Tips for Scoring Sourdough Bread: Unlock the Art of Baking

Making sourdough bread is an art, and scoring is an essential part of that artistic process. It’s not just about making your loaf look beautiful; proper scoring affects its texture, structure, and overall quality. In this guide, I’ll share valuable tips and scoring patterns to help you create works of art right in your own kitchen.

Two sourdough loaves on a cutting board with bread scoring tools

What is the Purpose of Scoring Sourdough Bread?

Scoring involves making shallow cuts on the surface of the dough just before baking. But why is it necessary? As the dough bakes, it undergoes fermentation, producing carbon dioxide that builds up inside. Simultaneously, the water in the dough evaporates rapidly.

Scoring creates a weak point in the dough, allowing the steam to escape as it transforms into bread. Without proper scoring, the steam would burst through the crust randomly, resulting in unwanted bulges and blowouts. The goal of scoring is to guide the rising process, helping the dough maintain its shape and achieve the perfect oven spring.

Scoring guides the way dough rises as it bakes, influencing not only the look of your bread but its texture and interior structure as well

When Should You Score Bread?

Scoring is the final step in the bread-making process, done after the final proofing and just before baking. It’s best to score the dough straight from the refrigerator, right before placing it in a hot oven.

Tools for Scoring Bread

Must-have tools

  • Lame: A specialized tool designed for scoring dough, with a thin, sharp blade. Opt for a reusable lame that can be fitted with fresh blades.
  • Double-edged razor blade: Inexpensive and effective for creating clean cuts.

Nice-to-have tools

  • Rice flour: Dusting a little rice flour on the dough before scoring creates contrast, making your design stand out.
  • Parchment paper: Makes transferring the dough to the baking vessel easier.
  • Butcher’s twine or thread: Marks guidelines on the dough for creating decorative patterns.
  • Kitchen shears: Useful for snipping dough for deeper cuts.
  • Brush: For removing excess flour on the proofed dough.

Scoring bread tools

How to Score Bread

Scoring may seem straightforward, but it requires some strategy. The goal is to create a large enough cut to allow the bread to expand fully. Insufficient scoring can result in blowouts, while excessive or deep cuts can destroy the dough’s structure and prevent proper rising.

Essential cut

The main scoring cut serves as a weak point for gas to escape, guiding the bread’s expansion and shape. These purposeful, long cuts allow the dough to rise while maintaining its structure.

Decorative scoring

While the essential cut helps the bread rise, decorative scoring is your chance to unleash creativity. These smaller, shallower cuts serve as your unique signature as a baker.

Dough scored with a snowflake pattern on a parchment on a wooden platter

Ready to challenge your skills? Try creating a Pumpkin-shaped Sourdough Bread with your scoring techniques!

Tips for Getting an Ear

An “ear” is a beautiful but elusive feature in bread scoring. However, there’s no single trick to achieving it. Here are a few tips to help you master the skill:

  • Nail fermentation: Properly fermented dough is crucial for creating an ear.
  • Create strength and tension: Folding and shaping the dough properly help it rise and hold its shape.
  • Bake at the perfect moment: Timing is everything. Bake when the dough has produced enough gas for proper expansion.
  • Hold your lame at a 45-degree angle: A proper angle encourages the cut to open up and form an ear.
  • Bake with steam: Steam is essential for oven spring, so your bread rises fully.

Sourdough bread with an ear on a cutting board and a napkin

Test your scoring skills using my Basic Sourdough Bread or Spelt Sourdough Bread recipe!

Bread Scoring Patterns

With the basics of scoring mastered, your bread becomes a blank canvas for your creativity. Remember that the main purpose of scoring is to optimize oven spring while maintaining the loaf’s shape. To inspire you, here are a few examples of essential cuts suitable for boules or batards.

Sourdough boule scoring patterns
Sourdough batard scoring patterns


Scoring sourdough bread is both an art and a science. Proper scoring ensures your bread looks stunning and has the perfect texture and structure. Remember to use the right tools, master the essential and decorative cuts, and experiment with different scoring patterns. So, go ahead and unleash your creativity in the kitchen!

For more bread baking guides and inspiring recipes, visit BDK Restaurant. Happy scoring!

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