The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hello from Buffalo!

granularity's picture

Hello from Buffalo!

Hi, I've been baking for about 5 years now, all kinds of bread, including sourdough -- using a strain of the 1857 Oregon trail starter.  I've developed a recipe I like a lot, that includes rye, whole wheat, and high gluten flour, as well as bread flour.  

I have two questions:

First: for my round sourdough loaves, I use a floured banneton with no liner (the liner seemed to stick to everything, was not good).  I'm baking in a very old, heavy cast iron dutch oven -- cover on at 475F for 20mins, cover off at 460F for 25mins.  Crumb and texture are good.  

But!!  I heat up the dutch oven in the oven, take it out blazing hot to put the dough in.  Picture me holding the banneton with oven mitts on over a red hot cast iron pan, waiting for the dough to decide to plop out.  I have zero control -- it  sometimes even comes out clinging to the interior side of the dutch oven, which makes me want to kill, having prepared the dough for 48hrs.  What are better techniques for getting dough out of the banneton??  Clearly, I am missing something! 

Second: what do you recommend for slashing the top of the bread?  I can't seem to find a knife sharp enough -- I often use a box-cutter, but the blade could be longer...  Is it worth it to invest in an expensive lame?  Is there a technique I'm not aware of?  I often find myself needing to hold the dough as I slice into it, which of course leaves "rustic" finger marks...  

Thanks for any advice!!

BaniJP's picture

I would first dump the loaf on a piece of parchment paper, then slide that into the Dutch oven. Gives you way more control in case it doesn't come out that easily.

For scoring you can just use razor blades, they are cheap, you can reuse them multiple times and a lame is nothing else than a razor blade on a stick.

Benito's picture

I second the recommendation to use parchment paper.  With my banneton on the counter, I place the sheet of parchment over it, then with one hand over the parchment covering the top of the banneton, I lift and flip the banneton over and place the banneton parchment paper side down on the counter.  The it is easy to score the dough on the counter without burning yourself.  I have a lame but you could also carefully use a razor blade but I worry about cutting myself so I use the lame.  Then after scoring it is easy to transfer the dough into the Dutch oven using the parchment paper to pick up the dough and carefully placing it into the Dutch oven.  I usually spray a bit of extra water into the Dutch over then as I think it helps by getting more steam into the Dutch oven for more oven spring.


Our Crumb's picture
Our Crumb

Welcome Gran,

I bake on a stone, not in a DO, so I can't help there.

But re:slashing...

First, you don't need to buy a lame.  There are many perfectly serviceable DIY options.  Double edge razor blades are as sharp as you need and there are many ways to fashion a makeshift handle.  Search this site (search box above) and find lots of options.  I insert a razor blade into a split 2-3" length of cutoff chopstick handle, secured with mini zip ties.  Works brilliantly and lasts months and months before dulling, with 1-2 bakes/week.

Second, search here for TFLer David Snyder's excellent slashing tutorial.  He lightly holds the dough with his left hand's thumb and forefinger while the blade slices between them.  Sure, professional bakers slash away with one hand at light speed.  But they're pros and we're not.

Third, refrigerator temperature doughs with a light dusting of flour are far easier to slash than room temperature (or harder: 78˚ proofer temperature) doughs.  The latter can be slashed easily, but probably require practice and the confidence that comes with it.  So chill your dough first.  One TFLer reported shoving her doughs in the freezer for 15 min before slashing and loading.  That was supposedly to enhance oven spring (not so sure about that) but it would certainly firm up the skin for slashing.

Happy baking and be safe,


granularity's picture

wow, thanks so much for these suggestions -- !!  really grateful for your time and attention (and experience!) --

the parchment idea is such common sense i feel dopey for not thinking of it before! and i have 9" rounds from king arthur flour that will work perfectly.  

yes, the box cutter i've been using is a razor blade, but it gets very unwieldy when extended far out enough to make good cuts -- will take a look at the various suggestions here to learn more about slashing.  

pul's picture

You can also flour your banneton with rice flour or 50% mix with AP flour to avoid the dough from sticking to the banneton