The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Where are my ears?? :(

mandarina's picture

Where are my ears?? :(

Good morning fellow bakers!

No, I did not lose my ears, but my loaves are in serious trouble! I've been trying to improve my techniques but I keep coming with a very smooth crust all the time. You can see where I slashed the dough, and you can see it opened up a bit, but no ear! I would loveee to hear your experiences and tricks or those "ahaaa! moments". I have been doing research and reading posts in here and everything and I have some hypotheses of why my bread doesn't have ears.


1) My shaping techniques are not as good as I thought: I tried to give the dough tension, and I thought I was doing an ok-to-almost-good job, put the dough in the basket and wait! but the moment I put the dough on the stone or in the dutch oven, it seems to spread all over the place (lower hydration doesn't have that problem). 

2) Slashing technique: this one is a given, it requires practice. I'm just not sure of how to score different shapes. I keep reading the angle, the depth of cut etc... Plus, seriously! How do you guys score high hydration dough without dragging it with your lame? It can't only be "cut with confidence" can it? lol

3) Steam, steam, steam!!! I've tried different methods. If I'm baking on my stone, I make sure there's a tray underneath and I pour a cup of boiling water when I put the bread in. I also spray the bread and sometimes I open the oven and spritz more water on the walls. If I use my dutch oven I spray a bit of water on the bread, I have also tried to put an ice cube in and close the dutch oven (I think this one really works). In general, I don't think I create enough steam. I have a conventional electric oven with the resistance on the bottom part.

4) Oven temperature. Maybe it's too hot? I don't think so, I use to preheat my oven at 450-475F and then reduce the temperature to 425-450F.

Sorry for the long post!

Happy Friday!!


DanAyo's picture

Pictures would be helpful.

From someone would has, and still struggles with hearing impaired bread, I think I may know :-) If your problem is like mine (the score opens but lays flat as water against the dough) your problem is possibly none of the above. 

Is your dough extremely slack? Is the hydration high? I think that ears are most easily formed on doughs that are strong and robust (they open and bloom wide). Alan, aka Alfanso is an expert when it comes to scoring. He recommends 65% hydration. Also err on the side of under-proofing.

Heat is good for bread bloom and blooming is great for ear.

And on top of all of it, some of us are not blessed with da’ gift. We will have to work to earn it. 

Send images, they are worth a lot of words :-D


Robertob's picture

I find that slightly underproofing and fridge rest are the key factors. I have most success even going up to 75%, but failures are also round the corner :)

It will greatly help to understand when the dough is ready to divide.  If it feels pillowy and is easily coming off the side of the bowl then it should be ready.  Also there shouldn’t be much dough left on your hands at the end of the stretch and fold.

If you use a Dutch oven there should be no need to add any extra water / steam as the dough itself will release the necessary humidity to keep the dough moist.

if you have any photos it might help. Good luck!


mandarina's picture

Thanks for the comments and the tutorials guys.

I have tried all types of hydration and also under-proofed bread. I must say though, that higher hydration tends to over-proof quicker so the mistake could've been there, the dough was probably too slack because the gluten lost strength during proofing.

As far as gluten development, I think well developed. the dough is not sticky and it's strong. doesn't get stuck on the bowl or anything. I think my problem is later in the process haha.