I’m going to explain how to get fantastic results using a banneton so you will know how to use a banneton or alternative bread basket to proof bread at home. In this guide I’ve covered all the things I’ve learned in my years of bread baking at home and professionally about bread proofing baskets.
There are a few bread proofing baskets that bakers use, the wicker made rattan banneton is the most common one. Wicker baskets, painibois, brotform or bread tins can all be used to tackle the proofing of the bread.
There is not necessarily a best choice proofing basket, they all have their pro’s and cons which I’ll explain when we get there.
Today we’ll cover how to flour dust a banneton, how to use a banneton for the first time and a few other proofing basket hacks.
But first let’s start with the basics so we are all at the same stage.
How a banneton is used in bread baking
A banneton is the most common form of bread proofing basket. They are used in the preparation of many artisan loaves. Many artisan bread recipes call for the use of a banneton to complete the final proof stage.
After the dough has undergone bulk fermentation it’s preshaped, shaped and final proof commences. When used, the dough is placed inside the banneton for the final proof. The banneton contains the dough to prevent it from spreading outwards as it proofs.
Once the dough goes in the banneton it is left untouched for its final rise. Once the dough becomes large enough to move to the next stage.
The dough is then tipped out of the bread proofing basket onto a board, tray or peel. To do this, turn the banneton upside down and lightly bang the edge of the basket on the table, the dough should plop straight out.
Next, the bread will be cut before making it’s way to the oven.
Is using a banneton essential for proofing bread?
Using a banneton is not necessary for making every type of artisan bread. Actually, there is a workaround that works, for every bread that I can think of.
Many home bakers choose to use a bread tin, one of the banneton alternatives (described later on), a couche, or leave the dough to proof on the table without a basket (free-form) as banneton alternatives.
For making open crumbed bread or larger sized bread, a bread proofing basket is the main go-to proofing solution for the majority of bread bakers.
Why not use a bread tin?
A bread tin is a fantastic piece of kit and I use mine all the time, they are great for making uniform-sized sandwich bread. The reason why bakers sometimes prefer to use a banneton instead of using a tin is more open crumbed bread doesn’t suit the bread tin shape.
Making larger sized bread in a bread tin can be a problem. When over 1kg of dough is proofed, a round basket is preferred so that the core of the bread will be baked evenly.
Using a free-form proofing technique
Shaping the bread before placing on a tray to final proof is free-form proofing. The benefit of this technique is the ability to make different shaped breads. The downside to free-form proofing is the dough must be strong enough to hold its shape without spreading out.
Achieving a dough of a suitable standard takes practice and skill so free-form shaping is not best for beginners.
You may also want to note that top of the bread runs the risk of drying out whilst proofing so it should be cover with a suitable bowl or bag to restrict airflow coming into contact with the dough.
How to prepare a new banneton
A new banneton takes a little more work than an aged one. For first time use it is recommended that the inside of the basket is sprayed with water using a mister before dusting flour.
The flour will then attach itself to the moisture to form an even coating.
The banneton can then be rotated so that the flour evenly covers all areas before turning upside down and allowing the excess flour to fall out. A strong bang on the basket helps to remove the flour that is not needed.
How to flour a banneton
Tip the banneton at a 45 degree angle to the table.
Working from the outside lightly dust with flour whilst stopping to rotate it regularly.
Once the outside areas are covered, start dusting the inside of the basket.
Keep going until the banneton is well covered.
If you find a lot of the flour from the edges has dropped towards the centre then do not worry, it’s perfectly normal.
It’s a good idea to mist the basket with water in the future until the basket has developed its own resistance to the moist dough. What you can do after the dough is added is lift the dough up slightly and dust a little extra flour around the edges of it.
When dusting, a little too much flour is always better than too little!
What is the best bread proofing basket?
A banneton made from wicker is the most common form of bread proofing basket, They are used in bakeries across the globe, including mine primarily as a sourdough basket. A well-made ratton banneton is extremely durable and will last for years.
The only thing that you have to be wary of is the occasional splinter coming from the wicker wood. A quick inspection whilst preparing the banneton prevents splinters from becoming an issue.
My favourite size is a 9inch diameter. These a perfect for doughs that are 500-700g in size. My usual dough weight is 650g, so this size is my go-to sourdough banneton.
Check out the link below for the one that I use.
The first banneton I purchased was made from brotform. It’s essentially compressed cardboard, usually recycled so better for the environment than wicker ones. Using a banneton made from brotform removes the risk of splinters, so it’s a sensible choice. The material is slightly more porous which means less flour dusting is required.
The reason I don’t use brotform bannetons much is after using a high hydration dough, it got stuck to it.
The stickiness was perhaps my fault, well, it was! But I couldn’t get the dough out of the basket. The mess was a disaster.
As the dough hardened I attempted to scrape it out but this damaged the basket, making it unusable.
My conclusion is brotform can be great, but if you get your dough wrong you might get the dough stuck in it forever! If you have to replace them it’s costly, especially when you consider they are more expensive than wicker ones.
These are thin wooden baskets that are lined with a one-use sheet of baking parchment. The shape is similar to a tin although the bread must be tipped out of the painibois before it is baked. These are a little flimsy and the shape similar whilst somewhat different to a bread tin.
But by all means, if you want to experiment, they are defiantly worth a go. They are quite cheap to get a handful compared to solid bread tins.
