There’s something special about the smell of fresh bread baking in the oven. The warm, comforting aroma seems to have the power to transport us back to another time and place. For many of us, that place is our childhood home, where we would eagerly await the moment when we could tear off a piece of still-warm bread straight from the loaf. Those simple pleasures are what I think of when I see a loaf of bread with a perfectly formed ear.
An ear is a raised portion of crust that forms as the bread rise during baking. It’s created when bakers slice the dough just before baking, using shallow angled cuts known as scoring. This encourages the dough to expand in a controlled pattern or shape.
The result is a crusty rollup that resembles a dog or cat ear.
While an ear is not essential for a great loaf of bread, it does add a touch of flair and can make the bread even more appetizing.So if you’re looking to take your baking to the next level, give it a try and see if you can create the perfect ear on your next loaf of sourdough.
How To Get An Ear?
Getting an ear on a loaf of bread is a simple way to give it an appealing and rustic look. The ear is created by rotating the blade or lame (a sharp knife used for scoring bread dough) so that it is at a 45° angle to the surface of the dough.
This technique is most effective on long loaves, such as batards or baguettes. To create an ear on a boule (a round loaf), make cross-sectional cuts in the dough. Ear formation is not only aesthetically pleasing, but it also serves a functional purpose: the ear helps to release steam while baking, preventing the crust from becoming overcooked.
When scoring bread dough, be sure to use a light hand; too much pressure can result in an ear that is too deep, which can cause the crust to split. With a little practice, you’ll be able to create perfect ears every time.
The four loaves in the picture above will produce excellent ears if you slice at an angle so that your blade is closer to parallel with dough. Slicing 90 degrees would result in a decent rise, but no ear!
Why Are Ears So Popular in Baking?
Ears are popular for two main reasons.
Aesthetics: are important for a number of reasons. First and foremost, they can help to create a more pleasing appearance. In the case of long oval loaves, for example, slicing in a particular way can help to achieve a uniform rise in the oven. This in turn makes the overall appearance more appealing. Furthermore, aesthetics can also play a role in how we perceive flavor. As the saying goes, “we eat with our eyes first.” In other words, if food looks good, we’re more likely to enjoy it. Therefore, paying attention to aesthetics can be a great way to improve the overall dining experience.
Maximum Rise:When it comes to baking, the process of rise is essential to creating a light, airy crumb. There are a number of factors that contribute to achieving the perfect rise, but one of the most important is scoring. Scoring refers to the practice of making shallow cuts in the dough before baking. This helps the loaf to expand evenly during the baking process, resulting in a more uniform crumb. When scoring dough, it is important to create a pattern of cuts that will allow the bread to expand in the oven without tearing. The angle at which the cuts are made is also important, as this will determine how the bread rises in the oven. By taking all of these factors into account, bakers can create loaves with superiorrise and an unbeatable crumb.
In the video below, you can see the difference that scoring makes in the rise and height of a loaf of bread. Scoring helps to guide the bread as it rises, giving it a more uniform shape. Without scoring, the bread may still taste delicious, but it will not have that perfect, professional look. For those who take pride in their baking, scoring is an essential step in creating a perfect loaf of bread.
Do I Need A Lame To Get Ears?
While lames may make scoring dough more safe, they are ultimately not necessary. A sharp, thin knife will suffice. In fact, a good tomato knife works really well for this purpose. Lames can actually get in the way, especially when scoring dough inside a Dutch oven. Therefore, unless you are particularly concerned about safety, it is best to forego the lame and simply use a sharp knife.
Try Scoring With Cold Dough To Make Ears Easier
When it comes to scoring bread dough, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, the dough should be relatively warm – not too hot or too cold. Room temperature is usually just right. Second, the blade you use should be sharp and clean. A dull knife will just tear the dough, while a dirty knife can introduce unwanted bacteria. Finally, when you make the score, be sure to cut deep enough to allow the bread to expand during baking. With these tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to creating beautiful loaves of bread.
What If I’m Doing All Of This And Still No Ears?
If you’re really struggling to get a good ear, there are two main areas to consider.
Rise: When it comes to baking bread, there are many factors that can affect the final outcome. One of the most important is the rise, or the amount of time that the dough spends rising. If the bread doesn’t rise enough, it can be dense and heavy. On the other hand, if it rises too much, it can be tough and dry. Therefore, it is important to get the rise just right in order to produce a light, fluffy loaf of bread. There are a few things that can influence the rise of bread, such as the dough temperature and the oven temperature. With a little trial and error, you can find the perfect combination of ingredients and temperatures to produce a perfect loaf of bread every time.
Moisture: Steam is essential for creating a crispy, yet fluffy crust on artisan bread. A Dutch oven helps to trap moisture in and allows for the crust to remain pliable longer into the bake. This helps the ear fully develop as the dough rises longer into the bake. If not using a Dutch oven, do all that you can to get steam in your oven and keep it in there. We spray the top of our dough with a water bottle right before putting it in the oven and place water in a hot pan inside the oven to create a lot of initial steam. By doing this, you will ensure a beautiful loaf of bread with a perfectly crisp crust.