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This Bread Lame Takes the Stress Out of Scoring My Homemade Loaf

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I got into sourdough for the stress relief. I love watching my starter balloon in size, squishing dough between my fingers, and gently poking a shaped loaf to see if it’s proofed. There’s only one part of the process that I dread: scoring the dough.

Scoring, a.k.a. cutting the surface of the dough, is the very last step before baking. Slashing holes into the airy dough I spent hours nurturing is nerve wracking, but necessary: The oven’s intense heat prompts yeast to undergo a final burst of fermentation, forcing the dough to spring up and expand. The weakest spots on the dough’s surface are prone to bursting open, so slicing the dough encourages the bread to grow through those openings instead of erupting into weird, uncontrollable rips.

At first, I used a sharp kitchen knife to quickly slash a gratuitous line atop my shaped loaf before baking. It worked, but it made my novice attempts at scoring even more challenging. Instead of yielding smooth slashes that would curl upward into prized raised areas of crust (called “ears”), it ungracefully tugged down at the dough, which risked deflating the air bubbles and creating a dense, stodgy loaf. I’m sure a more practiced baker could make the Mona Lisa of bread armed with just a kitchen knife, but my admittedly beginner technique wasn’t up to the task.

After a few months, I decided to invest in a lame from Baker of Seville on Etsy. A lame is basically a razor attached to a long stick, and it’s the instrument of choice for many professional bakers. Unlike my trusty chef’s knife, which pulls double shifts chopping onions and carving roast chickens, a lame’s single-use nature means it stays sharper. The curved edge encourages flaps of dough to form into ears, while the straight side creates decorative detail cuts. If I’m going to spend six hours kneading, folding, and generally babying a big lump of dough, I want it to look good! Crucially, the long, slender handle provides more control, which goes a long way towards reducing my self-injury anxiety.

The dazzlingly skilled bakers of Instagram use lames to create delicate monstera leaves, intricate self-portraits, and constellations, all enshrined in gluten. I’m still sticking to the basics, but my double-sided lame has helped me pick up some new tricks. Each loaf is a little prettier than the last, and I’m even gathering my nerve to attempt some leafy tendrils. Scoring is still the most stressful part of making bread, but now I have something that makes it a little easier.

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