The keys to a beautiful loaf.
Deeply scoring a free-form loaf just before baking it serves a practical purpose: It creates a designated weak spot in the surface of the loaf so that it expands in a predetermined way instead of bursting unpredictably in the oven. But shallower scores can allow creative bakers to add decorative flourishes to their breads. Here's how to combine the two techniques for a beautiful, well-risen loaf.
1. A firmer dough creates less drag on the blade, making it easier to score with conviction. Start with a bread that goes into the oven cold, such as our Almost No-Knead Sourdough Bread 2.0, since cold doughs are firmer. As you become more confident, move on to softer doughs, such as the dough for our Classic Sourdough Bread (Pain au Levain).
2. To make your design stand out, lightly dust the top of the loaf with flour and smooth it with your hand or a pastry brush before scoring the loaf.
3. Use the thinnest, sharpest blade at your disposal. An inexpensive razor blade is ideal.
4. Start off by making shallow (about ⅛-inch-deep) decorative scores. (Leaves and wheat stalks are popular motifs.) Keeping these scores shallow ensures that your design won't become distorted during baking.
5. Make an approximately ½-inch-deep functional score.