Monday, January 14, 2013

All I wanted for Christmas was a... bread scorer!

Sometimes the best toys are simple, cheap and don't take up too much space. It's even better when they're useful, too. I'd been slicing my loaves with knives, but the blades were never thin enough, no matter how sharp they were. The result was slightly pulled dough and less than perfect cuts.

Enter the lame. That's French for "blade", not English for "crappy". Basically a double-edged razor blade with a trendy green handle and matching cover so you don't remove fingers while searching for the thing in a drawer. Better yet, the blade is curved so it conforms to the round shape of the loaf. A couple of quick motions and the loaf is scored, ready to undergo interesting transformations in the oven. Look at that ear!

Correct proofing time is still critical, though. If the loaf is over-proofed, it will deflate like an unpowered pneumatic snowman when cut, then (hopefully) regain some of its bounce in the oven. Some bread types, like ciabatta, are inherently full of bubbles and air pockets, so the lame doesn't give clean, dramatic, eye-catching ears and gashes as it does with other formulas.

These loaves are mixed grain sourdough, slowly proofed in a freezing cold house (turning down the thermostat saves energy and as a bonus you get better tasting bread). I used a kneading process (as opposed to stretching and folding) because I wanted a solid country type loaf, the kind people living in cold houses eat (chewing hearty bread is as good a way to warm up as any). There was a bit of an "oops" when I dumped in organic blue corn meal instead of sprouted whole wheat (the bags are almost identical), but it turned out to be a happy accident, giving the loaf a sweeter finish than would wheat alone.

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