Wednesday February 06th 2008, 10:18 pm

home-made bannetons, proving baskets for bread baking

Sometimes a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Take for example, if you are already an experienced bread baker, then taking on board new techniques can turn everything on its head and leave you all at ‘sixes and sevens’ (whatever that means).
Before I started on my sourdough journey I had only ever proved my loaves on baking trays or in bread tins, the right way up. Now of course I know to prove my loaves upside down, like the artisan bakers do.
For the final rise the dough shapes should be proved upside down either nestling side by side divided by folds of floured linen (for batons and long shapes) or each in its own banneton, a basket meant especially for this purpose which is either made of coiled cane, which imprints a distinctive coil pattern on the top of the baked loaf, or alternatively a basket lined with linen. Once the dough has risen just right, you flip the loaf over onto a peel or paddle (or metal baking tray) dusted with semolina, so the loaf is then the right way up, and quick as a flash slash the top of the dough with a razor blade (called a lame if you are a real professional), spray it with water and with a quick flick shove the dough into the oven to bake.
The coiled bannetons are a professional bit of kit. You can buy them mail order from here but you can make your own linen lined baskets which look like the real deal. That’s what I’ve done and they work just fine. When you use them they need to be liberally dusted with flour and every now and again if you feel the need you can give them a quick going over with the vacuum cleaner. I can’t say that I ever have, I just whack them against the side of the sink to disslodge any loose flour, make sure they are good and dry and leave them till the next time.
Now lets make a linen-lined banneton. First take a piece of vintage French linen (stop laughing at the back) and a basket….. here’s how

I’m all out of vintage French linen at the moment but I do have a plethora of ENGLISH 18c/19thc assorted linens…..will the country of origin effect the dough proving correctly ??

Comment by Judy 02.07.08 @ 10:22 am

I bought my husband Andrew Whiteley’s book called Bread Matters. He’s making sourdough for the first time this weekend, and of course the question of where to buy a proving basket came up. I can’t believe they can cost over twenty pounds! Looks like I’ll be off to a haberdashery department…

Comment by mrsB 03.31.08 @ 3:06 pm