With more people staying at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, foodies have discovered the fun and relaxation of bread making. An important part of that process: proofing. When dough proofs, the gluten relaxes, causing bread dough to spread out or flatten.
Proofing baskets, commonly known by the French term bannetons and the German term brotforms, have been around for several centuries and come in all shapes and sizes. While these baskets help to create beautiful patterns in rustic homemade breads, the purpose of bannetons is to absorb any excess moisture from the bread as it proofs. Using a banneton results in a less-sticky proofed dough that is more likely to hold its shape as it bakes.
Choose a material
Bannetons can be made of rattan, wood, cotton or plastic. The most popular type is made from cane, which is the main material in rattan. Cane is smooth, long-lasting and is the best at creating defining lines in a baked loaf of bread. Wood baskets are less prone to sticking but may be prone to warping over time. Cotton baskets create beautiful patterns in bread but need to be heavily floured to prevent sticking. There also are plastic bannetons, which are easy to clean but less porous and prevent air from circulating as well as other materials.
Different shapes for different loaves
While the most common type of banneton is round, oval baskets create longer, thinner loaves of bread that are ideal for sandwiches and baguettes. Rectangular baskets produce a loaf similar to those found on grocery store shelves. Round baskets are versatile and great for the beginner baker who is still developing skills, as they are typically more forgiving. Purchase a larger banneton to use for both large and small doughs.
To line, or not to line?
Lining a basket comes down to two major considerations: material and the finished look. Depending on the material, you may want to line the basket with a lightweight cloth (slightly thicker than cheesecloth) to prevent sticking. However, it is often recommended to heavily flour the basket, especially for its first use, to prevent sticking. Lining the basket also prevents the dough from taking on the pattern of the basket, leaving you with a smooth finished product as opposed to one with ridges and patterns. Regardless of what you choose, bannetons’ main function does not change if you use a liner. Cleaning a liner is easy; it just requires a thorough hand-washing.
Using a banneton
The day before first using a banneton, condition it by misting the inside of the basket with tap water, then dust liberally with flour and shake off the excess. You only need to condition it once; after that, use a liner or liberally dust the basket with flour and shake off excess prior to each use. Create a dough form similar in shape to your banneton — round baskets need round doughballs, whereas oval baskets need a longer form. Proofing instructions should follow the recipe for the type of bread, but typically you should store dough at room temperature in a draft-free space for about two to three hours. Gently remove the formed dough from the banneton onto a preferred baking surface, such as a heated stone.
After using a proofing basket made of wood or cane, allow it to dry completely in open air or direct sunlight for a day. A proper cleaning involves brushing off any excess dough particles with a dry bristle brush and storing in a ventilated area. For a more thorough cleaning — which should be done sparingly, carefully and never with soap — soak the basket in cold water for a few minutes, then gently scrub. Nonporous plastic bannetons can be washed by hand with soap and water or in the dishwasher.
If you discover mold on a wood or cane banneton (plastic is not prone to molding), bake it at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes, then remove any mold with a bristle brush and store in a well-ventilated space. Never stack bannetons, as this can promote mold growth. Consider replacing your proofing basket if the material begins to unravel, it warps out of shape or any mold is irremovable. With proper care, bannetons can last many years.
Baking bread: The use of proofing baskets. Weekendbakery.com website. Accessed February 16, 2021.
Bannetons – the how to guide. Bakery Bits website. Published December 19, 2019. Accessed February 16, 2021.
Christensen E. Bread Pros Know: You Need a Proofing Basket. Kitchn website. Updated June 27, 2020. Accessed February 16, 2021.
Rabideau, C. 6 Bannetons & Bread Proofing Baskets For Rustic Homemade Loaves. Forbes website. Published June 1, 2020. Accessed February 15, 2021.