If you’re eternally seeking the ideal loaf, an artisan-made and fairly sourced banneton ought to be your next purchase. This handcrafted and all-natural bread proofing basket makes every bread adventure better than the last. Moreover, with all-natural materials you can trust and a handmade story to go along, a quality banneton lets you feel good about your baking for the rest of your life.
The Banneton in a Nutshell
An at-home bread maker’s dream, the banneton serves the purpose of holding the shape of dough as it proofs and rises. If you’ve ever fell victim to a loose dough that just won’t hold its shape during the final rise, you know how beneficial a banneton can be.
The word banneton originates from the Latin banne meaning wicker carriage, showing you exactly how the concept of this loaf basket got its start.
How Bannetons and Brotforms Differ
Even if the concept of a banneton is news to you, you may have heard of a brotform.
Simply put, a brotform is a German-style basket that’s typically crafted from spruce tree pulp; it’s known for its ability to reduce sticking.
On the other hand, a banneton retains more of a French influence, and is often made from cane rattan. It maintains an easy air flow and lasts the extent of the baker’s lifetime.
Why a Traditional, Handmade Banneton is Best
Just think about it; you spend so much of your baking life curating the perfect sourdough culture, mixing the right dough consistency and kneading the ideal loaf. After all of this homemade effort, why would you take a shortcut at the last minute? With a handicraft banneton made of only natural materials by fairly paid laborers, the only thing you’ll have on your hands is a bit of extra flour.
Gluten-Free Sourdough Bread. Read more about gluten-free and vegan sourdough here
Using the Banneton: Step by Step
If you’re unsure of the best way to go about using your banneton, we’ve got you covered.
- Before using your cane banneton for the first time, condition it with water and a light dusting of flour—many bakers use white or brown rice flours for an effective conditioning and aesthetically pleasing finish. This keeps your dough from sticking (keep in mind that too much flour will diminish the spiral pattern). You’ll want to continue dusting the banneton before each use.
- When you’re ready, place the dough in the banneton upside down (with the seam facing up).
- Cover the basket and dough with a bag or cloth to retain moisture and prevent a surface skin.
- Allow the bread to rise.
- Flip the dough onto a lined baking tray, dome or peel before baking (remember: bannetons made of rattan cane and plastic are not meant to go in the oven).
- Once done using the banneton, allow it to dry out for a day before storing it.
Material Matters: Rattan Cane VS Wood VS Plastic
Bannetons can be made from a handful of materials, the most popular being rattan cane, wood and plastic.
Rattan cane bannetons are best for air circulation. The dough is able to breathe from all sides without losing its shape. Moreover, the pattern that the wicker imprints into the loaf is classically appealing.
If you don’t want your bread to stick, wood pulp bannetons may have merit for you. However, you likely won’t get the same pattern and your dough may not be able to breathe as much from every angel.
Of course, you can get plastic bannetons. However, like most things made of plastic, they’re quite the shortcut, don’t last as long and surely don’t get the job done the same.
Bannetons Come in All Shapes and Sizes
Bannetons have a variety of personalities to show off. Many companies sell round, oval and even heart-shaped cane bannetons for your at-home proofing needs.
You can also differentiate your banneton based on size, which you can choose based on the amount of dough you need to proof. Choose an 8-inch banneton for about a pound of dough, 9-inch for 1.5 pounds or 10-inch for about two pounds. If you’re unsure which size you need, it’s best to overestimate; after all, you’d rather have too much space than not enough!
The Bread of Your Banneton’s Dreams
Cane bannetons give even sloppy doughs a second shot at living out their dream as a full loaf. Even if your dough is wet, you’ll be able to shape it during the rising process. The idea is to send the dough straight from the banneton into a hot oven so it’ll keep its shape without relaxing at room temperature.
Breads with high levels of rye as well as all kinds of sourdoughs benefit tremendously from cane bannetons. To add to it, bakers can maintain a light loaf while still retaining structure.
Banneton Accessories: Liners and Risers
Linen-lined banneton baskets remain an option for those who want to purchase a full-proof set (pun intended). This helps to maintain humidity between the dough and wicker. Whether or not you need a liner to accompany your cane banneton all depends on the environment in which you’re baking.
On the other hand, bannetons with risers create a wreath-shaped loaf. The dough rises while maintaining an open center, setting yourself up for a truly unique bake.
Caring for Your Cane Banneton
To clean your banneton, simply take a stiff brush to the wicker. Be sure to store it in a ventilated area. If you feel so inclined, you can bake your banneton every few months in a 150-degree Celsius oven for 15 minutes to kill bacteria.
If you see a thin layer of mold or simply want to clear old crust off your cane banneton, you can soak it for up to 20 minutes in cool water. Your banneton needn’t be cleaned often (professionals tend to do so merely once a year or even every other year.
Avoid using soap on your banneton at all costs; there’s no need to perform this much maintenance on it, anyway. Read more about How to use, care and keep a cane banneton here
Proofing Alternatives to Bannetons
If a banneton isn’t for you, you can consider using a loaf pan to shape your dough, or perhaps a flour-dusted and towel-lined bowl. However, you won’t get the signature swirl or useful air flow of a traditional-style cane banneton.
Proofing sourdoughs and other doughs without support is also an option—just make sure your loaf is firm enough to handle the job.