Scoring is the technique term for slashing bread dough before baking with a sharp knife or lame. Slashing creates weak spots in the bread’s crust, allowing for expansion instead of burst seams. What feels like a task is a fine detail between beautiful baguettes and boring “French bread” loaves. Here’s what you need to know about scoring bread dough.
Why Score the Bread?
Scoring is generally done after the bread’s finally rise and just before the loaves go in the oven. These intentional splits give the bread more room for their final rise in the oven without splitting the carefully closed seams. Slashing can also be done for purely decorative reasons.
Professional bread bakers use a scoring tool called a “lame.” It’s essentially a small wand with a thin sharp blade attached. The lame has a small curve to it that helps make a shallow cut in the bread dough. A lame can be purchased online for about $10, or you can use a sharp knife (I like a fillet knife for this maneuver) or a razor blade. I’ve found a razor blade more closely mimics the lame’s thin blade than even the sharpest knife will.
Tips for Better Scoring
- Move the blade with confidence; faster strokes make cleaner cuts in the dough.
- Score across the bread axis rather than across the loaf.
- Make the cuts at a 30- to 45-degree angle and make them about 1/4-inch deep.
How To Score Bread Loaves Before Baking
- 1 or more unbaked baguettes, shaped, risen, and ready for the oven
- Very sharp knife, razor blade, or bread lame
- Shape and rise the dough: Scoring should be done on fully risen loaves after the dough has been shaped and allowed to rise. Fully risen dough will have more air pockets, making the surface of the loaf thinner and easier to score.
- Score the top of each loaf: Use a sharp knife, razor blade, or bread lame to quickly score the surface of the loaves. Slash each baguette at a 45-degree angle 4 to 5 times along the loaf’s axis.
- Bake the loaves: Bake the loaves according to the recipe’s directions immediately after scoring.