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Slashes in bread loaves are designed to promote oven spring but there are many different patterns. Some running the length of a loaf, some in a checkered pattern. I've been told this is to promote oven spring in different directions.

What patterns lend themselves to spring in what directions? For example, I know a checkered pattern, promotes expansion upward.

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2 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Slashing the skin of a loaf creates a weak area. When the oven spring occurs the dough will expand through that weak spot. Expansion will be limited in the stronger, unslashed areas.

Conceptually this is fairly simple. Leave the skin unslashed in the direction you don't want the bread to expand. In the case of a checker slash on the surface of a boule- the edge stays stronger than the entire center so the expansion is forced upwards.

In practice, with different loaves, it may be difficult to predict exactly how the physics will occur. You can start with traditional slash patterns that you see on professionally produced bread. For example, on long loaves, such as baguettes, the slashes are short, at a slight angle to the length, and overlapping to promote lengthening of the loaf. Whereas on wider, football-shaped loaves the slash may run parallel to the loaf to widen it a little.
baguette enter image description here

As a demonstration I baked two loaves this weekend. They were identically formed as small football-shaped loaves (batards). One I slashed at an angle, the other parallel with the length.

enter image description here

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Love the home test in this answer. –  justkt Feb 27 '12 at 16:46
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I had to think if you shaped them like a footbal ball or like a football ball :-) (before reaching the word bâtard) –  J.A.I.L. Dec 4 '12 at 8:49
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Slashes allow the carbon dioxide released from the yeast to escape at specific points in the bread, yielding an even shaped loaf. They are used to stop the spring from tearing the bread randomly, which could create burned areas on the surface where it split or cracked. There is no specific pattern that works better than others, and they all tend to promote expansion upward and outward.

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Certain patterns do influence the direction of expansion. Try a boule with a hash mark on the top and then try one with 4 parallel cuts - totally different. –  rfusca Feb 24 '12 at 2:04
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