Scoring bread properly is a skill that takes a lot of practice to get right. If you’ve never scored bread before, you’re likely not going to do a good job at it on your first try.
If you’re not particularly experienced with bread and dough, you might not know the best time to score it. Since it can be so tricky, it’s a good idea that you get an understanding of when to score your dough and how to do it properly.
Most bread is scored with a sharp knife after proofing, especially if it’s high hydration dough. Sourdough bread and baguettes are often scored right before baking. With that said, you can score some low-to-mid hydration dough after shaping but before proofing for similar results.
Scoring bread can either significantly improve a bread’s appearance or ruin it. If you don’t do it properly, it might deflate, rise unevenly, or just look bad in general.
Once you practice scoring a few times you’ll get a better idea of how to do it and figure out what works best for you.
When Can I Score My Bread Before Proofing?
Unlike what many people believe, scoring can actually be done before the final rise and it can give an aesthetic crust to your bread.
Whilst most bread is scored after the proof to allow for better oven spring, it can still be done before the proof and have a similar effect.
If you’re somewhat scared of scoring your bread once it’s proofed, you can easily do it before proofing and still get good results.
Of course, you can’t score any bread before proofing and expect it to work, so it’s important to know what kind of bread you can score at this point.
After scoring bread before proofing, it’s best to keep it at around 60-65% hydration and give it some sort of support during the rise like a loaf tin.
In my experience, I’ve had the most success when I’ve scored something like a standard tinned loaf right after shaping. It rises very well in a loaf tin and looks great.
It also works well when using flour that absorbs a lot of moisture. Bread that contains a lot of rye flour will be stiffer than standard dough and can be easily scored after shaping but before proofing with good results.
Here’s a video that demonstrates how simple it is to score a tinned bread loaf before proofing.
When Should I Score My Bread After Proofing?
As you’ve most likely noticed, nearly all bread recipes call for the dough to be scored after proofing. The reason for this is just because the bread that’s scored right before being put in the oven often rises and bakes better.
In the majority of cases, bread is best to be scored after proofing and right before it’s put into the oven.
This last-minute scoring will give you the best results in terms of additional oven spring and help towards a nice crust ear.
Scoring after proofing is ideal for higher hydration dough as it needs to be done right before baking so it doesn’t lose the score and ruin the appearance of it.
It’s best to score bread such as baguettes and boules after proofing rather than before.
Tips For Scoring Properly
Unfortunately, you can’t just pick up any knife, slash away at your dough, and get it perfect on your first try.
Scoring does take the right technique and equipment, so it often takes a few tries before a baker manages to get it right.
Most people learn how to score more effectively through failing and bad efforts, but I can help to minimize your mistakes by giving you a few tips to help you out.
Use The Right Tool
There are a few different tools you can use to score your dough properly, so it’s a good idea to use the right one for the job.
You can use these:
- A very sharp knife
A sharp knife can be used when you’re in a pinch, but it’s not the most effective tool in most cases.
- Grignette (Lame)
Being most bakers’ tool of choice, a grignette, which is commonly just known as a lame, is simply a handle with a slot for a razorblade to be inserted. This allows good maneuverability and easier scoring.
- Single Razorblade
If you’ve got sharp and clean razorblades at hand but not a handle for it, don’t worry too much as this can still be used with decent results, but it’s still worth picking a handle for better scoring.
Although scissors aren’t used for scoring often, they can be used to gentle snip into the dough. If you’re going to do this, just be gentle not the cut too deep and butcher the dough.
- Serrated Knife
A small serrated knife can be great for cutting low-mid hydration dough before it’s proofed up. It’s easy and you don’t have to worry about much sticking or deflating of the dough.
For the best results, it’s always good to use a grignette to score the bread. Since they’re specifically made to help you score bread, they do a good job at it and leave you with the nicest score.
Get A Seriously Sharp Blade
Trying to cut dough with a blunt blade will only leave you with problems. You’ll be left with dough sticking to the knife and a bad score in general. Only use sharp tools or you’ll end up regretting it.
The sharper the better, seriously. The easier it cuts your dough, the less chance has of sticking and it will, therefore, leave you with a cleaner cut.
Whatever tool you’re using the score, you need to make sure that it is sharp enough to easily cut through your dough.
Once you notice your blade starting to get blunt or pull on the dough, you should sharpen or replace it for the next time you score.
Use Some Lubrication
You want to make sure that you avoid sticking as much as possible when it comes to scoring bread. For this reason, it can be useful to add a little something to help prevent the blade from sticking to the dough.
By applying a light layer of water or oil to your blade, you’re adding some lubrication to it as a way to help it glide through the dough and limit the amount of sticking.
The easiest thing you can do is coat your blade in cooking spray and quickly score the dough. Cooking spray is easy to apply and does a great job.
Be Quick And Confident
One thing that has a big effect on how well you score your dough is how confident you are with it.
If you’re quite slow with your scoring and dragging the blade, you’re going to get it caught and it will likely stick to the dough.
Moving too slow can cause an uneven and messy score, so it’s always better to score your bread in swift and confident actions.
Using a sharp blade and quick movements will give you the best results.
Instead of pushing into the dough, try allowing the blade to do the work and you should notice that the scoring is easier.
Score It Straight From The Fridge
Proofing your dough in the fridge comes with so many benefits, so it should be no surprise to you that it can also make for easier scoring.
When you’re chilling your dough in the fridge, you’re tightening the gluten and making it less sticky.
This makes the dough hold its shape better and allows you to slice through it with ease. You’ll notice a big difference between scoring cold dough and room-temperature dough.