Artistically Scoring Artisan Bread

Like the final brush stroke of a captivating painting, the act of scoring bread is a finishing accent that can note both talent and beauty. Or it can lead to the baked equivalent of a torn canvas. The art of elegant scoring demands skilled dexterity, a scientific understanding of your product’s composition and an eye for symmetry.

America’s tastiest loaf of bread might well be an indistinct and less-than-appetizing blob; even so, it doesn’t change the fact that many consumers inadvertently eat with their eyes. Showcasing visually appealing artisan breads to consumers is a critical variable to imparting its fresh, crisp and delicious components. Despite the vast complexities beneath its crust, artisan bread is often judged by its cover.

While elegant symmetry, perfect scoring and rich, balanced coloring might not conclusively signify the taste of your product, aesthetics are a bread loaf’s elevator pitch. Basically, the better you are at making your bread products look pretty, the easier it will be to sell them.

“It’s an aesthetic thing. A lot of what we do is for the sake of the aesthetics, which is important,” says Fred Spompinato, owner of Fervere Bakery in Kansas City, MO. “There’s just something about if you look at a loaf of bread and it doesn’t look tasty. It’s a set-up.”

Also, the precise detail invested in scoring artisan bread can lend identity to your products. With consistency and remarkable patterns, scoring can brand your bakery’s bread with a distinct signature. By doing this, your product is able to represent your company outside of your bakery. If done correctly, it can be as influential as branding your logo on packaging.

“It’s paramount that the scoring is not only done correctly to release the gases, but also distinguish the loaves we bake. It’s somewhat like a trademark as well,” says William Seppi, general manager of Costeaux Bakery in Healdsburg, CA. “Each baker does the scoring the same to ensure a consistent end product.” We also have signage by our oven to remind the baker of the correct angle and technique applied when scoring.”

In the end, it’s one of many ways to help your product stand out against your competitors’. It breaks the uniformity of the basic bread loaf. Distinguishing your bakery’s product from competing businesses’ can set a standard in quality, taste and appearance.

In addition, there are a number of variables to consider while scoring. For instance, symmetrical cuts, made parallel with the rounding of the loaf, will result in a balanced blossoming of the product while it bakes. Scoring with a sense of geometrical awareness helps avoid lopsided loaves and can improve definition. Bread scored without precision will rise unvenly and will lack an artisanal touch.

Scoring at the right time is also an incredibly important aspect to making a quality break in the bread. With under-proofed dough, there will be too much of a break and will consequently have a poor quality of crumb. “Scoring is really at the right moment of the bread’s proof,” Spompinato says. “Novice bakers don’t have a window to understand what happens when you cut a loaf too soon or too late.” Also, scoring needs to be done quickly before transitioning to the baking process. If the bread is scored, and it’s not in the oven right away, the break will become less defined and less dynamic. For a quality break, the loaf needs to be in the oven almost immediately after it has been scored.

Rolling the bread efficiently and tightly prior to the scoring process will help the dough open up better during the baking process. If the dough has been mishandled or was poorly rolled, the final product will lack the distinct qualities of a loaf that has been rolled by an experienced baker. On the other hand, if the dough is rolled tightly, the scored bread will open up during the baking process and will rise evenly.

At Fervere Bakery, the loaves are scored using a French style. The blade bows, allowing an angle that can give better leverage during the scoring process. Using water to occasionally clean the blade, the baker is able to make a clean cut across the loaf, from end-to-end, without compromising the shaping of the dough.

Practice can sometimes be more productive than theory. In an attempt to articulate the hand-rolling method, Spompinato explains that the art of quality rolling is determined largely by the baker’s understanding of the dough’s composition and chemistry. The complicated motions of rolling the dough and scoring the bread seem to come both as complicated and as natural as breathing to the trained baker. Spompinato and Seppi both describe practice and repition as the quickest avenue toward improvement. While the most captivating artisanal bread may not be the most delicious, properly preparing and scoring the dough can positively influence the value of the bread and catch the attention of customers.