Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bread Baking - Score and Garnish

Adding a glaze or topping to the top of your loaf can turn a delicious loaf into bread almost too beautiful to eat! Glazes improve not only the appearance but also the texture of the crust and contribute to the flavor.

Here is a few options to consider. The kind of topping you choose will depend upon the type and style of bread.

1. If I do nothing else, I usually brush some butter on the top of the loaves as soon as they are pulled from the oven. This softens the crust and gives it a glossy appearance. I usually have part of a stick of butter in the fridge, that I can grab and rub on. (Don't do this if you are making an artisan bread that you want to have a hard crispy crust.)

2. Before baking in the oven, I sometimes brush the loaves with milk to keep the loaf softer.

3. Beating an egg, egg white, or egg yolk with a tablespoon of water and brushing on the crust before baking will give a shiny crust. For lighter crust, use the egg white and for a darker crust, use the yolk.

4. Choose a topping to accent the type of bread, such as rolled oats on oatmeal bread, cinnamon sugar sprinkled on cinnamon raisin bread, dried herbs on a cheese bread.

5. Egg glazes or an egg wash (#3) will serve as "glue" to hold on toppings such as sesame seeds, poppy seeds, herbs, coarse salt, or oatmeal. My all time favorite is a mixture of poppy and sesame seeds.

6. Slashing or scoring a loaf can also add to it's appearance. Use a sharp serrated knife or razor blade. Quickly slit the dough, making an X or other marking. Aim for a ½ inch indention at a 50 degree angle. Don't push down into the loaf and deflate it. Loaves may be slit before rising or immediately before placing in the oven, depending on the desired effect. Usually soft light breads are slashed before raising and denser artisan breads are slashed right before baking.

7. Scoring a loaf can also help avoid the "blow out" effect when loaves rise in the oven in strange formations. I'm not sure why this happens but usually it occurs when I didn't allow the loaf to raise long enough before putting it in the oven. Slitting the top seems to control the expansion in the bread. I especially find it helpful in sourdough bread and artisan breads that have a big burst of oven rise.

Glazing and adding toppings, while taking little time, can add creative touch to your bread baking. Notice in the included photos how much the toppings and slashing adds to the appearance of these loaves.

Did I miss your favorite topping or scoring technique?


  1. Very timely post as I purchased my Prairie Gold berries and bulk yeast today and will be baking tomorrow, Lord willing. Thanks for adding "when" to score and how deep as others have not said that thinking we may already know. Question: the instant yeast I purchased (Saf-Instant, I think) had a "conversion" chart on the side of it something to the effect that 1 lb. of compressed yeast equaled 5 1/2 ounces of Saf-Instant so you would add 11 ounces more water when using (or 2 1/2 times the Saf-Instant used). How confusing. Have you run across this in your bulk-purchased yeast?

  2. Tobey -
    Saf-Instant is the yeast I use. I wouldn't worry at all about the conversion chart on the side of the package. I think that is for use in a bakery. Most all recipes for home bakers are using dry yeast. Dry yeast and instant yeast can be used interchangeably with no changes to the recipe. I use instant yeast in all my recipes. Instant yeast does not have to be soaked in water before adding to a recipe, but otherwise it is just like dry yeast in my understanding. Does that make sense?

  3. Gina, those loaves of bread are so pretty. Do you have the recipe for the big round loaf? That is my favorite bread. I have been buying it at Whole Foods but if I can make it I will. My favorite sanwich is bacon and fresh tomato with mayo on that bread toasted. It is so juicy and messy and good. During tomato season I have one almost every day.

    Thank you so my uch for your very informative blog. I want to come live with you now. I could learn so much from you.

  4. De-lurking a bit to say I love the spiral loaf. I never would have thought of it. It's definitely going to make an appearance in my kitchen soon.

  5. Diana - Thanks for taking the time to comment!

    Kris- I think that loaf is a sourdough bread. I plan to share the recipe soon. But you could make a large round loaf with the miracle bread recipe or the french bread recipe. Check the "bread" category to find the recipes.


  6. This isn't exactly about scoring or garnishing but one thing my mother-in-law taught me is that if you put your loaf of bread in a bread bag as soon as you take it out of the oven, it helps the loaf stay more soft and also the crust won't get as hard. I assume it has something to do with the steam it creates. All your pictures are making me want to try some new bread recipes! (If only I had the time right now!) :)

  7. Out of curiosity's sake--would you apply a wash before or after scoring? Should I try to keep the wash from entering the scored marks? I really appreciate your tips--this post has been so useful!

  8. Polora -
    You can do it as you like but I usually apply the wash and garnishes before scoring. I like the look of no garnish in the score lines. But there is no right or wrong way! At least in my opinion!


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