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Bread has been a staple food for many centuries. Making it is simple in principle, but making excellent bread is more like an art that rejoices all the senses. And for any artist, the right tool can be the difference between a masterpiece and an average product. This is where the bread lame comes into play.
From the French word lame (pronounced “lahm”) meaning blade, a bread lame is a double-sided blade mounted on a handle whose purpose is to slash the dough right before it goes in the oven. It is an essential tool for any amateur baker.
In this article, we’ll review what bread lames are for and how to use one.
Why Use a Bread Lame?
Bread lames are used to score the bread. In other words, they allow you to decide the direction in which your dough will expand before baking it. That’s right, those slashes you see on bread aren’t just meant to be aesthetically pleasing, though that’s one of their perks. Scoring lets the dough expand evenly. Without it, the crust would crack open due to pressure from the heat. It also allows the carbon dioxide trapped in the bread to be released, which is essential for the bread to keep its original shape. Furthermore, it enriches the flavor of the bread by increasing the crust’s surface.
The bread lame is a great tool to be creative when it comes to making your own bread. With it, you can add your personal touch to your loaf. Keep it simple or make it more intricate, experiment with various patterns. Fun is an essential part of making delicious bread. But the bread lame’s crucial role is to allow the dough to expand in a controlled manner during baking.
How to Use a Bread Lame
The bread lame comes in handy once you’ve already prepared the dough, meaning it’s been proofed and dusted, and is almost ready to be baked. The last thing needed is the scoring. This process is delicate and requires focus to get a good outcome.
You should use the bread lame with confidence. Make swift cuts in the dough to get cleaner results and avoid it dragging through. The cuts should be about ¼ inch deep, at about a 30 to 45-degree angle compared to the axis of the loaf. The cuts need to be deep enough to pierce the outer layer of the dough that’s been formed during shaping. However, they shouldn’t be so deep that they cause the bread’s structure to be compromised while it’s baking.
But after that, there’s no limit to how your creativity can be expressed. It really depends on the type of bread you’re making and what tools you have. Some bread lames are curved while others are straight. Bakers often used curved lames as it allows them to cut the slash at a proper angle.
Common Scoring Designs
Some designs are often used depending on the variety of bread.
Batard With Double Slash
This style works very well with the oval batard loaf, but is also quite suitable for whole wheat recipes. For this scoring design, a curved blade is recommended. Simply make two diagonal cuts that don’t overlap. Note that if you’re making only one or two cuts in the loaf, the scoring should be slightly deeper than multiple shallow cuts.
Many Small Cuts
This scoring design can give you really aesthetically pleasing results. It works especially well for boules, but can work on any bread. Make a series of diagonal slashes, emulating the patterns of leaves. There’s no set number or size, it’s down to your personal preferences. Make sure to cover the entirety of the crust.
This design is better created with a straight blade. It leaves a lot of room for creative expression. Make a rectangle around the edges of the loaf, this is your “box”. Within this perimeter, you can execute any design you like. The slashes for the rectangle should be slightly deeper, while your patterned cuts in the middle should be shallower.
This is a good design to implement when baking circular bread. Make a cross shape, with the two lines meeting at the center of the bread. Start with a straight cut from the top, and complete the cross with a horizontal line. Make those cuts a bit deeper, they’ll allow the bread to open up nicely. Complete the design by making more shallow diagonal slashes at each quarter of the cross. These slashes shouldn’t touch the center.
What to Look For in a Bread Lame
Bread lames have various characteristics. They can come in different sizes, in which case pick something you’re comfortable with. They can also be made of different materials. The most common materials include walnut wood, stainless steel, and plastic. Better materials might be more expensive, but they are more durable, which can actually save you money in the long run and be more pleasant to work with.
Additionally, bread lames can come with either razor blades or scalpels. Razor blades are cheaper and easy to maintain while scalpels guarantee more long term use. Lastly, bread lames can be either straight or curved. Both have their uses, as curved blades tend to be smoother and are good for slicing deeper while straight blades can be handy for shallow slices. Some bread lame models even allow you to switch between curve and straight.
How to Score Bread Without a Lame
Lames are the ideal tools for scoring bread, but naturally, you might find yourself with bread that needs scoring and no bread lame in sight. In that case, a bread lame can be replaced with a sharp knife or razor blade. The razor blade is the better option due to being thinner, but in a pinch, your sharpest blade should do just fine.
Now you know why bread lames are used and how to use them. Their primary function is to prevent the bread from bursting when baking it in the oven, allowing it to bake in a controlled manner. What’s more, they’re a great avenue of creativity by designing aesthetic patterns in your loafs. Make sure to use carefully and with poise to make clean cuts, and enjoy beautiful delicious bread!