The Strange but Effective Way to Slice Crusty Bread (Professional Bakers Agree)
We won't be surprised if it turns your head upside down.
For most, the days of painstakingly nurturing a sourdough starter were about as fleeting as the yeast shortage itself. Sure, bread-baking raged on in certain circles—but the rest of us quickly returned to buying loaves at the grocery store or local bakery. Something had changed, however. Those oddly stretchy pieces of pre-sliced white bread hit different after months of homemade sourdough and focaccia, and not in a good way. Our palates had been introduced to something better: Fresh bread.
If you've been forging ahead with your efforts to either bake or consume better bread since your 2020 "exposure" to the good stuff, we're fully on board. (Your crispy mushroom reuben sandwiches are, too). But there's one issue we've heard time and again when it comes to fresh or homemade loaves: How does one slice the thing without smashing it? This is especially true for French bread, which has such a delicate, cloud-like texture that is too easily ruined by your knife blade—whether serrated or not.
Luckily, the creative cooks who write in to r/foodhacks on Reddit (a forum where internet users can share their latest and greatest food hack discoveries) offered a simple, mind-bending solution to the bread-slicing issue. To prevent yourself from squishing a fluffy, fresh loaf of bread, flip the loaf upside down before you cut it. The theory is simple: Slicing through the tougher, sturdier heel of the bread first makes it a lot easier to maintain its shape; you pierce through the hard part and then you glide through the rest like butter.
If you're wondering whether this trick actually works, we're right there with you. That's why we asked a professional—Henk Drakulich, DVP and executive chef of La Brea Bakery Cafés—to weigh in. His answer? It definitely works, but the hack's efficacy depends on the type of bread you're slicing. (Oh, and he offered up a technique that's even better.)
"While this hack might work for a very soft bread, like a French loaf, this isn't the best technique for every type of bread," he says. "For example, when you're dealing with a loaf of bread with a very crusty and hard bottom, like an artisan baguette loaf, I recommend tilting the bread to the side and cutting that way. This gives you more control over the bread."
Also, when cutting a baguette, many people will grab it like they're holding onto a microphone and start cutting the end parallel to the cutting board. "This is a very common way to cut yourself," says Drakulich. "The proper technique it to place the baguette on your cutting board and open your hand as if you're about to give someone a high-five. Place your hand on top of the baguette to keep it horizontal, and cut at a 45-degree angle using your serrated bread knife. The angle is very important here, as many people will begin cutting the end of the bread where it is very hard and crusty, causing the knife to slide off onto their hand."
Remember: A serrated bread knife is extremely important when cutting into bread. According to Drakulich, you want to cut a loaf of bread like you're cutting a tree. "What I mean by this is when you're using a saw-like motion going side to side, you aren't putting pressure on the bread, like you would with a non-serrated knife. This way, you're less likely to squish the bread—which is really what we're after here."