What Is A Banneton?
A banneton is a basket used to help bread dough rise shapely in the final rise. It is particularly useful to hold shapes in wetter dough such as sourdough and artisan loaves. Without it, dough can flatten out as it rises which doesn’t make a tall loaf.
The main difference between a banneton and a bread pan is that the bread is not baked in a banneton.
Instead, it is used to just maintain a rigid shape while rising, and prevent it from spreading out too much. When finished proofing, it is turned out of the container and baked.
Bannetons can be different shapes which dictate what style of bread is made. The two most common are round bannetons for boules/cobs and oval bannetons for batards (oblong shape).
Types Of Banneton
The main types of bannetons are:
- Cane banneton – a traditional spiral of cane which gives a nice imprint to the crust.
- Wicker basket – a woven basket that is usually covered in a linen cloth.
- Brotform – a proofing basket from Germany that is made from compressed wood fiber.
Bannetons can be made of different materials but all use wood as their source. Wood draws moisture from the dough surface, and avoids it sticking when turned out. Materials such as glass or plastic cause sticking as the moisture has no where to go.
So whether you call them bannetons (French), brotforms (German) or proofing baskets (English), they all do a similar job in helping the dough rise upwards.
What Shape Of Banneton Should I Use?
The two main shapes to use are round and oval and they will either make a boule or batard shape. These are French terms for a round loaf or oblong shape loaf.
The round shape is an easier shape for beginners, so I would use a round banneton if you are starting out. Boules are good to practice on, easy to shape and score, and easy to slice up.
Keep in mind the method for cooking the loaves. A popular way is to use a Dutch oven with the lid on to steam the bread as it cooks (this gives the best possible rise before the crust sets).
If you already have a round Dutch oven, casserole dish or Pyrex dish then buy a round banneton to match that shape. A batard shape won’t fit in a round cooking pot.
What Size Banneton Should I Use?
A 10 inch round banneton is a good option for a first banneton. The size will fit a medium-large bread loaf.
I would recommend getting a 10 inch round banneton so it is large enough to make good sized bread loaves such as the ones in popular bread books Tartine or Flour Water Yeast Salt. They are 900g-1000g in total weight and I make them regularly in my 10″.
You can find the Tartine recipe on their website – Country Bread Recipe.
For the oval bannetons, they can either be long and skinny or shorter and wider. I recommend one about 10-12 inches which is big enough to fit the Tartine sourdough loaves. As they can vary with the width, its best to check the reviews of the product to see if it makes large enough loaves. You can buy these on Amazon.
If you are unsure of the size to get, it’s best to get a banneton that is slightly larger than you need. Small bannetons will overflow if they have too much dough rising in them and basically ruins the proofing stage.
I wouldn’t bother getting an 8″ banneton on either shape because you’ll regret the small size.
|Size Of Banneton||Approx. Amount Of Dough|
|Size Of Banneton||Approx. Amount Of Dough|
Why Use A Banneton?
If you leave the dough to rise free form, it can spread out and flatten as the gluten relaxes. To ensure the dough rises upwards rather than outwards, use a banneton to encourage the rising direction and give it support.
After you’ve shaped your dough, you have the option of proofing free form or to use a container such as a banneton. Free form can work for shorter rises, but for sourdough and wet loaves, a banneton is best.
A stiffer dough typically made with less water will spread less than a wet dough. Wet, slack dough such as highly hydrated sourdough will spread more. That is why bannetons are usually encountered in sourdough baking circles.
You can however, use a banneton for any type of bread that you are making. I use mine for all straight dough or sourdough regardless.
How To Use A Banneton
Essentially, we follow these steps:
- Flour the banneton regardless if its lined with a cloth
- Shape your dough to suit the banneton shape
- Place the dough into the banneton and proof while covered
- Release the dough for baking by upturning the banneton
How do you prepare a banneton for the first time?
Using a banneton for the first time will often encounter some sticking. To prepare it for its first use, you can give the interior a light mist or spray with water and dust with flour so it is covered. Over time it will build up a layer of flour and become much less sticky.
How to flour a banneton
To avoid sticking, it’s best to dust the banneton with a type of flour that won’t incorporate into the dough easily.
Normal bread flour isn’t the best thing to use, instead try rice flour or anything which is a bit more coarse – like wholegrain or semolina. I like to use rice flour or make a mix with some regular flour. Rice flour is fairly tasteless and has a nice white appearance.
You don’t need to drench the banneton in flour to avoid sticking – just a light coat each time you use it. If you use too much then the bread comes out with a crust full of flour.
Which side up should I place dough into banneton?
If you place the dough in a banneton with the seam side downwards, we do not need to score it when turned out as these seams form natural cracks in the crust. If we place seam side up into the banneton, we will need to score the dough when it is turned out.
Shaping dough usually means building tension on one side and leaving another side to have the seams. You can choose to place the dough seam side up or down in a banneton with different effects.
If it goes seam side down, when it’s turned out this side is the crust. We can bake without scoring the surface and the seams will form natural cracks in the crust instead.
