The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Ears...

  • Pin It
Pablo's picture
Pablo

Ears...

Sometimes the scoring opens up in an explosion of dough with lovely ears, and sometimes the slashes just kind of lay there, expanding but without the exploded dough or the ears, and the slashes appear shiny.  Any ideas as to why one vs. the other?  The loaf on the left has some small ears popping up, on the right are just shiny slashes.  It's the same dough, baked at the same time.


:-Paul


Ears


 


 

Floydm's picture
Floydm

I think the ears area better when you slash at an angle, like this / instead of like this |.



Almost like you are trying to skin off the outside layer of the loaf rather than cut down into it.  I did a pretty good job on this recent loaf.



Of course there are other factors too, like getting the loaf in the oven at just the right time, cutting deep enough, and having enough steam in there that it can really spring.  My best ears have all been on sourdough loaves with moderate hydration, so the dough isn't too slack to shape or slit.

Pablo's picture
Pablo

Thanks Floyd,


Good call.  I'll pay more attention to my slashing technique.  I guess my dough tends to be a bit slack, you can see the stuttering on the left loaf where the ears picked up a bit - the blade kind of skitters along, not really a smooth slice.  I use a double edged razor, it's the thinnist, sharpest thing I can think of.


:-Paul

Floydm's picture
Floydm

I have the same problem.   My crumb comes out best when I have a really slack dough, but my scoring comes out best when it is tighter.   Only rarely do I find the sweet spot that is shapable, scorable, and results in a really open crumb. 

proth5's picture
proth5

When I was working through my baguette issues, I thought about the variables.  They included hydration, but also included the amount of leaven and the amount of flour that was pre-fermented.


Also the long, cold fermentation process seems to yield good results, but for a number of reasons I do not use that method.


Since I make a levain "baguette" (Not legally a baguette, I know, I know....) I couldn't directly vary the amount of leaven.


But I did make a lot of adjustments on the amount of flour that was pre-fermented.


We bake under very different conditions, but I found the sweet spot at 12% of the flour pre-fermented and 65% hydration.  The amount of flour in the preferment had more bang for the buck than the hydration. 


As usual, I warn: my hands, my altitude, my dough.


I also hear the words ringing in my ears "Every step must be perfect!  Every step!"


And when live up to that, I'll let y'all know....

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Floyd makes a good point about the angle of the blade encouraging ears. I would like to chime in that I think if you think about your cut before you start to move, recognize that if you are cutting at an angle you should cut deeper in order to get further into the crumb. Otherwise it's like skinning a fish. You will get a nice flap (ear) but you won't be providing relief for the expansion.


Another thing that helps is not trying to time the proof perfectly. I've been having much better luck proofing just long enough that I can see the dough is moving, say 25-35%. Then when you slash you can do so without the thought of deflation. Just a quick straight pull. And I have way better luck using a small serrated knife.


I know there many thoughts on how best to slash but I've never thought a razor works as well, without snags, as a tomato knife. Works for me.


Eric

Marni's picture
Marni

A tip I got here from Norm is to wet the knife ( I also find that a knife works better than a razor) before slashing. It cuts down on the drag.


Marni

Pablo's picture
Pablo

I think my biggest problem is the slackness of the dough.  I'm going to try lowering my hydration level.


I did get a lame-type razor blade holder that curves the blade, but I don't actually know what the curve is for.  Should it be curving up or down as I slash the loaf?  I haven't found a video of lame useage that shows anything this basic.


:-Paul

mcs's picture
mcs

Pablo,
The curved lame would be held like you would hold a teaspoon from the end of the handle.  If you held it as if you were pouring water out of it in a northwest/ or 10:00 direction, that would be the approximate cutting angle (tips of thumb/index/middle finger are all at the lowest points of your hand).  If that makes any sense.


-Mark

proth5's picture
proth5

I use a curved double edged razor blade.  The blade is held so that the concave side is uppermost.


I am most successful when I hold the blade so that it is "behind" the cut (with the loaf facing me.)


And now the cryptic comment from "my teacher":   "Mental mise en place."


Also take heart that I saw many a baguette at the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie that had bad grigne.  They just pick their best ones to show to the judges.  Don't be hard on yourself...

SteveB's picture
SteveB

Hi Pat,


Not to sound contrary, but I don't think the comment is at all cryptic.  It's like the old carpenter's adage, "Measure twice, cut once".  One gets much better results if the placement and length of the scoring is first visualized in one's mind before the actual step is performed.


SteveB


http://www.breadcetera.com 

proth5's picture
proth5

Not cryptic.  Thanks, Steve!


It was useful for me, so I pass it on...

ryeaskrye's picture
ryeaskrye

Not cryptic, but I have a detail question for my own edification.


I use a double-edge razor blade on a coffee stirring stick (Starbucks is good for something) that ends up curved as I am imagining yours is. And I understand Floyd's notes about an angled flap rather than straight in.


But which part of the edge of the blade do you bring in contact with the dough?


The corner? Middle of the curve? One end or the other?


John

mcs's picture
mcs

Either left or right handed, the part of the blade that hits the dough (on a double edged blade) is the top left corner or top right corner.  However the side that hits depends on how you're scoring. If Floyd scored from left to right (with the loaf positioned as it is) then he used the top right corner of the blade, if he scored from right to left, he used the top left corner of the blade.  I think.

-Mark

Pablo's picture
Pablo

Thanks all.  I especially appreciate the comment about the folks at the boulangerie not hitting it perfect every time.  That helps.  Another thing that I notice watching Mark's videos was that he tended to use two fingers from his other hand to stabilize the dough surface (I think) while he scored between his fingers.  That helps as well.  It's amazing to me how much I forget when it actually comes time to do the scoring.  Maybe the thing to practice at that moment is to settle down and take a breath and visualize before i actually go at it.  It's funny how panicked i can get at times - shaping was very difficult for me for awhile, but I'm more comfortable with that now.  Anyway, great info, as always, thanks.


:-Paul