The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

The effect of scoring on loaf shape.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

The effect of scoring on loaf shape.

We have had a number of discussions of baking techniques that impact oven spring and how well our cuts bloom. These have mostly focused on oven/stone temperature and oven humidity.  

 Michael Suas, in his book "Advanced Bread & Pastry," provides some information about how scoring patterns influence loaf shape. Scoring is not just to make a visually pretty design on the top of a loaf. It is also a way for the baker to control the direction in which the loaf expands. This impacts the shape of the loaf cross section (rounder or more oval), the hight of the loaf and, for a boule, whether it stays round or ends up more oblong.

According to Suas, long loaves like bâtards and baguettes are traditionally scored parallel to their long axis. This may be a single long cut or multiple cuts that are almost parallel and overlap somewhat. 

San Joaquin Light Rye 2

 

  Pain_de_CampagneBatard 

The effect of these cuts is to allow the loaf to expand in width, resulting in a more oval cross section.

However, for breads with high-rye content which have lower gluten and less oven spring, the traditional objective is to encourage a higher rise in the oven spring resulting in a rounder cross section. This is achieved by "sausage" or "chevron" cuts.

Sausage cut (on the left) and Chevron cut (on the right)

Sausage cut (on the left) and Chevron cut (on the right) 

Boules are scored in a variety of patterns, again with differing effects on how the loaf expands. The common "tic-tac-toe" pattern and a simple cross will direct the expansion upward. More complex patterns like diamonds result in a relatively flatter loaf.

One of most interesting effects is that scoring a boule with multiple parallel cuts encourages expansion at a right angle to the cuts. This results in an oblong loaf shape.

Two identical boules scored differently

Two identical boules scored differently 

 Of course, there are other important variables in scoring such as the cut depth and the angle at which the blade is held. 

 Your comments are invited.

 David 

Larry Clark's picture
Larry Clark

and I wish I was knowlegable enough to add to it, but it  does compliment my post about exploding sourdough boules. One of my goals is to produce a boule like Floyd M's pictured below.

What happens to a boule if it scored with a chevron pattern? What if they were in one direction on half the loaf and the opposite direction on the other half? These are the kind of questions I hope to have answered and look forward to others input.

 

Larry

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Larry.

What happens to a boule if it scored with a chevron pattern? What if they were in one direction on half the loaf and the opposite direction on the other half? These are the kind of questions I hope to have answered and look forward to others input

Please post photos after you have conducted these experiments. ;-)
 David
mcs's picture
mcs

Once again, I thank you for your very analytical approach in addressing an important baking topic.   Your side-by-side comparisons are very telling as they are in addition to the written descriptions. Just curious if you usually score your loaves (of the same dough) differently from each other, or was it for experimental reasons?  A follow up question to that one, is what are your common (favorite) scoring patterns for different shapes or is that mostly dependent on the bread type?

-Mark

http://thebackhomebakery.com

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I am glad you find the topic of interest. I hope you will share your own thoughts and experience regarding scoring loaves.

I do often score two loaves in the same batch differently. Usually, this is just for the sake of variety. Sometimes I am looking at the effect (both aesthetic and pragmatic) of a new (to me) pattern.

My "favorites" are probably the most traditional scoring patterns for baguettes, batards and boules. For the latter, I like a simple "tic-tac-toe" pattern. But, the truth is, I like variety.

Last Christmas, I made a double batch of Hamelman's "5-grain Levain" to give out to my office staff. 6 boules, each scored with a different pattern.

I have the luxery of not having to produce a uniform-appearing product for a customer base that mistrusts anything that looks different from what they bought the last time.


David

mcs's picture
mcs

Thanks for the feedback on the scoring.  This is a picture of my current scoring for the multigrain loaves - 24 oz freeform boule.  It works out great and helps the boules get some height.

mg boulemg boule

-Mark

http://thebackhomebakery.com

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

The upward spring is impressive. This is a great illustration of scoring effects.


David

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Wow that's a great shape Mark. Is that the same recipe? I'm just about to start up a batch for tomorrow night.

Eric 

mcs's picture
mcs

...leaving your favorite scoring knife on the pan with your loaves for the first 10 minutes of the bake!  D'Oh!

melted knifemelted knife

-Mark
Yes, that's the same multigrain recipe, Eric.

http://thebackhomebakery.com

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Don't you hate it when we act like humble beings?

Eric 

mcs's picture
mcs

I seem to be quite adept at keeping my ego in check. 

-Mark

http://thebackhomebakery.com

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

Now you just have to learn to hold that one of a kind scoring knife at the proper angle. I'm sure you'll have no problem and your technique will be most unique. Another first  :  ) custom scoring knife!

