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What causes my fancy baker's lame, purchased through the Food52 ecommerce platform, to drag through my bread dough, not making a clean cut?

Even when the blade is newly replaced, it catches, not leaving a clean cut. Rarely can I get a slash that is deep enough to facilitate good "oven spring." In fact, I often feel like I'm damaging the dough, as I end up hacking away at it, which I suspect may be adversely affecting its structure.

Is it a problem with my dough? Is it overproofed? This happens with 70% and greater hydration loaves, which I generally let rise in a banneton. I use the "Tartine Bread" book's method of turns and folds, with a levain created using the instructions from the same book. I'm meticulous about weighing the ingredients, and I am careful to shape in the way prescribed, to create the "surface tension" (apologies to the chemists out there) that is recommended.
Your help would be most appreciated. Thank you. ;o)

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

asked 8 months ago
11 answers 1092 views
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added 8 months ago

Thanks for posting this, AJ. This is a challenge I face as well.
Looking forward to the responses.

1e4d7b52 fd4f 4798 ae19 d0f715768358  ry 400
added 8 months ago

Does this happen only with this particular lame? Or have you had the same trouble with other ones as well? Sometimes it helps to have a slight "skin" on the bread. Also, I assume you've got the angle and speed of slashing down pat (great video here: https://www.youtube.com... and much more detailed info here: http://www.thefreshloaf...), so I'd recommend trying to spritz the surface of the dough very lightly with water. Sometimes this trick can help the blade slice more cleanly.

B3038408 42c1 4c18 b002 8441bee13ed3  new years kitchen hlc only
AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

added 8 months ago

I'd really like to see what the manufacturer of the lame has to say about this. I did a bit more research and read somewhere the helpful tip that when using a razor blade -- the lame I have is just a wooden holder for a double edge razor blade -- you need to make sure that the short ends, which are not sharp, don't touch the dough. It seems that the little knob hardware on the lame may also be catching.
In one of the videos on TheFreshLoaf page you linked, the fellow recommends a reasonably-priced serrated tomato knife as a fine tool for slashing boules . . . . I'm inclined to go that route. ;o)

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added 8 months ago

I've been baking bread for 40 years and have never found a lame that worked well for me. I use a single-edged razor blade & usually get clean cuts. If I don't get clean cuts, it's because I've used the blade too many times. Cheap and easy to replace. Think mine come in packs of 20.

23d08e08 3b57 4e81 adcd 91701fc50809  fb avatar
added 8 months ago

After a number of forays through kitchen stores in search of impulse purchases- many of which I made- I've come to the conclusion that there are a whole lot of expensive kitchen doodads out there that sound like good ideas, seem to be well made, and turn out largely useless.

23b88974 7a89 4ef5 a567 d442bb75da04  avatar
added 8 months ago

I use my sharpest paring knife and it always does the trick!

B3038408 42c1 4c18 b002 8441bee13ed3  new years kitchen hlc only
AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

added 7 months ago

This information was provided by the supplier of the lame:

t's not actually a problem with the blade, the high hydration dough is just trickier to score. You need to move quick with a lot of confidence. Sometimes it helps to mist the blade with pan spray. Make sure your blade is new and as sharp as possible. If the blade won't pierce the dough first thing, use the very corner of the blade moved back and forth within the first centimeter of your slash until the blade has actually entered the dough before moving down the entire length of your desired slash. I have luck focusing on getting the blade to enter the dough using the very tip/corner of the blade only, and slashing pretty shallow. Then I move back over the dough with a second slash to increase the depth if desired.

;o)

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ktr
added 7 months ago

I'm wondering if the shape of the razor blade is the issue. On a scapel blade, you cut with the curved section because it is the sharpest. Will your holder accommodate a scalpel blade? I haven't tried one myself but I will try to remember to do so on my next loaf of bread and report back with my results.

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ktr
added 7 months ago

I finally got around to baking a loaf of bread today. I normally use a serrated knife to slash the dough, but today I tried using a #10 scalpel blade. The cut was incredibly clean with no drag, and the size of the blade allows for almost a centimeter deep cut. I imagine you could reuse the blade but given that they are designed for single use, I don't think they would last through too many washings.

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boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

added 7 months ago

Seriously, how dull can a blade, designed to scrape tough whiskers from a man's face, get when slashing a few loaves of bread dough? AJ, there are many versions of snake oil available in the form is lames. I've owned them all. Including surgeons' scalpels obtained from. Y sister. And every time, I return to a sharp, serrated blade held at an accute angle, say 27 degrees, moved rapidly through the dough. Everything else is pretty much a gimmick. Especially with regard to high-hydration doughs.



23b88974 7a89 4ef5 a567 d442bb75da04  avatar
ktr
added 7 months ago

I don't think it is so much that the blades get dull that quickly, especially blades that are designed for reuse. I think it has more to do with the fact that blades to different shape and thickness are designed for that way because they work best in different applications. And I'm sure familiarity with handling the instrument has something to do with it as well. In the end each of us has to make their own decision as to what works best for us, and what we have easy access to (and in the case of blades, what access we have to safe, proper disposal of the blades as well).