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Slashing Rustic Loaves

By Cook's Illustrated Published September 2014

The slashes on rustic loaves of bread aren't just about looks.

The slashes on rustic loaves, like our Authentic Baguettes at Home (see related content), aren’t just about aesthetics. Slashes create weak spots in a loaf’s surface, which allow the interior crumb to expand fully in the right direction. Without the slashes, the loaf will expand outward wherever it finds a random weak spot, resulting in an oddly shaped loaf and an uneven crumb.

Narrow baguettes and torpedo- or oval-shaped loaves should be scored along their length with long 1/2-inch-deep slashes made at a shallow, 30-degree angle (almost horizontal to the work surface). For even, smooth cuts, it’s important to use swift, fluid motions. If the blade is held upright or the cut is too deep, it will close up during baking. Scoring of this type is most easily done with a curved-blade lame (our favorite is the Breadtopia Bread Lame, $9.50). This blade will produce broad, almond-shaped openings. Since the openings taper at the ends, the ends of each cut should overlap just slightly to ensure that the loaf expands evenly down its length.

Properly executed slashes bake up into almond-shaped openings with a flap on one side that curls into a crispy “ear” during baking.

SWIFT SLASH: Hold the lame at a 30-degree angle and cut with quick, fluid motions to create three long slashes that overlap slightly.