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When slashing bread, how can I produce crusty 'ears' on the places where the slash opens up? Most of the time they open up, but just end up flush with the rest of the crust.

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I spent 15 minutes last night trying to think of bread questions, how do you do it? :) – jontyc Feb 23 '12 at 1:01
@jontyc - I bake...**a lot**. Most of these I know the answer to and I'm asking them because they were struggles for me in the past, a few not so much. – rfusca Feb 23 '12 at 4:07
up vote 3 down vote accepted

In my somewhat limited experience you have two things that affect growth of the crispy ears. As Caleb mentions using a lame to score your bread means you can cut with a bit of an angle that will promote a little flap.

The second is ensuring a rapid oven spring, which will cause the flap to open as much as possible before the starches on the surface set. The key to good oven spring is having a hot enough oven (preheat longer than you think you need to if you are using a stone or other heat-storing vessel in the oven), and a source of steam injection. A few ways to do get some steam:

  • When you put the dough in, pour a 1/2 cup of boiling water into a small cast iron skillet pre-heated in the oven.
  • Spritz the walls of the oven with water when you put the dough in.
  • My favorite - preheat a large dutch oven, and put the dough inside the dutch oven (lid on) to bake. For the last 10 minutes of the bake, remove the lid. The dutch oven stores some of the initial steam release and makes for much nicer spring and crusts. Of course, only round bread fits.
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Dutch oven works, but all you really need is to trap the moisture near the bread. Try a large bowl upside down or for long things, an upside down hotel pan – rfusca Feb 23 '12 at 4:09

Try slashing with a lame, which has a blade like a razor but is curved a bit so that you tend to cut under the loaf's skin rather than deeply into the loaf. Sometimes this ends up making a bit of a flap, which I suppose resembles an 'ear'.

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