The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Ultimate Slashing Tool

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Ultimate Slashing Tool

 Upon seeing the posts questioning how to store your razor blades, I thought I would share my discovery with you all. I used to use a single edge razor and a sharpened paring knife and I even bought a lame from KA and tried the double edge razor on a coffee stirrer stick. All of those devices will slash your dough some of the time without getting snagged or tearing the surface. Some recommend the blade be wet or oiled or floured to help glide the blade without sticking. None of those devices will work reliably all the time or on any type of dough, even over proofed fragile dough.

I have read several places that a serrated knife will work for slashing but it seemed like a good way to snag the dough so until recently I disregarded the advice and stuck with a sharp razor like knife. When I couldn't find my blade quickly one day I grabbed my old Tomato knife and slashed my dough more easily than ever before. It was an epiphany of sorts. We all want to create some artful design that shows our artistry and I usually hold my breath when it comes to slashing. After a few times on a variety of french, rye's, sunflower seed loaves, I am hooked. There isn't a better way to reliably slash dough. The knife I use was sold as a Tomato knife when I bought it 25 years ago. It's a 5 inch blade with a very non aggressive serration that has been worn down over the years. I found a Tomato Knife from Komachi on Amazon for $14 that looks like it would be about the same as my knife when new. Plus it comes in a case! If you haven't tried a serrated (maybe a worn out serrated) knife for slashing I urge you to try it out. I like the small size better for more gentle handling and my rounded tip makes curves a breeze. Check it out!

Eric 

My Knife
My Knife
Komachi
Komachi

TRK's picture
TRK

I started using a tomato knife that came with a set of knives I bought.  I have never looked back.

home_mill's picture
home_mill

Makes sense to me. I find that razor blades and knifes with sharp straight blades tend to slide along instead of cutting into the dough requiring multiple passes and more pressure to get a deep enough slash. I think the serrations create more grip on the dough and cut into it easier. Its a similar effect to cutting a loaf of bread with a serrated knife.

 

Grey's picture
Grey

I've just been using a carving knife to slash my dough lately, it's worked fine though sometimes I wet the blade depending on how sticky the dough is, I'm going to try a Lame from KA when I get the chance, but so far this has worked fine as long as it's nothing too detailed or too small

proth5's picture
proth5

I seldom say things like this, but I would suggest that you not waste your money on the KA lame, especially the one with the non-replaceable blade.

It will go dull quickly and is almost impossible to sharpen (Yes, I got taken in and have bought several...).  Then you have a dull blade and what can you do?  Spend more money on another on.

If you like using a razor blade (and I'm not saying use it or not, but if you like to use one) you can get blade holders from TMB baking http://www.tmbbaking.com/ for a very nominal price and they will last a lifetime.

Hope this is helpful.

GrapevineTXoldaccount's picture
GrapevineTXolda...

a serrated knife works for me too.  It took me months to discover it, but once I did, well, I'm like TRK, 'I never looked back'....lol

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

I tried the razor blade method and couldn't get a decent slash plus I was scared of cutting myself. Now I use an old veggie knife made by Chefmate which I'm pretty sure I bought at the grocery store quite inexpensively. It has fine serrations and sharpens up nicely with the metal sharpening rod from my knife block. I'll never be as swift and sure as the professionals but it does a good job on every bread I bake, A.

chez-jude's picture
chez-jude

I initially was struggling with an X-acto blade. But I soon discovered that my el-cheapo Ikea serrated bread knife did a mighty fine job with no hassle.

I also have a Pampered Chef cheese knife that has a very fine, very sharp serration. It, too, works great for slashing dough.

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

I've been using a #11 scalpel blade. The angle of cut must be very shallow, otherwise the dough will bunch up under the blade. Sticky dough is the worst. Often the cut is very shallow requiring another slash.

If this works I owe you two Atta Boys and One Gold Star! And last, thank God for acts of necessity otherwise we'd still be pounding acorns...,

 

Wild-Yeast

ehanner's picture
ehanner

You know, I really just wish I was smart enough to have followed the directions of whoever it was that first suggested using a serrated blade. Everyone has trouble slashing and I was overjoyed when this worked so effortlessly.

Eric

mcs's picture
mcs

 This is the same type of knife I use for scoring made by Calphalon. Previously I used a regular bread knife, but tried the razor thing for a while (in the videos).  Now I'm back to the serrated 5" knife and sticking with it.  I like it because the serrations aren't too small so they don't gunk up, plus you can clean them up real quickly with a metal scraper.

