Slashing Bread

I often get asked in the bakery how I get the loaves to spring, and how to get those results at home. Which is actually a really difficult topic to cover, there are so many factors involved in this; the formula, the mix, the timings, the % of preferment, the bulk rise, the folding, the shaping, the slash and finally the bake. There are so many things to get right, it takes a lot of work. Despite that we wanted to talk about slashing or scoring loaves, and give an insight to what we do at the bakery. 

Good open bloom and distinct strong ear, its how we'd like all our Baltic Wild To look. 

Good open bloom and distinct strong ear, its how we'd like all our Baltic Wild To look. 

Slashing or scoring refers to the cut or cuts you make in a loaf immediately before it goes in the oven. Lets assume you've got all the other steps previously mentioned correct, slashing a loaf properly is an important final step in achieving the lovely bloom and ear. Now everything  I'm about to say is just what we do, it's worked for us and the approach has been developed form watching lots of youtube videos, reading books and baking lots and lots of bread day in and day out. 

A shelf full of ears.

A shelf full of ears.

There are lots of points to this you can read about and watch on numerous websites or see in good baking books. Things like the correct shallow angle, quick decisive cuts, sharpe blade and not cutting too deep. This is all important and something that needs to be practiced, but there is one point that I've never seen mentioned before, something that we kind of figured out along the way. We think of it as giving the loaf nowhere to go. See this figure. 

This represents two batards/ovals that we want to spring with one long ear, like our standard Baltic Wild. Loaf A is how we do it, cutting almost all the way to the ends, and loaf B doesn't reach the ends. Loaf A works much better for us, particularly if the bread is over proved and doesn't have much oomph. We think it's because it has nowhere else to go, the length of slash is significant enough to mean that the loaf can only bloom in one place, the spot we want it to. Where as loaf B gives it more chance of blowing out the side or not ripping and just puffing up as the dough has more places to go. Do you see what we mean?

This is more evident when looking at double slashed loaves, which is a technique that took us a long time to get right. In the image above C is how we do it, a good over lap of the cuts going to the ends. Loaf D with no overlap will probably blow out at one cut only or not bloom at all. I try and view the double cut as just one slash end to end, that really helps get it right. We do the same with baguettes, a good over lap on the slashes and almost view the cuts as only long cut along the loaf. This gives the bread no where else to go. 

Two loaves, one with good overlapping and length of cut the other without. 

Two loaves, one with good overlapping and length of cut the other without. 

Slashing dough is tricky and the only way to get any good at it is practice. As well as all the tips and advice you can read there is a real feel to it, something less tangible that you get used to after doing it a lot of times. So practice practice practice and we hoped this little Baltic Bakehouse view of things helps. Give the dough nowhere else to go.