The Bread Baking Babes are baking bread as usual this month, but there’s a twist in the tale. Elizabeth set this month’s challenge which is less about the bread and more about slashing or scoring the dough. Quoting Elizabeth, “For this month’s decorated bread, it’s not really about creating an ear or directing the rise. It’s about decorating the bread with shallow knife cuts”. The recipe was ours to choose so long as it was made with slack dough (at least 75% hydration). We also had to score it decoratively. So I’m calling this post Baker’s Percentage and Scoring Adventures.
If you’ve tried working with high hydration dough and are not an expert at it, you know it can get difficult. A high hydration dough means it has a higher amount of water. That means a very sticky and gloopy dough. Handling a dough like this is difficult enough, but scoring it also? That’s a challenge and bound to be an adventure, if you’re like me.
However higher hydration dough is not impossible to work with. It just needs some practice. I worked with 75% hydration for this bread. It’s not sourdough but made with yeast. Since we’re mentioning hydration, let’s talk about that a bit. I’m all that great at math but if I can calculate Baker’s Percentage calculations, so can you. Since this post is about Baker’s Percentage and Scoring Adventures, I’ll briefly describe both.
The Baker’s Percentage
Why would you calculate Baker’s Percentage if you can just follow a written recipe? This is how professional bread bakers work. It makes it very easy to communicate the recipe to another bread baker. You also can maintain a level of consistency and reproducibility in the recipe. This is very important, especially in commercial bread baking. Recipes can be scaled up or down. Here, ingredients are always measured by weight.
Let’s start with the calculations. Basic bread needs just four ingredients – flour, water, yeast and salt. The first rule here is that flour is considered the most important ingredient. So it is always written as 100% and every other ingredient is calculated as a percentage of it. If you use three different flours, they must add up to 100%.
So let us say we are starting with 1kg or 1000 gm for ease of calculation. The calculation is always done in weight, as grams. So 1000 gm of flour is considered 100%. Let us say we are going to make a 70% hydration bread. So the water or liquid should be 70% of 1000 gm of flour. This is equal to 700 gm. If you add 2% yeast, that is 2% of 1000 gm which is 20 gm. Similarly for salt and any other ingredient you might wish to add to your bread recipe. This calculation works for all kinds of bread doughs including enriched ones. By this method, this is how I arrived at my recipe for today’s bread.
|100% Flour||500 gm x 100%||500 gm|
|75% Water||500 gm x 75%||375 gm|
|1% Active Dried Yeast||500 gm x 1%||5 gm|
|2% Salt||500 g x 2%||10 gm|
Why Score Bread Dough?
Scoring looks pretty, of course. Scoring bread dough creates escape points for CO2 created in the bread during rise. Also, it helps you to control the oven spring and allow it to expand more evenly. A single or double slash promotes a large opening while a series of small, delicate slashes creates a more intricate and aesthetically pleasing design. The cuts should generally be 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep. Slashes are usually deeper than the smaller decorative cuts. A wetter sticky dough requires a shallower cut than a less hydrated drier dough. Dusting the top of loaves with flour before scoring provides a visual contrast between white flour and a dark, baked crust. Professional bakers use particular scoring patterns to identify different breads.
What Blade to Use and How to Score?
There are bakers who use sharp knifes for basic scoring bread dough. Some even use scissors. Others use curved lames or razor blade. I personally use a plain razor blade. I find it gives me maximum flexibility. Scoring blades must be clean and sharp to score well. Using a wet blade and dipping the blade in water in between scoring creates sharp cuts.
It is better to score refrigerated or cold bread dough especially wetter or higher hydration dough. Less wet dough does not need to be cold for scoring. Make firm and smooth cuts, without hesitation. Hold the blade vertically, at 90 degrees to the surface, when scoring a round loaf. Hold the blade at about 20 to 30 degrees to create “ears” on a longer loaf. A curved blade will work better on other shapes, such as the long-shaped loaves. Longer breads are usually scored close to parallel to the long sides of the loaf. Scoring will impact the shape of bread, how high it bakes and for sometimes decide if the bread will stay round or become oblong.
Use bread flour to make this bread. All-purpose flour doesn’t have enough protein, so the dough might not hold shape when making a free form loaf.
The Bread Baking Babes are –