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My slashes seem to be OK (not great) before I put the bread in the oven but never really open up during baking. I'm thinking the slashes aren't deep enough but since I use a no knead method, I'm reluctant to press any harder.

Is there a trick to help the knife move more easily? I use a serrated knife.

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up vote 20 down vote accepted

Professional bakers use straight razors. Chances are they are sharper than your knife, and easier to keep that way (or cheaper to replace, at least).

Also: wet the blade before making slashes. This helps lubricate the blade as it cuts, and keeps the cut bread from sticking.

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Professional bakers do not use straight razors, they use a double-sided safety razor insert attached to a special holder called a lame. – Callithumpian May 31 '12 at 13:15
Thaaaat looks like a prison shank. – Preston Fitzgerald Feb 26 '15 at 15:39

I noticed a much bigger expansion and fluffier loaves when I switched to slashing before or during the last rise instead of right before baking.

As far as drag, it can come from a dull edge, a serrated edge, a dry blade, and a large surface area in contact with the bread. Use a knife that has a straight blade, is thin, extremely sharp, and lubricated slightly.

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That's an interesting idea. I suppose rising would force the slits open further. – Mike Yockey Jul 21 '10 at 18:15
I had a successful experience with getting expansion, but then I didn't end up with the color change between where the slash was and the rest of the crust. Maybe this was just me. – justkt Aug 12 '10 at 13:25
A very sharp serrated edge can work quite well. – Callithumpian May 31 '12 at 13:17

I use disposable carpet cutter blades, very sharp, longer and thinner than utility knife blades, and one side lasts me a whole season (don't do sourdough in the hot weather). And I don't get them wet, rather I dip the cutting edge in fresh flour before each cut....and don't slice the loaf too quickly.

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Just read your question again, you may need to cut deeper. I sometimes make 'X' cuts, and if I've timed the loaf right I get blooms at each X. Very nice stuff. – Frankie Jul 21 '10 at 5:10

You're right in hesitating to put pressure on an unbaked loaf, but there isn't really a trick to the slits. If your knife isn't cutting it (haha!) get a sharper knife.

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Try a very sharp non-serrated knife.

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While knife type and wetting can help, they will not correct technical errors in baking. I've made these mistakes myself, so I will air them openly.

If the dough is too well hydrated then the blade will stick no matter what. If the dough is too well proofed, then the loaf will fall no matter how good your scoring technique.

In my experience (assuming your hydration level is correct), the final proofing should be done in relatively lower humidity than previous proofings to allow a skin to form. Using a cloth or permeable media to cover instead of cling wrap will yield much better results.

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