How to score bread

Follow our beginner's guide for three easy bread-scoring techniques. Our expert advice takes homemade sourdough to the next level with stencilling and scoring.

Loaves of bread stacked on top of each other

Looking to transform a loaf of sourdough into a work of art? Check out our expert advice for amateur bread-makers.

For everything you need to know about making bread, see our sourdough masterclass.
 

Getting started:

If you only ever want to make a couple of slashes in a loaf there is no need to buy a lame (a baker's knife), but if you want to make fancier patterns, you will need one. They're easy to find in kitchenware shops or online. 

Before you get creative you need to consider a few rules, too. The bread needs to spring open somewhere and you need to control where this happens or you will ruin your design. A series of big slashes, like a criss-cross, will allow this, but if you are doing a more intricate pattern then you will need to balance it with a big score somewhere, often down one side, to let the bread expand.

When you make an intricate pattern it will be easier if you can put the bread on something you can turn, for example a wooden board, so you can work on all sides. Where you want the bread to open, it's best to hold the lame at a 45 degree angle, which will give you a trademark 'ear' shape. Where you want the scores to open just a little, slash the bread straight down. 

To highlight your scoring, first dust the loaf with flour – the easiest way to do this is using a small sieve.

For the ultimate selection of homemade bread recipes, see our bread collection.
 

The best three ways to score bread: 

1) Basic cut

Loaf of sourdough bread with checkered scoring
For a basic cut pattern, dust your loaf with flour and make a series of criss-crosses. Three in each direction looks good but two in each direction is also fine.

Try this technique on our white sourdough recipe.
 

2) Wheat score

Loaf of sourdough bread with wheat scoring

To make a wheat score, dust the loaf with flour and press a knife into the dough to mark a line for the stem, then make a series of nips either side of the stem which will open up into the ears of wheat. Finally, to stop the pattern from splitting, make a long slash down one side. (You can make one stem or lots of stems.)

Use a wheat score on our olive oil bread recipe.
 

3) Top-hatting

Loaf of round sourdough bread with wheat scoring
Learn a technique we call top-hatting. Dust with flour, score a pattern in the middle (we did three stems of wheat), then frame the design with one continuous slash, all the way around the loaf to make the pattern pop up. The easiest way to top hat is on something you can rotate, like a cake turntable.

Show off this method using our easy white bread recipe.

Top tip: Somewhere on your design there must be a slash, so the bread breaks open as it bakes. If you don't do this, it will burst open at the side.
 

Enjoyed this guide? Get more bread-making tips...

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How to make Italian bread
The best bread knives
Six steps to brilliant bread
How to solve 10 common bread problems 

Which technique will you try? Leave a comment below...

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