic sourdoughs: a home baker's handbook" suggests that for the best oven spring you should put the dough in a cold oven and don't count the time until it gets to the set temperature. The writer admits this goes against general wisdom, so there is probably no one best answer to your question...

bottleny's picture

Have you tried his suggestion?

UpsideDan's picture

Yes, and I think it does add to the loaf volume, although with all the other variations between one dough to another, it is a bit hard to tell. The suggestion makes sense since that increases the time for the inside of the dough to be in a temperature that is higher than room temp and lower than yeast-killing temp, so the yeast is very productive at that time.

alfanso's picture

Here is an 80% hydration Pain au Levain with more than 99% AP flour.  Formula from SFBI, but hydration bumped up from 68 to 80.

You can read about it here.  Based on Steve B's take.

Scoring is another practiced skill, just stick to it.  Reference Dan Ayo's journey to getting his scoring down.  He'll admit that it took a lot of diligence and work.  And that goes for me too.

I heat my oven up to just over baking temp for 45-60 minutes in advance and bake on a thick granite stone.


BaniJP's picture

In my experience ears are all about scoring (given that you have a proper oven, proven dough etc. etc.). You need to score at a very shallow angle (like maybe 20-25°), the blade needs to go far under the skin, but not deep into the dough. Takes a a little practice, but can be achieved within 2-3 loafs.

DanAyo's picture

Ben, Alfanso helped me a great deal, and it took me a long time to produce ears. The very best suggestion he told me was to learn on lower hydration doughs. I think his favorite is 68%. That works extremely well for me using all white flour.

Gorgeous ears can be produced at very high hydrations. Check out Kristen of FullProofBaking for examples. She works with doughs of 80% hydration and even considerably higher. Ears using high hydration doughs require a special skill set.

I have read many bakers that teach that scoring skills make great ears. Bani statements are the prevalent wisedom.  My efforts to produce ears has taken me down every conceivable path. I scored my brains out <LOL>  But my experiences have pointed my focus in a different direction. For me the very most important factor to produce ears is the condition of the dough when it enters the oven. I like my dough to err on the side of under-fermenting rather than over. The dough needs reserved gas when it hits the hot oven. Without oven spring, ears are impossible. Without expanding gas, oven spring can’t occur.

So, scoring, proper fermentation, oven heat and set up are all necessary for ears.

I am no authority, but my best recommendation for ears is to first focus on huge oven spring. Once your loaves pop in the oven, ears will soon follow.

” Also, does anyone have an opinion on how hot the oven should be when you put the bread in? What temperature assures the best spring?” I have recently discovered (I think) that too much heat on the crust can be detrimental to both the oven spring and ear. If the crust browns and consequently hardens too fast, it will set. If the crust hardens prematurely all possible dough expansion, even if there is more expanding gas, will not be possible. The resulting crumb will not be open since the skin of the dough can’t stretch to allow the inner cells to enlarge. The concept of a very hot stone with a slightly cooler top appeals to me.

You may find something of interest is these links.