Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.
Today: A lesson in scoring bread like a pro, from a pro.
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If heaven were a boulangerie, it would look like Maison Kayser. Churning out bread and pastries on premise, all day long, Maison Kayser’s cases brim with golden brown croissants, green-flecked pistachio financiers, and chocolate éclairs whose glaze make mirrors envious. Its walls display crackly crusted baguettes, stone-ground wheat boules, and epi bread with leaf-like appendages for easy tearing and sharing.
Eric Kayser—baking extraordinaire and author of the recently released cookbook The Larousse Book of Bread—recently stopped by Food52 to show us how to not be lame and use a lame properly.
A razor-like tool mounted on a handle, lame (pronounced “LAHM”) means “blade” in French. It's used to score or slash bread right before it hits the oven. The reason for this is simple: The openings control the direction the dough expands during baking. They’re like little chimneys, allowing steam to escape and the bread to take shape. While Kayser uses a proper lame (from France, nonetheless), he says a razor blade, scissors, or a serrated knife will yield fine results as well.
From baguettes to boules, there are common cuts for every type of bread. Below, Kayser demonstrates four common scores for a lovely loaf: chevron, four slashes, polka, and swirl. It's a lesson in lame from the master himself, so you oughta prepare yourself for some of the prettiest breads you ever did see.
Best for: Batard Do it: The goal here is to encourage the loaf to expand upward—a cut down the middle does just that. Score once, lengthwise, and then make evenly-spaced diagonal slashes on one side of the loaf, starting at the end furthest from you, until you reach the bottom.
Best for: Baguette How-to: Make four evenly spaced diagonal slashes along the length of the loaf. This scoring pattern promotes the loaf's sideways expansion, giving its cross section that rounded, quintessential baguette look.
Crosshatch or Polka
Best for: Boule or batard Do it: Score the loaf in a crosshatch pattern, making vertical and then perpendicular horizontal slashes. For a diamond pattern, crosshatch on the diagonal.
Swirl or Pithivier
Best for: Boule Do it: A curved lame works best for making non-linear cuts. Starting from the center and working outwards, cut towards the edge of the bread in a quasi-crescent shape.