Hearth-baked bread will burst in a process called “oven spring” (where the bread springs up in a rapid rise in the first 10-12 minutes of the bake) because of the temperatures and interior gases involved.
Experienced bakers manage this phenomenon by docking or slashing their bread in a decorative pattern with a lame or bread blade. The point of the blade is held at about a thirty-five-degree angle to the surface of the dough, and then drawn across the surface to a depth of about half an inch, as shown in our Bread Docking and Slashing Video. This results in the signature grin of artisan bread. In the old tradition of communal ovens in Europe, unique docking patterns were one way to tell one baker’s bread from another’s. Some modern-day bakeries like to use a different pattern on each type of bread to make it easier to keep track of which type is which.
There is no need to go to the expense of buying an imported lame when a thin, double-edged razor blade will do just as well after it’s fitted into an inexpensive blade holder. (See Books and Resources.) Do not be discouraged if it takes you a while to perfect your technique. Smooth docking takes some practice.
Shaping techniques for round hearth loaves and other bread will be discussed and shown under their individual recipes.
Next, before you really get going, let’s make sure you are ready to Be Organized.Back Forward
Here’s a close-up of the grigne (“ear”) on an Olive & Thyme Boule. Notice the caramelization of the interior and the well-developed crust. Without optimum hearth temperature and enough steam in your oven, you won’t achieve this look. The circular pattern on the crust is caused by a coiled-rush rising baskets called a banneton.
Hearth Bread Technique Videos