What is Bread Scoring?
Bread scoring is cutting or artfully slashing the top of loaves before they are baked. Scoring the the loaf creates weak surface spots, to prevent the loaf surface from bursting and cracking during baking. There are a variety of cuts, angles and patterns of bread scoring, with each affecting the type of expansion and crust formation.
Scoring also adds a decorative element to bread. Some breads are easily identified by their unique scoring pattern. Loafs are commonly scored right before they are placed in the oven. Others, like French breads, are scored before the proofing stage. Usually, most free-formed breads are scored, while pan-baked breads are not.1
Why it Matters
Bread scoring helps with visual appeal and product recognition. However, it’s main role is for loaf development. When dough is put in the oven, yeast releases carbon dioxide which causes the loaf to rise. Scoring allows for a controlled rise and even expansion, limiting ripped sides and seams where the gasses escape.
Depending on the cut and bread, scoring can influence how the loaf expands—either its height, length, or width. It also can impact color and crust development.
An improper score can negatively impact the loaf. Too deep of a cut will cause it to collapse into itself. If the angle is too vertical to the loaf, the cut will cause the dough to spread too quickly, exposing a larger surface area to the heat. This will cause the crust to form too soon. If the dough is cut at the correct angle, the exposed dough will protect the surface from heat and help with oven spring crust development.2
To score bread, use either a straight or curved razor blade or a very sharp knife. Slice with a firm, smooth, quick movement. Optimal cuts should be between ¼ to ½ inch thick. If it is a wet dough, score on the shallower side. How long a loaf rises or is in the proofer can also affect scoring and the final product as well.3
Scoring methods differ on the type of bread being baked.
- Round loafs (boule): Traditionally, round loafs should have cuts that spread evenly across the loaf and open quickly. Hold the knife vertically, around 90 degrees to the loaf surface.
- Long loaf (batard/baguette): These should be scored parallel to the length of the loaf, with a shallower cut than round breads. Hold the knife at around a 30 degree angle (also known as a lip or ear cut) to the loaf surface.
Covering the scoring blade with cooking spray can help it glide easier through the dough. Also, rinse the blade in water between slices when working with wetter dough.
For high speed lines, water scoring can be achieved by nozzles coupled with pressurized water. The advantage to this method is the ability to score mass quantities in a small period of time. In addition, the food safety aspect of water scoring is better due to the elimination of metal knife blades. The disadvantage to this method is the inability to be versatile with the design of the score.
- Peterson, James. Baking. Berkeley: Ten Speed, 2009.
- Suas, Michel. Advanced Bread and Pastry: A Professional Approach. Detroit: Delmar Cengage Learning, 2009. Print.
- Hamelman, Jeffrey. Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley, 2004.