Having baked as an amateur for over 20 years, I am still surprised at how much there is still to learn and how many new ingredients and pieces of equipment are out there waiting for us to discover them. We’ve a healthy list of things to research and evaluate for adding to our range over the coming year – I am constantly surprised that some overseas manufacturers need to be persuaded to export their products with some refusing to sell outside their home turf. We’ve a few tricks up our sleeves to overcome most cases though. Other times, like this, the artisan supplier couldn’t be more helpful and keen to share. Finding the manufacturer can be tricky – many don’t use the Internet or are not good at replying to emails. Persistence and inventiveness can pay off.

These lames (for slashing dough) were spotted by Vanessa during a recent trip to the US. She didn’t get very far finding the manufacturer until she recently found that they are made by a friend’s son who couldn’t have been more keen to get them to BakeryBits. So, here they are now in the UK ready to adorn any bakery or kitchen. I hope you like these handmade walnut lames. They appeal to me as I love woodwork and appreciate the handmade beauty of the rather special utensils.

I often chat to a few of the bakers I know in the US during the early hours. Teresa of Northwest Sourdough is one of the people and I was thrilled when she explained how her son, Wyllis, had started his own business making lames with as much love and care as she makes her bread with. So here they are, handcrafted lames, 7½" (19cm) long and made from black walnut with knurled brass thumbnuts for blade replacement and a brass finger shield. They come in a beautifully made presentation box for storage along with 5 double-edged razors.

More than just a stunning object to show-off, they are essential to great scoring when you bake bread. Use them to control the way you slash your dough, allowing for the bread to expand in a controlled way when rising in the oven. You get a more open crumb and a bigger rise when you slash correctly.

Tips on slashing bread.

Some of my students tell me that they use a kitchen knife while scratching their heads because it doesn’t give the results hoped for. They are too heavy and blunt. I trained with artisan French bakers who will hold an uncovered razor blade in their mouths while working – and chatting…something I definitely do NOT recommend. In France bakers use the scoring as a signature. It’s a challenge to learn to slash bread: it’s about practice. I often recommend to my students that they make up a batch of practice dough and shape and then simply practice. You can get 6 or 8 practice scoring movements from one piece of dough. Sadly practicing on a bit of dough also cuts the gluten network to shreds, so it’s not much good to bake - but it is ok as pizza dough afterwards.

Start with your dough just about to go into the oven. Don’t cut too deeply. Take the lame from one end of the loaf to the other in a single movement. Be calm. I often watch students getting tense when it comes to scoring. You want a clean cut. One that does justice to the loaf. Often cutting with the blade tilted over at 45 degrees will get you a better ear (the part of the crust that lifts up in the oven and looks, well, like an ear – if you squint), but sometimes a straight cut across the top is easier to begin with. Us the tip of the lame at entry point. Don’t go too slowly. It drags the dough. Counter-intuitively, a faster cut is oddly more successful.

We also do lots of other lames including those from Mure & Peyrot for the professional baker. We have a buyer’s guide to help you decide which will suit you best.

Vanessa Kimbell runs the Sourdough School, Northampton

featured products

Handmade Walnut Lame | £24.00

Craftsman made, black walnut lame with brass fittings, these are baker's lames for those looking for beauty and functionality.