The Fresh Loaf

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When/if to score my boule?

bodger's picture

When/if to score my boule?

Hi all


I'm pretty new to this and have only baked perhaps a dozen loaves.  I'm struggling a little bit with my crumb, but that's the subject of another thread entirely.


I am currently trying Anis' baguettes recipe but I fancy making it into a boule (sacrilege, I know).  It's a reasonably wet dough (I think I calculated it to be about 70%) but it feels a bit wetter, quite sticky and very extensible - I'm using a new flour with lower gluten (c. 10%) so that may well be why.  As such, I'm not sure how easy it will be to score and whether I might end up deflating the boule (I have 600g flour so it's pretty much 1kg of dough).  Am I trying for something which is just beyond the feasibility of the dough?  Would I be better breaking it into two, smaller boules and perhaps using a flat-bottomed round container to hold the dough in the oven?  (I've done this before and got a very nice shape to my boule, even if it wasn't freeform).


The other thing I've thought about trying is scoring it before the end of the final proof.  I will be using a large oiled & floured bowl for the final proof so in order to score it this way I will need to invert it out of the bowl then score and wait for the rest of the proof.  I suspect, given the extensibility of this dough it will "ciabatta" on me and just flatten out.  Hence the thinking of using a container (and dividing into two, smaller boules - I don't have a flat-bottomed container large enough for the full dough quantity).


Sorry for asking such dumb questions but hopefully that's what this site is for!  Thanks in advance...

arzajac's picture

Anis Baoubsa baguettes are 75 percent hydration, actually.  Yes the dough is very wet.  It's not your flour.

I use No-Name all-purpose flour and have great results.  Even with boules.  The oven spring is impressive because of the dough is light.

Try to avoid degassing the dough but don't panic if you do.  Some degassing is inevitable.  Do what you have to do and don't worry about it. 

I'm a firm believer than worrying prevents dough from rising...

I don't think scoring very early on will give you good results.  I think you should score just before you put it in the oven.

Make sure your oven is hot.  I think you will need high heat to get good oven spring.



dmsnyder's picture

I imagine your dough is very slack indeed. If your dough is as I imagine it, you may find forming boules an exercise in stickiness. And I wouldn't score the loaves at all.

If it's drier than I imagine, score just before loading in the oven. But, as arzajac said, you risk serious deflation. And in this economy .... Oh. Different subject. Sorry.


bassopotamus's picture

It is up to you. When I score boule's, it is about 30 seconds before they go into the oven. I use a wusthof bread knife, and it gives a good cut without deflating. Really wet dough, I don't bother with. And I actually only score only maybe half the time anyway. The last couple I made blew out in ways that were pretty in a rustic kind of way. Its just an aesthetic choice

Soundman's picture

Hello Bodger,

I thought I'd throw my 2 censt in. I almost always score boules. Not only does it result in a prettier loaf, it can prevent blowouts in the side of the loaf.

Above 70% hydration this can get harder, so if your knife or lame starts dragging and pulling the dough, it's probably not a good idea. Otherwise, a single cut through the middle on top can still help allow the loaf to open up.

I would recommend against pre-scoring. This is just asking your high hydration dough to deflate well before it gets into the oven. A little deflation at the load point from scoring doesn't necessarily mean inadvertent flat bread. Good oven spring may still yield a nicely risen loaf.


bodger's picture

Thanks all - you're right, the dough is very slack.  And stickier than I'm used to, even having dealt with higher hydration doughs (but also with high gluten flour).


I will see how the mood takes me when I get back home and either divide into two boules or just keep as one larger on.  In any event I probably won't score them...


I can live with a little burst or two - rustic, as you say!


I will get the oven as hot as it will go for the first 10ish minutes then look to turn it down a touch.  I will also have to raise the dough off my "stone" at that point as my "stone" is actually thick cast iron and don't want to burn the bottom of the loaf (again!)

mcs's picture

If you want to score them and they're wet, you can always dust them with flour right before they go in the oven and right before scoring.  It'll accentuate your scoring too and give them a different look.  If your dough is preshaped tightly (rest for 45-60 minutes), then final shaped (rest 30 minutes) and loaded into the oven with a shorter final proof time than usual then your scoring will be a lot easier because your dough will still be 'tight'. 
You'll get plenty of ovenspring, but since your dough will be cold in the center, it'll be spread out over a longer period than usual.  This means you need to have a decent amount of steam in your oven for the first 5-10 minutes (or covered) or it'll get dry on the outside before it's done ovenspringing.


Susan's picture


If your dough is preshaped tightly (rest for 45-60 minutes), then final shaped (rest 30 minutes) and loaded into the oven with a shorter final proof time than usual then your scoring will be a lot easier because your dough will still be 'tight'.

Mark, please reread that sentence from your last comment.  Does it make sense to you?  I'm confused.


Susan from San Diego


mcs's picture

I think it makes sense, but then again I just watched that Richard Simmons video that Steve posted so my mind is a bit warped now.  Is it because it's a horrible run-on-sentence, or because the technique doesn't make sense?  Or both.

Let me try it another way.  The dough comes out of the fridge, then:

1. preshape
2. rest for 45-60 min
3. final shape
4. final fermentation 30 min.
5. score and bake

With a 70% hydration dough, I'd typically let step 4 be 45-60 min.  However with a wetter dough, a longer final fermentation may cause a 'freeform' loaf to blob out too much.  So I shorten step 4 to 30 minutes.  This results in a tighter loaf going into the oven, which is easier to score because it's not a blob.



Susan's picture

But it was crystal clear before, too; I just was surprised at the times, as I always see "rest the dough for 15 minutes after preshaping, then shape."  The time was just so much longer that I wondered if you hit the wrong keys or something, and I didn't want to influence your reply. Thanks for clarifying it for me. I'll give that timing a shot, as I'm using 70% hydration for my current loaves.

Your candid approach to helping all of us is very much appreciated, Mark.


Susan from San Diego

bodger's picture

Thanks everyone - in the end I decided not to score my dough.  But I managed to deflate it anyway in transferring it from my proofing bowl to the baking sheet!


Oh well, at least it was still an improvement over my last effort and I'm gradually moving in the right direction... sort of!


Rather poor pictures of a fairly poor loaf here: