Five Easy Techniques To Make Your Bread Super Attractive

Bread with a heart shaped scoring pattern
Five ways to make your bread look extra special:

      1. Glazing
      2. Toppings
      3. Plaiting/braiding
      4. Scoring
      5. Stencilling
Homemade bread is lovely. There's something special about being able to give a freshly baked loaf as a gift. But sometimes you want to it be extra special; something above and beyond the fact that it has been lovingly homemade. What if your bread could be lovingly homemade AND really beautiful?
Read on.

Instagram


Since joining Instagram a couple of weeks ago, I've been thoroughly inspired by some stunningly good-looking breads. I mean, honestly, my baking does not compare. If, like me, your bread isn't necessarily Insta-worthy, fear not. I stand by my assertion that your homemade bread does not have to be perfect to be perfectly delicious. A lot of my baking is purely functional: I'm feeding my family with wholesome food. But sometimes I want to give my bread as a gift and I'd like it to be 'extra': extra pretty, extra tasty and with an extra-nice crust. When it's worth making at bit of extra effort, here are five techniques that you can use to make your bread extra attractive.

Glazing


Glazing, I would say, is your easiest route to a beautiful finish for your bread.

Bread with a shiny egg yolk glaze

A glaze is a liquid applied to the bread to give it a decorative coating. Commonly used glazes for bread are:
  • milk
  • egg
  • oil
  • butter
  • sugar water
There's also the skilly wash, which I have written about recently.

These can give different effects depending on whether they are added before or after baking.

This article about 12 Glaze Effects, Tried and Tested compares (you guessed it!) 12 different glaze options and shows how they will look on the finished bread. Definitely check out that article if you haven't done so already.

Toppings


Another simple yet effective technique for making your bread look extra special is to add toppings.

Seeds, such as sesame or poppy seeds look very pretty atop a homemade loaf. Alas, they have a tendency to fall off easily and sprinkle all over the place with the slightest provocation. My top tip for tip-top toppings* is this: Stick them on well.
*Try saying that five times, fast.

The appropriate 'glue' for affixing toppings would be any of the water-based glazes listed about. The aforementioned skilly wash is about the best I've tried. To ensure that the seeds are firmly anchored, you can put the seeds onto a plate and gently press the dough onto the seeds. This seems to be more effective than sprinkling the seeds over the dough.

Bread with stripes of seeds on top

Toppings don't only have to be tiny things, sprinkled on the surface: Larger pieces such as vegetables or fruit can look nice too. About half way down Baking In Lockdown When You've Got No Yeast there are some pictures of my attempts at beautiful focaccia designs, for example.

Plaiting/Braiding


There are many ways to plait bread, of course, ranging from simply twisting together two strands of dough through to the complex weaving of many strands. Here's my article on How To Braid Bread but, since my Instagram awakening, I realise that the method outlined therein is very primitive. I've seen some impressively woven breads where the various strands are different colours, by being made from different doughs or having added ingredients to make them darker or lighter. One beautiful plait I saw recently had each strand coated in a different type of seed. I shall have to up my game!

Braided bread

A good tip for plaiting strands of dough together is to lightly flour each strand so that it remains separate and less likely to splurge together during proving and baking, thus ruining all your hard work.

Scoring


My recent foray into Instagram has opened my eyes to another phenomenon: scoring. Of course you've seen beautiful artisan loaves in your local bakery with an impressive slit across the top or even a few criss-crossing marks, but, it turns out, delicate, gallery-worthy scoring is a whole, impressive branch of bread-art that I hadn't previously considered.

Four round loaves with pretty scoring patterns

The photographs here are of my own humble attempts to produce scoring patterns, however, they are clunky and primitive in comparison to what you will find if you do a quick Google search for 'bread scoring patterns.'

Round loaf scored with a criss cross design

If you want to make scoring patterns in your bread, it's a good idea to use a fairly low hydration dough (my standard recipe would be fine, at around 60%). Much higher than that makes it less likely that the dough will hold its shape, once scored.

To allow your scored design to really stand out, you should first dust the surface of the bread with flour (fine, white flour works well) before scoring. The contrast of the white flour with the exposed dough underneath the score marks makes the pattern really clear.

Bread scored with a leaf design

As your loaf grows, in the oven, the dough is likely to burst outwards and could, potentially, spoil your design. Professional bakers control this, and protect their design, by making one or two larger, deeper scores that will enable the loaf to open up without disrupting the artistic score marks. You could either incorporate an 'opening' score into the design, place it to one side, or score round the circumference of the loaf.

Bread scored with a leafy pattern

For the scoring, you need a really sharp blade. I have been using a scalpel with a fresh blade. Other people use a razor blade. There is a special tool called a baker's lame* that you can buy if you're going to get serious about scoring.
*Affiliate link to an example on Amazon. I don't own this product so I'm not recommending it, per se, just showing you what a baker's lame is.
The lame that I've linked to above has a curved blade, other lames have the blade straight. I think that's just a matter of preference (they do make slightly different scoring effects but I'm not really qualified to comment at this stage). Anyway, I'm really tempted to buy one: surely that will improve my scoring art no end?! (or is it just a case of a bad workman blaming his tools?!) I'll let you know if I get one.

Stencilling


And finally...

Stencilling on bread is just like using a stencil on any art work. You place a stencil over the dough and dust through the stencil in something that will make the design stand out. Flour is commonly used, as is cocoa powder. As with 'toppings' the dusting powder will fall off the bread, once cooked, unless it is well stuck on. Spraying the dough with water before dusting can help to keep the pattern in place.

You can buy stencils, of course (I really love the look of these ones*) but you could use any stencil for your baking. You could also lay other things over your bread to stencil around. One suggestion that appeals to me is to use leaves, I think that could look pretty.
*Affiliate link to a product I think looks good but do not personally own or have experience of.

Today I tried improvising with some Meccano:

Flour pattern made by sprinkling flour through holes in meccano

The result is a bit too subtle.

I also tried using some wide-weave fabric that I had in my sewing box:

Pattern on bread using fabric as a stencil

Pattern on bread using fabric as a stencil

The larger holes seem to give a better result.

So, there you have it. Five great ways to make your bread look even more wonderful that it already is.

2 comments:

  1. these are terrific!!! your efforts are not at all "clunky!" really pretty results. Keep doing your thing!!

    ReplyDelete

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