Scoring or slashing bread dough before baking has aesthetic and functional benefits. It helps dough rise evenly by creating a place for gas to escape, preventing splitting and creating a desirable crust texture. Achieving professional-looking scores requires techniques and tools we will cover in our guide. Learn everything you need to know about scoring, including tools, techniques, and tips for success. With practice, you can take your home-baked bread to the next level.
What is scoring bread dough?
Scoring bread dough is when you make shallow cuts on it before baking. This stops the dough from cracking and helps it expand even during baking. Scoring also helps the bread release steam, which prevents it from being too heavy. The cuts can be made in a diamond or crosshatch pattern, making the bread look nice. Scoring is essential when baking bread as it affects the final texture, appearance, and quality.
Why do we score or slash dough?
Scoring or slashing dough is an essential step in the bread-making process that helps in the rise of dough and provides the signature appearance of bread loaves. The purpose of scoring is to create a controlled weak point in the bread dough, which allows it to expand rapidly during baking. The cuts release steam and gas from the bread as it bakes, preventing it from bursting or splitting open unpredictably. This also allows the bread to rise upward rather than outward, giving it the desired shape and keeping its texture light and airy. Additionally, the scoring helps create a distinctive pattern on the bread crust, allowing the release of moisture during baking and increasing the surface area for browning. Overall, scoring is an essential technique bakers use to achieve uniform, consistent, and attractive bread loaves.
Scoring will give your bread a professional look.
How to score (slash) the dough?
You need a sharp blade or a bread lame and a steady hand to score the dough. Scoring dough helps it rise better and prevents it from bursting open.
You can create different shapes and designs with shallow cuts in the dough. Make lengthwise or diagonal (at a 10 to 30-degree angle) cuts, cuts 6-12 mm (¼- ½ inch) deep across the top of each loaf, without cutting the ends entirely, leaving about 2.5 cm / 1″ uncut on each end and only on the dough surface. You can try different cuts to make different shapes and designs.
Do this just before you put the bread in the oven to ensure the cuts are sharp and the dough rises well.
Lesser scores make the bread look more attractive and capture more butter and jelly. However, scoring incorrectly can make the bread dry and less perfect. This is why you want to do it right.
Remember not to change the bread’s shape or rise once you’ve made the cuts.
Tips for successful scoring
Scoring bread is an important step in the baking process. It not only adds a decorative touch to the bread but also aids in the rising process and controls the shape of the loaf. Here are some tips for successful bread scoring:
Use a sharp blade or knife
The first tip for making good scores is to use a sharp knife. You can use a sharp paring knife, a serrated knife, a razor blade, or a baker’s lame. This will make the cuts in the dough neat, which helps it to rise correctly. Using a sharp scissor edge instead of a dull blade can be helpful. Be gentle while making confident and quick cuts in the dough. If your dough is sticky, you can wet the knife blade between each cut. Spraying your knife with oil or cooking spray might make scoring easier. Some bakers like to make a unique ” ear ” cut for their dough.
Score at the right time
Score the bread right before putting it in the oven. If you cut it too early, the marks may disappear as the dough rises.
Don’t try to change its shape or rise once the cuts are made.
Use a steady hand - score with confidence and without hesitation
Make quick and confident cuts in the dough with a steady hand. When bakers score their bread, they do it quickly and without hesitation. You should cut firmly and with a smooth movement, NOT slowly. This will keep your bread looking good.
If you’re new to scoring, try practicing first so you don’t cut too deep.
Don’t hesitate or drag the knife back and forth. Otherwise, your bread will be dry, or your rolls might not turn out right.
The ideal scoring depth
Make cuts in bread dough that go deep enough to allow for proper expansion but not all the way through.
Shallow cuts will increase the bread surface, especially if the cuts are small.
A very deep cut could collapse.
The ideal scoring depth also depends on the type and condition of the dough.
If the dough is over-proofed, shallow scoring is better to keep it from deflating. The wet, sticky dough needs shallow scoring (0.5cm), while dry dough needs deeper scoring (1.25 cm) to expand better.
Experiment with designs
Try different scoring patterns and designs to create unique and beautiful loaves of bread. Start by making quick, shallow cuts on the surface of the dough in the design you want.
The ideal angle
The angle at which you score bread and your pattern affect its shape. They will influence how the loaf will expand and how the ‘ear’ will form.
Shallow cuts work better for long loaves and should be made parallel to the bread’s long sides at a 10-30 degree angle. Don’t cut all the way across the top. Curved blades work best for this.
Make cuts of equal distance apart, straight across, with a straight-blade knife for round loaves. These are called transversal cuts.
Draw patterns on paper
Draw your patterns on paper before attempting to make them on the dough. This will make it easier to score the dough perfectly.
The cold, firm dough is easier to score
Cutting bread dough is easier and creates better patterns when the dough is cold rather than warm. However, the dough’s temperature doesn’t affect how deeply you should cut for the desired effect. If you want to improve your scoring skills, try practicing on cold dough, which is firmer and easier to work with. Complicated patterns are usually made on the cold dough. Putting the dough in the fridge makes it cold and firm, allowing you to score it creatively in any way you like.
Wipe off the dusting of flour before score
Before scoring the bread, you can remove the flour on top if you want it to look cleaner. However, removing the flour won’t affect the taste of the bread.
Remember to practice and be patient, as scoring bread takes time and experience. As you bake more bread, you’ll become better at scoring. Scoring may seem easy, but it’s tricky. The real skill of scoring comes with lots of practice.
Do we score a traditional sandwich loaf that's baked in a pan?
Most bread that is baked in a pan does not have lines scored on the top of it. Scoring is typically done on bread not baked in a pan, known as ‘free form’ or ‘hearth’ bread. The bread’s shape is guided by the pan in the oven.
I hope my easy tips will give you the confidence to step into the kitchen and prepare delicious meals to eat with a handful of close friends.
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