A question on slashes


I slash the top of my bread with my pretty new lame (my small treat to myself!) but the slashes don't seem to open up as much as they do in the pictures I see posted here, and I often get splits elsewhere in the loaf.

I'm still fiddling with my prooving times, but I think I'm getting close on that, so I'm wondering if it has to do with my shaping technique/ my seams.

Any ideas?



190 users have voted.


Muff 2010 August 30

Hi Sara-

Don't hesitate to make your cuts more boldly. I have to teach people how to do this in my job, and it's very common for them to be too timid. They want to make delicate little scratches, but what we need is a serious incursion into the dough. It's also common for them to slash across the length of the loaf, rather than along it.  We cut most of our batard the entire length of the loaf; baguette get four or five cuts which overlap a lot, and we keep them on top of the loaf. The idea is to give the bread the best opportunity to expand

The coup I try to teach is almost like filetting a fish. It's not a cut down and into but across and into. When you're done you'll have a flap of dough that lies down over the cut section like a flap, but which is free to pull away when the loaf starts to explode.

If your cut is not dramatic enough the loaf will split open elsewhere to make room for the expanding gases as the heat hits, and these ragged tears tend to show up on the sides towards the bottom of the loaf.

Hope this helps. And ain't a new tool fun? Glad you're enjoying your lame.


TedinOz 2010 August 30

 I fully agree with Muff in all that he says but do also feel that what you are experiencing is possibly related to under proofing. But the angle and the depth of the slash is very important and the length wise cut will certainly always improve the expansion of the loaf. The fun I get from sourdough baking is that every attempt is different from the last and the learning curve always continues.

All the best,


breadlover 2010 August 31

Hi all,

Thanks for the tips Muff and Ted. I'm another newbie (since christmas) sourdough baker and delighted to find this site. Particularly love how scientific you all are in your approach and troubleshooting! I have a lot to learn and will enjoy understanding the how's and why's as I go.

I too have been having trouble with loaves splitting while baking (not huge and always on the top crust). I have never bothered to slash at all so I will now try and master the art. Muff what kind of knife would you recommend in the absence of a lame?

And I will also experiment with proofing. Question - how do you know when your dough is proofed enough for baking? My mum says an indent should fill slowly but I can't tell the difference between the dough response straight after kneading and after proofing (!?)

Also, can anyone tell me where to get good quality organic bread flour in Melbourne inner city? The only place I know of currently is a bit of a trek for me.

Can't wait to try some of the recipes on here and keep up with everyone's discoveries and tips.

Thank you all for your wonderful posts which I've been reading for hours...


Muff 2010 September 1

Hi Bec,

A few of the guys at work don't like the lame, and, although I prefer the cut it makes, in the interest of keeping peace in the shop we let them use alternatives.

One baker takes a used bread slicer blade (very thin and sharp, the kind used in Oliver reciprocating slicers) broken in half! Another uses an inexpensive knife with a very fine serration.

But it's easy to make a lame. I hammer a piece of heavy copper wire to a suitable flatness, bend it to an attractive curve, and file the end thin to allow a double-edge razor blade to fit over it. Bend the part with the blade to a definite but not abrupt curve. (If you don't have a real anvil to hammer on any good-sized chunk of steel or iron will do- a second hammer, the rail-road down the street, even a drain cover, or out-of-use cast iron plumbing part, will work.)

As to proofing- Well, we make our pan au levain up by hand, anywhere from 30 to 100 loaves at a time, and put it on perforated sheet pans ("perfs") with parchment paper, and slide the loaded pans into a metal box which then goes into the cooler as soon as the last loaf is done. The dough during make up is on the fluffy side and you can tell it's moving when you make it up.

We let it sit in the cooler at least a couple of hours, occassionally as long as over night, and leave it there until we have an oven available. We preheat the oven to 525 F (275 C), its maximum, while we cut the loaves. Just before loading we set the timer for 20 minutes, temperature to 480 F (250 C), and steam injection for 10 seconds- slide in the rack of bread, close the door, and push "Start". The steam hits with enough intensity to try to force the door open, and in a few seconds you can see condensation form on the loaves and rack. The loaves start to expand in another minute or two and probably double in bulk by the time they are done. (The steam actually drops the oven temp well below our target and it takes several minutes to recover.) We can see all this through the glass door of the ovens, which actually look almost like big refrigerators.

The point being that oven spring, or kick, heavily assisted by steam and enabled by the coup, provides a good deal of our loaves' volume. A wimpy coup and/or late start with the steam and the loaf will suffer in size and appearance.

I hope this helps- and I hope you get to try making your own lame. (I think the copper I use is "#4 wire" from a hardware store, but there's a lot of room to vary.)



saralexis 2010 September 1

Thanks so much for this, I've got some dough bulk-prooving right now and will be slashing away at it later this evening.

I'm reasonably sure it isn't my prooving times - I've been fiddling with these a lot recently and have narrowed it down pretty well (I was massively over-prooving at first, then I tried under-prooving it and now I think I'm close!).

I'll try the more angled cut tonight and see how it goes.  My 5 year old boy is also making his own loaf (very keen young baker) and wants a go with the lame, eek!

I can understand it though - you've gotta love the tools :)


Karniecoops's picture
Karniecoops 2010 September 1

Thanks Muff for your wonderful description above, it makes me want to take a holiday in a bakery just to watch the process!


Happiness is making bread

breadlover 2010 September 4

Hi Muff,

Sorry, my reply didn't seem to save a couple of days ago.

Thanks for your tips. As much as I would love a steam injection in my humble home oven, I will have to settle for a mister! Karniecorps is right though, great description. I would love to see it all at work too.

One day I will have a go at making a lame. In my current time-poor state I'll try the slashing with another blade.

I'm about to make up a dough and will slash it. I'll try and upload photos of my creation (though having trouble doing this when I tried last night and this morning).

Thanks again


Cam the Baker Man 2010 September 10



I get my organic flour from an organic food store called Organic Wholefoods in East Brunswick Lygon St.  You can get all kinds of flours (rye, wheat, spelt etc.)

I've been using their flour now for the last couple of months and it seems to work really well.  Bit more price than the supermarket stuff but much better quality and at least you know it is organic.



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