OverviewAt baking time, loaves should be slashed. This means that cuts are made on top with a very sharp blade.
These cuts are to create weak spots in the crust, and it's from these (like chimneys), that steam and CO2 can escape from the dough and that's how you get well risen bread. It's not just a decorative thing, but cut well your bread will have a professional look.
If you don't slash your bread, it will rise less and have a stronger/harder crust.
|To slash well, it's no secret, you need a very sharp blade. A knife, even a sharp one, is not enough.|
The best tool is a professional baker's blade, a kind of razor blade on a plastic handle. But it's rather expensive and hard to find.
|A cheaper solution is to make your own tool, by putting a razor blade on an aluminium handle with two screws. It can then be held safely, and can be dipped in water during use.|
How to slit ?
It's simple and complicated at the same time. Simple because you just have to makes slits in the dough, and complicated because their shape and direction influence how the bread cooks. Basically there are 3 main French ways to slash bread: classic, saucisson or polka.
the bread is slashed with medium sized cuts, more or less along the loaf, but which overlap for about 1/3 of their length.
This time the cuts are parallel and diagonally across the loaf.
Cuts are crossed, in both directions. It's a cut usually reserved for round loaves.
I almost never succeed with the classic cut, so I do my personal version by making cuts along the length but staggered.
Once the style has been choosen, the cutting angle is also important:
If you cut vertically, you bread will not get "ears" when cooking, those characteristic forms on the top.
If you cut with the blade at a 45° angle, your bread will get its "ears" during baking, and have a professional look.