This method may seem somewhat unusual but with time it will result in perfect cut.
I begin by warming 2 cups of water to approximately 110 degrees. To this you will add 2/3 cup of sugar and stir until dissolved. To the sugar water solution add 1 ½ tablespoons of a dry active yeast. Sprinkle the yeast into the water and then let it sit until the yeast begins to foam, this is referred to as “proofing your yeast”
Once the yeast has “proofed” you will add 1 ½ teaspoons of salt and ¼ cup of vegetable oil, stir this in and begin adding 6 cups of bread flour, all flour is not the same so you will have better results using bread flour. You will be able to stir in about 4 cups before you will have to begin kneading.
Dust a section of your counter top and turn the dough out, lightly dust the doughball and press firmly forward as if your were trying to stretch the dough, then turn the dough 90 degrees and fold towards your body and press forward again. Continue this until you have worked in all the flour. The kneading process will take anywhere from 5 to 7 minutes. After you have completed kneading the dough, oil a large dish liberally, this will prevent the dough from sticking as it rises. Place the dough ball in the dish and roll it to coat the entire surface. Place the loosely covered dish in a warm, draft free area to rise ideally 80 to 90 degrees. Check the dough periodically; what you are wanting is for the dough to double in size. Once the dough has doubled gently press the dough down and remove it from the bowl and place it on the counter top, divide the dough into 3 equal pieces and quickly shape and place it into three liberally oiled bread pans. I use a bread pan specifically because it gives me a flat surface from which to reference my cuts. This is a woodworking exercise remember.
After the dough has been placed in the pans, cover and let rise once again. Once the second rise has been completed, you place the unbaked loaves in a preheated 350 degree oven for approximately 30 minutes. Somewhere around 20 minutes I will remove the bread and coat the tops with olive oil. This will help to firm up the crust and make it easier to begin our cuts.
Once the bread has baked, remove from the pans and let it cool. The aroma at this point is somewhat of a distraction but with time you will be able to resist the temptation.
Once cool I will sit the dough on a level cutting surface and begin my cut, paying careful attention to not press too hard as this will deform loaf as well as the cut, and will require an additional cut to get it perpendicular. When you are comfortable that you have cut a plumb/straight line turn the loaf on its end and check it with a square. Don’t get discouraged, it may take several cuts to find the perfect combination of downward force and cutting motion. I myself have went through a whole loaf, only to get that perfect cut at the heal. The only downside to this method of basic woodworking skill improvement exercise, is that homemade bread must be eaten soon after slicing, I have however calculated that the energy expended during the kneading process will more than offset any negative health concerns. I was taught this by my grandfather, although I didn’t understand the lesson at the time, his words today are undeniable, “if you can cut a straight and even slice of bread, you can cut anything”
I can recall watching him work, he never looked at the backside, he just knew it was right. Something’s just work, and when we skip a step, something’s just never will.
-- If knowledge is not shared, it is forgotten.