How to score dough successfully…

From this…
To this 🙂

There are some key tips to scoring, but first, why do we do it at all?

Scoring dough has two main jobs, firstly, it allows and encourages growth in your loaf by enabling the dough to expand as it bakes. Because it will expand, but if it isn’t scored, it won’t expand as much as it would like to and it will inhibit the size of the baked loaf.

If you don’t score your dough there’s also every chance it will crack as it bakes anyway and possibly blow out at the sides, so why not encourage it to grow as you’d like it to instead?

Secondly, it allows you to choose how your loaf will look once baked.

By scoring your dough with a single slash, you will encourage a more dramatic opening (assuming a good strong dough).

Before..
And after.

By scoring a more intricate and involved design you allow the dough to grow evenly and protect the design.

Before…
And after.

So here’s my top tips…

*The blade needs to be thin and very sharp, ideally a razor blade. By using a bread lame this gives you a safe handle for your blade, but it’s not a necessity. Nice to have though, I love all of mine 🙂

*Your dough needs to be firm. This is achieved by having a dough made with the right amount of water for your flour choice, and proved well. You’ll find help with this on my FAQ page.

*If you want to give yourself a slightly firmer surface to score, place your banneton full of dough into the freezer for 30 minutes before turning it out, scoring and baking. (If your dough is too wet or over proved, it is likely to still spread even with this tip).

*A nice firm dough also allows you to take your time as it will hold its shape whilst you score. No need to super fast slash-and-get-it-into-the -oven as fast as possible!

*By not preheating your pan (which I never do) you also make this part of the process smoother as you’re not moving the dough around so much. I turn my dough out into my cold pan, take my time scoring, then into my cold oven and bake – a nice relaxed process.

*Score into the dough 0.5-1.0cm deep.

*Score firmly, but without pushing the dough down into itself.

*I always score from the outside towards the middle when unless I’m making a pattern, this way you don’t risk squashing the dough or dragging the blade.

*If your blade is dragging, try changing it for a new blade, or making sure your dough is firm enough to score.

*How you score can affect the final shape of your dough as hopefully my photos have shown. Sorry, I don’t have any bad examples to make the point!

*As always, there is no right or wrong here, and the best way to learn is via trial and error.

*Personally, I like the lines that the rice flour in the banneton leave, if you’re not a a fan, lightly brush is off.

I have various videos on my YouTube channel and Instagram showing scoring.

Here’s some ideas from my past loaves..

Before
After.
Personally I like it when designs crack and burst,
I like seeing that power in my dough!
Before
After.
Before..
After.

Have fun, and happy scoring!

17 thoughts on “How to score dough successfully…”

  1. Thank you that was really helpful, and this is the skill I haven’t quite mastered yet, but getting better!

  2. Thank you for sharing Elaine . I can get good ovenspring into scoring. Coz my dough isnt durm , 99% of the time. I wonder why. Hydration is usually 75%. Will try putting it 30min in the freezer and see.

    The cold oven to bake slowly, do you put steam for the initial 25min bake time?

  3. I pre-ordered your book and don’t know where to send the pic of my receipt from amazon so I can get the additional recipes from you. Please devise.

  4. I think I’m over proofing. I am not able to get the lip on my sourdough. The dough feels super wet. I’m following your instructions to a T. Tastes delicious every time though

  5. For the first time in a year of doing sourdough i have a bread that i feel proud of..thank you so much for you tips and be so clear in how you explain!!..

  6. Hi, do we need to thaw the frozen dough to room temperature after scoring before cold bake? Thanks. I have baked using your master recipe and the crust remained crispy for days. The crumbs was also to our liking. My only problem is the scoring and achieving good oven spring. Where i stay, temperature between 32c to 26c and high humidity. Thanks, again.

  7. Hi, thank you 🙏🏻🙏🏻
    No, don’t thaw the dough, just score and bake, if you bring it to room temp it will lose the firmness it developed and will lose any benefit from the time it had in the freezer.
    I’m glad you’re enjoying your loaves – it sounds like you’re managing the heat and humidity well 👍🏻

  8. There’s details throughout my site for helping with making sourdough in high temps: you need less starter to combat the heat, and less water to combat the humidity

  9. Thank you so very much for your response! Please keep up your good recipes. Cold bake is 👍🏼. Have a wonderful day.

Let me know what you think...