Scoring dough is one of the most enjoyable parts of making bread, and the UFO Lame by Wire Monkey is the best scoring tool out there, hands down. It’s compact, pretty, easy to use, safe, and extremely precise. In this post we will discuss traditional bread lames vs the UFO Lames, covering issues like safety, precision, esthetics, and cost.
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Why score bread?
The purpose of scoring bread is to create an escape route for the steam that is created as the dough bakes in the oven. The gases increase within the bread and need to be released, and a score in the dough allows for that release in a controlled fashion.
If you don’t score your dough, it will score itself. The gases need to escape somehow, so they will follow the path of least resistance and burst the crust open somewhere on the bread. Sometimes this creates a beautiful natural looking burst, but more often than not, it creates an irregular and undesirable shape.
There are two types of scores: primary scores and secondary scores. Primary scores are the deep, long slashes whose function is to release steam as the bread bakes. Secondary scores are the shallow, delicate, decorative scores on the surface of the bread. These are for design only, and don’t serve any functional purpose.
If your primary score isn’t deep enough, your dough may burst along the secondary scores, or worse, somewhere completely random on the surface of the bread, and will ruin the design effect. Your primary score must be at least ½” deep to serve its purpose.
For more information on scoring, check out my post How to Score Sourdough Bread here!
What do you use to score bread?
There are many types of tools you can score dough with. The most basic are kitchen knives and scissors. If you use knives, make sure they’re as sharp as possible. You can make primary scores with kitchen knives, but secondary scores might be tricky. Scissors can be used for secondary scores, with limited results.
Some bakers score their bread using just a razor blade which, while precise, is extremely dangerous. The blades can (and do) slice hands and fingers just as easily as they slice dough, and they’re flimsy by nature, making them unpredictable and unsafe. Using a razor blade without a holder is super risky and I do not recommend it.
Then there are the professional scoring tools. Don’t be intimidated by the word professional; this only means that their sole purpose is to score dough. These tools are called bread lames (pronounced lahm, like calm). Bread lames are inexpensive and extraordinarily useful when it comes to scoring.
There are a few different kinds of bread lames. The traditional lames are long, have a handle on one end and a blade on the other, and are good for making primary scores. However, creating secondary scores with them can be tricky because they’re not super precise.
For this reason, I use the UFO Lame by Wire Monkey. This lame is very short, compact, and extra precise. Your hand is close to the blade so you can make meticulous, exact scores with no worries about messing up.
More importantly, it’s much safer than a traditional bread lame. The blade in a traditional bread lame is not always covered. I bought a traditional bread lame when I was starting out in sourdough, and it came with a leather cover. At the time I thought it was handy, but it would fall off the blade while in the drawer, leaving the razor-sharp blade exposed! This scared me because I have three young kids. When my husband bought me my UFO Lame, the first thing I noticed is how the blade tucks inside and is safely away from little fingers. When I store it, it’s just a small wooden disc, no blade showing at all.
All about the UFO Lame
Wire Monkey’s UFO Lame is made in the USA by a small family-owned business. It is solid American black walnut wood, and comes in seven different designs. The Bread Journey design (below) is the one I personally use, and was even seen on the TV show The Great British Bake Off!
The Wire Monkey shop is located in Fairfield, Connecticut. The company promotes fair wages, avoids plastics and harsh chemicals, and gives back to the baking community. By shopping with Wire Monkey, you help support this amazing family business.
The number one reason I use their UFO Lame is because it’s extremely precise. Scoring dough is a breeze, and I get beautiful results every time.
The second reason I love it is because it’s safe. As you can imagine, scoring with a double-edged razor blade is very dangerous. The UFO Lame removes much of the danger by hiding the blade within itself when it’s not in use. Also, many other lames pose a great risk when changing blades, but with Wire Monkey’s UFO Lame it’s a piece of cake: just twist the pieces apart, remove the old blade, place the new blade on the screw, and twist back together!
The UFO Lame is also just so cute. Each design is beautiful and elegant. The fact that it’s so esthetically pleasing makes it that much more fun to use.
Wire Monkey has also introduced their brand-new Arc Lame, which is a curved lame that fits beautifully into your hand. I have one, and use it for curved scores such as a spiral score. It has the title of the world’s smallest lame.
The best part? The lames are VERY affordable! They start at $27.95, making them an inexpensive gift idea for that special someone… Or for yourself!
There are many other accessories on the Wire Monkey shop as well, including repurposed leather holsters to protect it, brass brushes to clean it, and coconut oil to preserve it. I have yet to get a holster (it’s on my Christmas list!), but I have both the brass brush and the coconut oil, and together they do a great job at keeping my UFO Lame clean and pretty.
So if you’re new to sourdough and are looking for a scoring tool, if you’re an established baker and need a new lame, or if you know someone who bakes bread, I HIGHLY recommend the UFO Lame by Wire Monkey!
P.S. Because of the ingenious design, there are many counterfeits out there. Make sure you’re getting an authentic Wire Monkey lame!
Oh, and by the way, if you’re looking for some more help understanding hydration, click here to check out The Beginner’s Guide to Sourdough Hydration.
And don’t forget I have a whole page of resources available to help you in your sourdough journey – click here to find it!