Get out your razor blades! I've got a video here for you on how to score sourdough bread showing a traditional ear and a simple but pretty wheat pattern on the side.
What is a sourdough ear?
It's that cut down the side of the loaf that creates a controlled sliced vent for steam to release. Once the dough hits the hot oven, the moisture inside the dough heats up, creating steam, and it needs to escape. If we don't slice a vent for it, it will bust out the sides and blow out your bread horizontally rather than vertically. We want steam coming out the top because that will help our bread rise & "spring".
How to score sourdough
We'll use a razor blade to slice the vent because that creates a nice clean cut that slices through the gluten strands in the dough. If we were to use something not as sharp (like a knife, or scissors), we would drag along the surface of the dough and rip the strands, which could negatively affect the oven spring and overall look, and possibly even deflate the dough a little.
How to make the wheat pattern
Do the leaves just open like that? Yep - they do. It's not necessary to try and carve a leaf shape. Just a straight line will do it!
How deep do we slice the dough? It depends! I'll show you the technique below for a traditional ear and wheat pattern. I'll also list out the step by step directions with details.
For other patterns you might like to see my scoring and baking gallery here.
The video is below!
Sourdough Bread: How To Score A Traditional Ear & Wheat Pattern
- Assemble your tools before you start.
Parchment paper cut to size (if you're using parchment)
Fresh Rice Flour
Sharp, clean razor blade
- Firmly hold the parchment over the top of the banneton and flip it in one motion, being sure to hold it firmly.
If the dough and banneton were properly floured, it will likely fall on out when flipped. The parchment should catch it, like a sling.
- Brush off the excess flour, then sprinkle on new if desired.
- Turn the dough vertically and eyeball where the center would be. You'll be slicing to the right of center, at about 1 or o'clock.
- To score the sourdough take your blade, hold it at a 45 degree angle and slice on the angle from pole to pole, cutting about 1/2" to 3/4" inch deep. No deeper or you could compromise the structure.
Slice in one confident slash if possible. Try to not drag the blade. Don't gouge or chop at it. It should be a smooth slice.
- Now for the wheat pattern.
To the left of center, at about 10 or 11 o'clock cut straight down, slicing in about 1/2". Each cut should be about an inch in length. Start with one in the middle, the top cut, then start a row to the left of that center cut, and slice lines down to the bottom (or stop wherever you like).
Do the other side, alternating a little so the cuts are staggered.
- Time is crucial here! Got to get this in the kettle and in the oven. You'll notice the dough is starting to open up and flatten a little. That's normal but don't delay with getting it settled in the oven.
Use the extra bit of parchment on the edges as handles, and ease the loaf down into the kettle. I use oven gloves when doing this step.
Check out my Resources page for other great sourdough baking enthusiasts. I also really love this online forum here at The Fresh Loaf.