-Mark 

 

tomato/bagel knifetomato/bagel knife

http://thebackhomebakery.com

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

This was probably my only valuable contribution,  made in 2006 : 3rd post :http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/872/perfect-slashmarks#comment-2367

 This was a busy baking weekend. I made 2 loaves of sourdough in my new brotforms, 2 loaves of Anadama, bread pudding with the leftovers from last week and a Pain de Provence. I had a terrible time with the Pain de Provence. I tried to do the final rise in the brotform and the bottom of the loaf kept opening up. I pinched the heck out of it twice. Finally I just reshaped and baked it freeform. It didn't look too great after having been degassed and reshaped 3 times, but it tastes good!

Larry Clark's picture
Larry Clark

 

Paddyscake,

What was dough weight of the two boules?

Larry

 

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

This is Thom Leonard's French Country loaf, which makes a 4 lb (1.8 kilo). Too big for us, so I always divide it in half.

Windischgirl's picture
Windischgirl

Paddy, those are beautiful loaves!  I aspire to that level of slash artistry ;-)

Reassuring to know I am not the only one having these problems.  I have tried the razor blade thing and the ginzu knife thing (my hubby's dowry!) and have had the most success with a blunt-end, serrated meat carving knife.

That, quick timing (right before the loaves hit the oven) and a "kick-butt" attitude ;-)  I used to be so careful--timid, really.  Yesterday I was so proud of myself...the best slashing so far, of a couple of loaves of Leader's Pain de Campagne.  Just pretended I was a surgeon, full of confidence: zip zip zip and I was rewarded with a lot of oven spring.

So think: you can do this, people! 

 

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

Is the right one to have! The serrated knife I use is a serrated meat carver also.

Thanks for the compliment.

rideold's picture
rideold

I've never use anything but a serrated blade pretty much like the ones mentioned here.  I've even used my 10" bread knife when I couldn't find my 5" slicer.  I've always wondered about using a razor "like the real bakers".  Don't know that I'll bother now as I've been pretty happy with my slashes lately and haven't had any snagging problems in the past.  Thanks for putting this up and answering one of the "back of the mind" questions. 

holds99's picture
holds99

I ordered the Komachi tomato and bread knives on-line.  Got frustrated fiddling with single edged blades, double edged blades in and out of lames, on sticks, box cutters, etc.  Thanks for the information, MUCH appreciated. 

Howard - St. Augustine, FL

2brownbraids's picture
2brownbraids

 

Thank you all : Eric,Mac, Paddyscake.  All this time, I cannot slash my dough properly and my answer is right in my kitchen drawer !  I cannot wait to try.  Have a nice weekend baking.  

-2brownbraids

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Eric,

I tried the serrated edge slashing method and ended up with the same problem as before with the dough bunching up. I went through every serrated blade in my inventory and ended up with one really lacerated messed up boule (all the edges are razor sharp).

I went to Widget Supply and ordered four 5.25 inch big ended scalpel handles and a 100 - #24 blades to go with them. I am now a very happy slasher! By the way I did learn that you have to be fast and assertive when slashing. Moistening the blade also helps.

Below is an image of the setup:

Wild-Yeast

Surgical Lame

 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

So you tried a couple serrated knives in the drawer and not happy, decided to place an order for 100 blades you haven't tried yet? I would love to see the blades you tried and the dough after "slashing". There must be something else going on here.

Eric

edh's picture
edh

I only have one serrated blade, a bread knife, but it's very sharp, and I've made a total hash of things when I've tried it too!

On the other hand, razors and such haven't worked terribly well for me either; the only knife I can use consistently is an old blue steel knife with a funny curved blade of very heavy steel that makes me think it was intended as a skinning knife. If I sharpen that with a coarse stone (like what you'd use for an ax or a scythe), it makes the best slashing tool I've had. I'm thinking the coarse stone leaves a sort of super fine serration so that my clumsy hand doesn't cause the dough to bunch up, but cuts right through.

edh

naschol's picture
naschol

Add me to the list of serrated knife fans!  I also tried the razor blades and didn't succeed.  I got a cheap, serrated knife with a cutting board and it works like magic!  I do usually wet the blade for each loaf, but it cuts smoothly and cleanly.

 

Nancy

JIP's picture
JIP

My favorite still has to be the double edged razor and coffee stirrer (sorry no picture).  I used to be all about buying the right thing till I went out and spent $5.00 on a plastic Lamme or is it lamee whatever I recently got a package of double edge blades at work and went to Starbucks and got a handfull of coffee stirrers and all you do is bend the blade and slide the stirrer through the 2 sides of the opening so it acts as a handle and voila perfect Lamme??.

pelosofamily's picture
pelosofamily

I bought a lame from SFB.  The dough bunches up...was disappointed, but a thin cheapo serrated worked best! go figure.  Maybe the surface tension on  the dough comes into play?

 

 

 

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Hi Eric,

Yeah, 100 sounds like a lot but I have other uses for them. They get used up fairly fast even when the individual blade edges are honed keen several times before replacement. Besides, it lends a very serious business aire to the art of loaf slashing. Too bad John Belushi never did a Samurai Bread Slasher skit in his time at SNL...,

I'll have to try the coffee stirrer and the double edged razor sometime and look around the Daiso store for a sharp, skinny, Japanese, high-carbon steel, serrated blade.

