Why score/ slash a loaf?
Scoring/ slashing your loaf allows your loaf to burst at the cut when it expands in the oven with oven spring. If you don’t score your loaf it will burst at the weakest point and you might end up with a little ball of dough erupting from the side of your loaf. Your loaf will look better if it can expand through the cut that you have made.
When do you score/ slash a loaf?
You normally score a loaf just before you load into the oven. For scoring to be effective the loaf should still have good surface tension and a slightly dry surface.
As you score the cut will normally open itself as the surface tension is released.
When should you not score/slash a loaf?
It is not always necessary to score a loaf when it is in a loaf tin. The tin supports the loaf and it will burst just above the rim of the loaf tin. You can, of course, still score a loaf in a tin. If you do, it becomes a Split Tin Loaf.
If your loaf is looking a bit over proofed (i.e. it has doubled in size and it has started to look a bit flabby and bubbly) then you shouldn’t score it. If you do, your loaf will collapse as you release the last bit of surface tension holding it together. If your loaf is overproofed it is a matter of judgement for you whether you place the unscored loaf in the oven and hope for the best or if you reshape the loaf and allow it to rise again for another 10-20 minutes and bake. Sometimes an overproofed loaf is best treated like a focaccia – tip the dough into a generously oiled tray, drizzle more oil over, make holes with your fingers all over the dough and sprinkle with salt and rosemary and bake straight away for 25-30 minutes.
How do you score a loaf?
There are lots of ways to score a loaf so please do experiment. My favourite is one long line just off centre on the top of the loaf. This cut allows the loaf to fully expand for maximum oven spring and gives the loaf an ‘ear’. The ‘ear’ is the lifted edge of the cut.
You can see me demonstrate this cut in this video.
Use a really sharp knife or razor blade to make a clean cut. Be quick and decisive.
It helps if you dip the blade into water beforehand, it will then slide through the dough easier.
Hold the knife almost parallel to the loaf and slice just under the skin of the dough. This angle will help the cut lift off the loaf and create the ear.