I love how the scoring affected the height of the boule..nice!

Betty

photojess's picture
photojess

would love to try to make something this nice!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

and I've been doing it since 1983 with a scissors!  I do flatten my rolls out a little first.  (I have difficulty with the folding.)  It is a beautiful cut isn't it?

This time of the year, it resembles a pumpkin!    :) 

Mini O

staff of life's picture
staff of life

Just a comment first: there is a pic in Suas' book that has three parallel cuts in a boule, and the boule still ends up perfectly round.  This seems impossible to me.

I've discovered a few things about slashing.  Most of my loaves are proofed in oval bannetons, and I make a few sandwich loaves as well.  If the loaf is slightly underproofed, or of a very vigorous nature, a slash down the middle with a curved lame with open to a beautiful grigne.  Take that same loaf and score it with a criss-cross pattern (3 diagonal slashes in one direction, 3 opposite to that), the loaf will look messy and uneven.  That criss-cross pattern will look much better on a fully proofed loaf, and is the only option (shallower slashes, of course) on an overproofed one, as there will be little to no grigne on such a loaf.  The flower slashing (Cliffside Bakery has an example on his spelt loaf) works well on a slightly underproofed loaf as well, and looks less exciting on a loaf that will have less ovenspring.

SOL

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, SOL.

The effects of slashing are going to be impacted by many variables that influence oven spring and bloom, as you rightly point out. In fact, those variables, including how slack a dough you are working with is, should influence your choice of scoring approach.

If we are thinking of the same Suas photo, I think the loaf is not "perfectly round," but it is less oblong than the one I used to illustrate the effect.


David

ejm's picture
ejm

I wish I'd seen this BEFORE I scored today's loaves (photos still in camera). I chose a lengthwise slash down the middle and the loaves did indeed spread out rather than rising up (what I wanted).

Thanks for posting this. It will be most useful in the future.

-Elizabeth 

jannrn's picture
jannrn

Oh My GOD!!! I had NO idea what a difference the scoring made in a loaf...yes I am VERY new to all this and SO grateful for all the advice and help I find here!! Again....my ignorance is hanging out.....what exactly is "Grigne"?? And I THOUGHT I was a bread baker!!!! This site has REALLY whetted my appetite to bake bigger and much BETTER breads!!! Can't WAIT to get started!!! THANK YOU!!
Jannrn

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, jannrn.


"Grigne" refers to the exposed area of dough under the part of the crust that lifts up from scoring (the "ear") during oven spring. Here's a photo:



David

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Could you provide audio of the word being spoken in Californian English?


Added by edit: Then I found this that helps.


Eric

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

...good discussion and excellent photos that illustrate your points.


Thanks for posting this - I will be saving it.

Davo's picture
Davo

The angle of the cut will not only change the way the loaf will spread, but also the extent to which it can expand, in total ("airiness"). If you take an oval loaf and slash it lengthways or with parallel nearly lengthwise baguette style cuts, as noted already it will lay out sideways and lose a little height. Personally I don't mind this as I quite like the (higher) crust ratio that way. As also noted, the more you cut it across the loaf, the more height it will retain. In fact, if you slash it with parallel cuts directly across the oval loaf (90 degrees to the long axis), it will tend to elongate a little more and stay rounder rather than flatter in cross section. Think of it this way - those tensioned hoops of skin around the loaf are not cut, so it retains tension in any cross sectional cut. The pressure can't be relieved in that direction. I reckon oval loaves cut this way, while higher, are also (for the same amount of proving) denser, exactly because it does keep up that hoop tension, which keeps pressure on those bubbles that are trying to expand under baking heat. Sure, there is some longitudinal "give", but that only gives a bubble somewhere to expand into at occasional intervals along the loaf, not in all cross sections along the loaf as happens with a lengthwise cut/cuts.


Also, just because of the different length of "circumference"  across the loaf compared to along it, and the fact that shaping ovals/and tother longish shapes tends to put more tension in the hoop of skin around the loaf, there will be more tension to be relieved by a long versus an across cut.


So if you want your bread big and airy, but slightly flat, with biggish ratio of crust, slash an oval loaf lengthways or nearly so (baguette). If you want it high (rounder cross section) and don't mind the fact that it's not quite such a big volume (a little tighter and denser) slash it across the loaf.


If you can bake two ovals at a time (as I can with two, 850 g loaves, in a 900 mm wide oven) try those opposite style slashing patterns, and you will be amzed at how differently they come out, and how consistently this is so.