 

The commercial Lame's have a curved double edged blade in them. I'm wondering what the purpose of the curve is for (open the cut like a plough)?

Wild-Yeast

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Wild-Yeast. 

The curve in the lame blade is to lift the flap of dough a bit as you slash it with the blade at a 30 degree angle from horizontal. The curve of the blade should be convex, as you look at it. (I discovered that by carefully scrutinizing photos of lame action in cookbooks.) 

This technique is used with long loaves like baguettes and batards, not with round loaves (boules), where a straight serrated blade held vertical to the dough surface is more traditional. 

With the curved lame, what you are trying to achieve is something like this: 
SF SD with WW from C&CSF SD with WW from C&C 

David

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Take a good look at the blade at the top of this thread. It's barely a serrated edge. Very low profile from years of sharpening with the stone which flattens the points. That's the key. If you use an aggressive blade with big points, it won't work well.

Eric

foolishpoolish's picture
foolishpoolish

I've tried both razor blades and serrated knife (various) and had mixed success with both.  Keeping the blade moist hasn't made it any easier for me.

I understand that the movement needs to be swift, firm and confident and preferably with the face of the blade angled (not perpendicular) to the surface - but I've not yet managed to find anything approaching the perfect cut.  Should I be looking to slash more with the point than the edge?  Should it be more a slicing action or a cutting action or stab-and-drag action?  (yikes that sounded rather violent but I think you get the picture).

FP 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

the loaf with a little flour first? Or, maybe the dough is just too wet to slash. When do we get to see a picture of a loaf before/after a slash?

I baked a ww loaf in a glass casserole the other day. I deep angled slashed with a scissors hoping for a chrysanthemum look. Everything looked great before going into the oven, then it re-sealed in the first 5 minutes and the whole thing rose like a souffle'. Guess it just didn't want to slash, too wet. I could feel the large bubbles under the surface so I knew I had to do something. Maybe I should have stabbed it from above with a knitting needle about 20 times.

I was surprised when I was folding and shaping this loaf how much flour I had to add for the dough to keep it's shape. I'm playing with whole wheat and whole spelt flours now with all the little brown gram flecks in it.

Mini O

Windischgirl's picture
Windischgirl

I've had my share of slashing challenges as well..tomato knife, single edge razor, cheese knife (it was a pretty extensive Ginzu set my hubby had as his dowry!), etc. 

But it isn't only the knife.  I've discovered I've had the most difficulty with soft/wet or overproofed doughs...which is why someone on another thread was having problems slashing a NKB.  No way you can slash that, or a ciabatta.  

If I'm having trouble with a firmer dough, odds are it's overproofed.  Best bet for me is to reshape and wait for another (briefer) proof, pay attention and try again.  I'm still working on my angling (math is not my forte...neither geometry for slashing or algebra for calculating percentages :-(

FP, I've had the most success with a slicing action, pulling the knife towards me (handle toward me, of course) and making contact with the dough from the thickest part of the blade first...the part closest to the handle.  It's a pretty fast action...I also had a lot of ripping when I tried to be too deliberate.  It's a quick "zip".

 

Paula F

Philadelphia PA

amyv's picture
amyv

  I just paid $16 CDN for 10 Gillette double edged razorblades yesterday and they didn't even work as well as the serrated bread knife I had been "making do" with before.  I am definitely going to pick up a serated utility knife and see how it does.

kanin's picture
kanin

Hey guys... I had great success using a 10 inch sushi knife. Used it out of necessity when I couldn't find my lame that dragged dough all over the place. Any long razor sharp slicer should work as well.

Just one smooth backwards stroke with the blade at an angle -- no downward pressure at all.

I used it on Janedo's Baguettes Monge with good results (shameless self-promotion):
http://www.applepiepatispate.com/bread/eric-kayser-baguettes-monge/

pelosofamily's picture
pelosofamily

I use my bread knife.  It's about 1o years old.  Works better than all the baker's slashing tools I have.  Go figure!!!  Maybe there is no such thing as a perfect slashing tool?  Albert

josordoni's picture
josordoni

I like my old Kitchen Devils scalloped edge knife, cuts very cleanly, compared to a straight bladed Sabatier I have that is viciously sharp but drags the dough.

tcleves's picture
tcleves

I use a Sur La Table bar knife I brought for cutting up lemons and limes. I think it cost around $5 a few years back. It comes with a case and works very well. Slashing toolSur La Table bar knife: Slashing tool

 

 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Now that's just about exactly the look of my old tomato knife blade. For me this style is trouble free and works every time with no snags. Thanks for sharing this, I hadn't seen it before.

Eric