Everything You Need To Know About Sourdough (Part 3)

Chaya Suri Leitner May 31, 2024

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We’re up to the part of my sourdough bread series on “Now You Know” that you’ve probably all been eagerly waiting for. Let’s talk about scoring sourdough and baking it! I’m going to show you different scoring patterns, from simple to creative and complex, so you can play around and know how to do them yourself.

What Is Scoring?

Scoring the bread is when you cut a little bit of the surface of the dough before baking it. You can use a special tool called a lame (pronounced “lahm”) that has a double-edged razor on it. The razor is very sharp and gives you nice, precise cuts. 

Why Is Scoring Important?

When you bake the bread at a high temperature – which we do to get that nice, crispy crust – you want to give space for the dough to open and expand before the crust fully forms. 

If you don’t score it, it might just explode somewhere because as it grows in the oven – called the oven spring – the crust will form fast and it won’t have that space to expand.

What Kind Of Scoring Patterns Can You Make?

There are many different scoring patterns. Some bakers have their own signature score, but you don’t need to do more than just one line.


– I like to keep the dough in the fridge overnight so it becomes firmer and is easier to score. 

– If you’re going to be keeping it on the counter for two hours, same day bake, then my suggestion is to put it into the freezer for the last 10 to 15 minutes of the rise time.

Let’s Score!

So here we have our bread that rose overnight in the fridge. Turn over your banetton onto the parchment paper.


– If you find that your dough sticks to the basket a bit, then give the basket a slight bang onto the counter, and it should come out easily. If it doesn’t, then you might need to flour your basket better the next time. 

– You can see the basket gave the dough a nice round shape – which is why I don’t line my baskets. 

A Basic Score

When you do this score, you want to keep the blade at an angle so it’s going to open up and give you what we call an “ear.”

Be sure that you have it scored all the way from one side of the dough to the other to help get that nice ear that bakers are always looking for. Be sure to cut in a little bit deeper than the surface. 

How to Bake Your Sourdough

Lift the parchment paper, put the dough into the Dutch oven, and cover. Since we’re baking the bread at a high temperature, the crust can form really fast. That’s why we bake it covered – to lock in the steam and help the dough rise before the full crust forms. After about 18 to 20 minutes, we’re going to uncover it and continue baking to let the bread get really crispy. 

Different Scoring Patterns


– Before scoring, add more flour on top of the dough and smooth it down over the ridges from the basket. 

– When scoring, you always want to have at least one deeper score, and the rest can be surface scores. 

– Only use the tip of the blade, not the full blade.

– Keep in mind that how you score the bread will affect the oven spring – how your bread rises in the oven.

– If your scores are not even or perfect, don’t worry! Once the bread is baked, it’s going to open up and look really pretty. 

The Flower

Draw four leaves around the dough, a little bit on an angle so you get that deep score. Now you can add any other designs, and they don’t need to be a deep scoring. I’m going to make a wheat sprig design in each “leaf.”

The X

Make a line down the center. Turn the dough 90 degrees and make another line down the center. Now make a wheat sprig in each section that you created. This opens up beautifully when it’s baked!

The S

For this one, I’m going to use a very thin string, such as floss, to help guide where you want the lame to go. Make an X with the string. Draw a lot of little scores all around the bread. Use the lines you created with the string as your guide.

Now we’ll do a freeform score for the deep score – I like to do a little bit of a swirl on top, like an S.

The Square

This one you can have fun with. Score two lines on the two ends and make two additional lines to close off the square. I’m going to make a wheat again, but be creative and make whatever design or initial you like. You can use a stencil over your dough and pour flour or cocoa over it. The options are endless!

I hope you try out these scoring methods. Have fun with it!

You can watch my episode of “Now You Know” here, where I talk all about sourdough baking!