Bread

How to Make Pretty Bread like a Pro

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. 

Shop the Story

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.

Chevron

      
  
  
  

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. 

 

 Four Slashes 

  
  
  

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. 

Now that you have the know-how, here are some bread recipes to get you started: Dan Leader's 4-Hour Baguette, Oat Porridge BreadRosemary Ciabatta with Stout Beer

Photos by James Ransom 

10 Comments

Emily L. December 29, 2015
This was so helpful! I always feel like I'm just haphazardly cutting random lines that may or may not amount to anything.
 
T October 19, 2015
You might go to King Arthur's website - they have been making flour since the 1700s. They have every type of flour imaginable as well. I believe their website is www.kingarthurflour.com
 
sage June 5, 2015
dear writers and testers, where in the world can I get a rundown on flour? different countries process it differently so if I want to make French bread, I need to use French or French-like flour, right? whats all this about different gluten and protein contents in different millings? all I know is my croissants are far from perfect and when I make grilled flatbread with Italian type 00 it has a finer crumb and softer, better texture than when I use good ol' AP. I see on some bread forums that people mix flours to achieve a perfect crumb, even air pockets, etc. but it's all kind of over my head. <br />sounds like the stuff of a future article, eh?<br />(I'd really appreciate it)<br />
 
AntoniaJames June 4, 2015
A simple square cut on top of a cob / boule allows for tremendous "spring," e.g., <br /><br />https://instagram.com/p/yF6fTnmByu/<br />https://instagram.com/p/yA28_3mB5W/<br />https://instagram.com/p/v_yjN6mB-n/<br />http://www.trgram.com/howmothercooks/photo/965319246434802999_266631542 <br /><br />All cut with my pretty black walnut lame, which I have publicly declared to be the best stocking stuffer ever: https://food52.com/shop/products/365-black-walnut-bread-lame <br />(Superlatives and hyperbole generally fatigue and bore me, so that is saying quite a lot.)<br />;o)
 
scottd1 June 4, 2015
Those animated GIFs are very big. Their sizes are twice the size as what's displayed in at least one case.
 
scottd1 June 4, 2015
BTW, this page performs very badly on my Mac running Yosemite and Safari web browser. It crashes my iPhone.
 
scottd1 June 4, 2015
Yes I have the same question as Antonia. Making a square grid will not give you diamonds.
 
Ali S. June 4, 2015
But making a square grid on the diagonal will! See the response below.
 
AntoniaJames June 3, 2015
Well, I'm a bit confused by the photos for the cross hatch. How did you get that beautiful loaf with the diamonds on it, from the grid cut in the other shots?<br />Incidentally, the lame I found in my Christmas stocking courtesy of Provisions instantly became one of my favorite tools in the kitchen - so much so that I've started shaping and baking my conventional sandwich loaf recipes in classical artisanal shapes, so that I might have more fun when I score before baking, e.g., https://instagram.com/p/0Oth2YmB41/?taken-by=howmothercooks<br /><br />https://instagram.com/p/0OuRnVmB6M/?taken-by=howmothercooks I've posted many, many more examples of cuts on my homemade bread using that lame. And it's such a pretty tool, as well. ;o)
 
Ali S. June 4, 2015
Indeed all the finished bread loaves are stand ins, so apologies for any confusion! You can get the diamond shape by doing the crosshatch pattern on the diagonal.