If we place seam side up, then the smooth, tense side is down. When we turn it out, the surface won’t have any natural weak points. The bread might blow out the side or bottom as it baked and rises quickly. It’s best to score these loaves so the bread has a natural place to rise and open up.
How to turn a banneton out?
The best way is to hold the left and right sides and flip it upside down towards you like making a sandcastle. This ensures it comes out nice and evenly rather than falling to one side. That tends to happen if you tip it out sideways.
Do it confidently and quickly, but try not to knock all the air out which was built up proofing.
I bake my loaves in a Dutch oven so I flip the bread out onto a floured worktop. I then pick it up gently with two hands and place into the hot Dutch oven. Trying to flip it straight out into something caused me too much trouble. You can of course just flip it straight on to a baking sheet.
Does A Banneton Need A Liner?
If you have a coiled cane banneton, then you can use either with or without the liner. If you have a woven basket then you should use the liner to avoid dough catching on the basket.
Bannetons usually come with a cloth liner that has an elasticated edge to attach over the edge. The liner is there to give the crust a smooth surface rather than the pattern of the wood.
For my cane banneton, I personally like the circular lines the banneton makes so often use it bare. You can use the cane banneton fine without the liner it comes with – just give it a flour dusting instead.
To use the banneton liner, stretch it over the top so that the smooth side is facing upwards. Press it down so that the liner is against the basket.
You still need to flour the liner to avoid sticking, so use a mixture of rice flour and bread flour if you have it. The dough can now be shaped and placed inside the banneton. Place seam side up if you intend to score it, seam side down if you don’t want to score it.
One useful thing you can use the liner for is to cover the dough while it proofs. Remove the liner, place the dough inside the banneton and then stretch the liner on top for a draft proof covering. It will stop the dough drying out unless you are proofing for a very long time, in which case an airtight container is best.
How To Keep Dough Sticking To Banneton
Bannetons become more non-stick with age because flour builds up and “seasons” them. That is a good reason to not give them a thorough clean too often – a light brush out with the hand works best. They will stick to dough at the start but they will get much better.
My best advice to avoid sticking is to use rice flour as this doesn’t make sticky gluten when in contact with water. Rice flour is very unobtrusive and fairly pleasant on the crust.
If you don’t have rice flour, try a flour with more coarseness – wholegrain or semolina. Make sure you use enough flour – slightly over flouring is better than dough stuck in the basket.
Cleaning A Banneton
I don’t clean the banneton deeply very often because it’s not needed and only makes dough more prone to stick to it. If you are making bread regularly then adding the extra flour, brushing it around and removing any excess will keep it fresh.
If you aren’t baking regularly, then the old flour can dry up and start looking stale. I give the banneton a firm tap to knock out the hard bits, and then brush out any excess flour. Always keep a thin layer of flour so that it remains “seasoned” and non-stick.
It’s a good idea to dry out the bannetons after use. They absorb moisture from the dough and this can go moldy if it stays damp. Just keep them un-stacked in a warm spot in the kitchen until dry, such as near the oven or inside with the door open.
Are Bannetons Only For Sourdough?
You can use bannetons with any yeasted bread as it gives great support to any proofing loaf. Yeasted dough will normally have much shorter time in the banneton than sourdough.
Bannetons and sourdough are really popular, but that doesn’t mean you have to restrict bannetons to just sourdough.
Some examples of breads to make in a banneton:
- White or brown yeasted boules or batards
- Dough with preferment such as poolish or biga
- Seeded bread
- Bread with elaborate scoring
How To Use A Banneton For Sourdough
The basics are to take a well fermented dough, then shape and build tension before placing into the banneton.
A boule can be made by folding the edges of the dough into the center to form a ball. When its formed, flip it seam side down and roll around until it is has built tension. This then goes into the banneton, usually seam side up so you can try a nice scoring pattern.
How long to proof sourdough in banneton?
The amount of time proofing is determined by how long the first rise was. Gas bubbles need to aerate the dough otherwise it will be dense and gummy.
Temperature plays a big part too as it affects the liveliness of the yeast. A warm room might need as little as 2 hours, while a fridge could take 12 hours. More complex and sour flavors build up with more time, so cool things down for better bread!
The only way to know when it is ready is to judge its appearance and feel. It should be aerated and soft like a marshmallow. When you poke a finger in, the dent should bounce back half way rather than fully – then you know it is finished proofing.
What If I Don’t Have A Banneton?
At its core, the banneton is just a lined bowl that supports proofing. You can replicate this by using a tea towel and a mixing bowl. Just line a bowl with a clean, lint free towel and dust heavily in flour. It will easily stick so ensure its got a good covering.
I wrote a post about proofing bread in a plastic bowl for more steps and tips.
While I was writing this article, I came across someone who made a banneton basket for $2. They wrote instructions how to do it – make a banneton basket for $2. You don’t have to pay out lots of money if you are on a budget.
Do you really need a proofing basket? No you do not necessarily need a proofing basket. Try making a stiffer dough with less water, or proofing dough with a cloth with some supports around it to stop it spreading.
Hopefully that’s everything you need to know about bannetons and proofing baskets. I suggest getting a few baskets of different shapes and get practicing. Happy baking!