Scoring is the last stage before your bread is ready to be baked.
Once in the oven, your loaf goes through one last final burst of fermentation, forcing the dough up in its final rise - the ‘oven spring’. Scoring is crucial for controlling where the steam can escape and it gives your loaf that artisan or, depending on how ambitious you are, artistic appearance. We get that slashing holes in your airy dough you’ve spent hours nurturing can be daunting but it’s essential to avoid your bread ripping and erupting in unexpected areas.
Does every loaf need scoring?
Most loaves are scored before entering the oven but low gluten, wet doughs such as those made with complex grains such as rye, wholemeal or spelt have a reduced oven spring. These doughs have less steam trapped within the reduced gluten network so there is no need to score. They won’t rupture like the higher gluten doughs.
Do you need a lame?
A lame is a sharp double-sided blade that’s lightweight and less likely to drag on the surface of the dough. If you’ve never used one, it’s like holding a pen but with slashing power! A lame is the best tool as it has a curved blade and encourages a flap of dough to form when sliced, the so-called ‘ear’.
But if you only ever want to make a couple of slashes in a loaf there is no need to buy one. If you’re after fancier patterns such as a chequerboard, leaf or swirl. If you are using a knife, find the sharpest knife you have. You could try spraying the knife with a little oil to make cutting a bit easier.
Have a look at our videos below to help.
Tips for success
- Score deep enough to cut through the skin of the dough formed during shaping but not so deep that you impair the structure you’ve worked hard to create. A single or double slash need to be deeper than smaller cuts used to make an intricate design.
- To highlight your scoring, lightly dust the loaf with flour before scoring using a small sieve. This will ensure a nice contrast between the interior and the dark, baked crust.
- If you’re feeling artistic, pop your loaf in the freezer for about 10/15 minutes to harden the surface, making scoring easier. Then put it on something you can turn, such as a wooden board so you can easily work on all sides.
- To achieve the trademark ‘ear’ shape where a lip of crust is created, hold a lame at a 45 degree angle. To enhance this, run your blade along the top edge of the cut.
- Where you want the scores to open just a little, slash the bread straight down. Cuts for a pattern are usually done straight into the dough.
Score with confidence and be swift. Hesitation will result in tearing. And don’t go back to try and correct what you’ve done if you’re not happy: just bake it as it is. The steam will escape one way or another!