I baked two loads of basic French bread at home this afternoon. About eight minutes into the oven, I realized that I forgot to slash the tops of the loaves. It was too late to do anything but wait.
The crust forms almost immediately once the bread goes in the oven. Moisture in the bread turns to steam. This, along with carbon dioxide trapped in the loaf's gluten structure, gives bread it characteristic oven spring.
I usually make five diagonal cuts in each 14- to 15-inch loaf. The slashes give a place for steam to escape as the bread cooks. Slashing also adds decorative appeal to the loaf.
The first loaf tore in two places along the top. Two seams on the second loaf split during baking (visible in upper right corner of photo). This loaf is the better looking of the two.
Though these aren't my best looking loaves, they do taste good. We will eat one. I'll take the other one to the church assembly tomorrow and share it with someone.
And next time? I slash!
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