Do You Really Need To Score Bread Dough?

Step into any artisanal bakery and you'll likely be greeted by the sight of beautifully scored loaves of bread. Whether it's the simple cuts on a crusty baguette or an intricate nature design on a rustic loaf of sourdough, it seems like scoring bread is the final step in mastering the art of baking artisan bread. They're also just a beautiful expression of creativity that has earned its own devoted Instagram profile and hashtag as well. Is scoring your bread absolutely necessary though?

For those that don't know, Better Homes & Gardens explains that scoring bread is when cuts and marks are made on the surface of the loaf just before baking. It works especially well on loaves of bread that have finished their second rise in a proofing basket or bowl. Spruce Eats says that these accessories give structure and shape to the bread as it rises. This makes the final loaf more consistent, and can also produce a smooth surface to etch your preferred design into.

Scoring helps create a consistent rise

While there are good reasons to score your bread, it isn't necessarily required. King Arthur Baking says that the main reason for scoring bread is to control its appearance as it rises in the oven. When a loaf of bread is put in the oven, it releases vital steam and moisture which gives it an "oven spring," in which the dough rises rapidly (via Slate). Better Homes & Gardens points out that if there is no scoring done on a bread's surface, this rapid expansion will still cause it to crack and splinter, just in a more inconsistent and less aesthetically pleasing manner.

Food & Wine explains that the cuts also allow the bread to expand to its greatest potential. An unbroken surface may not be as willing to stretch until it is broken open, and so scoring it beforehand will help the bread's last rise.

Scoring bread dough probably isn't the final step holding you back from creating the perfect homemade loaf of bread. However, it is still an important step that will bring out any dough's full potential and gives home bakers an opportunity to express themselves on a unique canvas as well.