Wicker bread basket
It’s pretty easy to grab a bread basket fitted with a liner from household stores, in fact you might have one in your cupboard already. They work great and despite missing the lines that come from rattan baskets, they make amazing proofing tools.
Wicker baskets are often cheaper than standard bannetons and just as durable. What’s more, you will have your own unique shape to your bread. One of the most highly regarded bakeries in the world, the Poilane bakery uses these instead of traditional rattan bannetons so it’s safe to say that you can too!
How to store a banneton
It’s best to keep a banneton somewhere that has airflow. Turn it upside down to stop fly’s or bugs getting inside, and leave on a shelf. If planning to store a banneton in a cupboard it’s best to remove any remaining debris and dry it out first.
To remove the moisture from a banneton place it on top of the oven for a couple of hours. The ovens warmth takes away the remaining moisture and hardens any remaining dough to prevent mould appearing.
How to clean a banneton after use
Cleaning the banneton after use is not usually necessary, it is not advised to get them wet. I have found it too uneconomical to spend time cleaning them often, but I do have a low effort cleaning method which I occasionally follow.
After use, I usually dry them out by placing the bannetons on top of the oven. Any hardened dough that remains is then removed with a thin table knife or edge of a metal dough scraper.
Starting from the centre of the basket I run my semi-sharp object along the grooves, following the circles of the spun wicker until I get to the end. The knife/scraper removes the dough that’s stuck between the grooves.
I find that the appearance of the grooves gets imposed in the bread better after a clean like this so it’s great to do it every now and again.
Home made banneton alteneratives
Can I use a bowl instead of a banneton to proof bread?
If you don’t have a proper banneton but still want to make bread you can use a bowl to proof your bread. You will find the smooth surface doesn’t allow the flour to stick to it when dusting so a liner is necessary. Use a liner such as a tea towel or a natural fabric such as cotton.
Providing you have a bowl that is a suitable size for proofing bread you shouldn’t run into any difficulties using this method. If you give it a bang or drop it might shatter easily, which is why I wouldn’t recommend using them long term. Considering the low cost of the other bread proofing basket examples it’s more expensive to purchase a bowl making bread, but if you already have one, by all means, use it!
Tips for using bread proofing baskets
Why do you flour a bread proofing basket?
Dusting flour in a banneton creates a barrier between the bread and the basket. Without something between the dough and the banneton, the dough will stick to the basket. This is noticeable when you try to tip the dough out after proofing and the dough will not come out!
You might get lucky if you decide not to flour the basket and discover that the dough doesn’t stick. But this will only happen in low hydration doughs. Occasionally.
It is high-risk to not add flour to the banneton. Rolling the dice and hoping the dough doesn’t get stuck inside is really not worth the risk!
Can you add too much flour to the banneton?
If too much flour is dusted inside the banneton the resulting bread can have too much flour on the crust which will ruin its taste and appearance. It’s quite easily done. To avoid this happening, apply an even covering across all areas of the basket, trying to avoid the flour from mounting up at the bottom of the basket.
What can I do if I add too much flour to the proofing basket?
If once the dough is removed from the basket and you discover there is too much flour on the surface of the bread, the best thing to do is brush it off. Some bannetons include a pastry brush in the box, but I prefer a more heavy duty tool such as a food-safe paintbrush myself.
I would note that doing this on every bread that you make is quite a time consuming task, especially when high volumes are involved. I don’t recommend you get in the habit of applying too much flour every time if you can help it.
Dusting the bread instead of the banneton
This was only introduced to me recently as is not the traditional way to do it but it does work and is slightly easier.
Instead of dusting the bread proofing basket, the dough is dusted with flour after final shaping and placed into the banneton.
As the dough expands the covering can not be enough to cover the whole of the dough so a little extra flour is added to the basket around the edges after the dough is placed inside it, just to be on the safe side of sticky. The results for me have been very good so I’m not sure why this hasn’t been brought to light before.
Substituting the flour
Is flour the only way to dust a banneton?
A larger sized grain is often used to line the banneton either by replacing or in addition to flour dusting. Grains such as rice flour and coarse semolina are often selected. Larger grains create a bigger barrier between the dough and the proofing basket. The thicker barrier will then reduce the risk of the dough getting stuck.
Using grains other than flour will add a crunchier texture to the surface of the crust whilst also changing the taste and appearance of the bread. The adaptation of using other ingredients can be at a disadvantage to the bread in some cases.
French bakers are not permitted to use any other grain other than flour therefore, French and many baking purists choose to solely use flour to line their bannetons.
If I add a topping such as oats or seeds do I need to dust the banneton?
As long as there is a good covering on the dough, flour is not required to line the banneton as well. Actually, it’s quite important that we don’t, the flour will create a white – musky layer over the topping which ruins the look of the bread.
Why not use grease instead of flour to line the bowl?
It’s a good question as it’s true that oil will create that protective layer between to prevent the dough from sticking. The issue with this technique is that some of the oil will stick to the surface of the bread.
When the bread is baking, the oil intensifies the heat which burns the crust. This method is best avoided.
Should white bread flour be used to dust the banneton?
White bread flour is usually used to dust a banneton but it is possible to use any time of flour. When cleaning my worktop I gather my table scrapings into a bowl and run through a sieve to re-use any flour that otherwise would go in the bin.
I also often use wholemeal or rye flour to dust mine. The benefit of using alternative flours is the flavour enhances the intensity of the crusts aroma which is appealing, especially in wholemeal and grain bread.
Do I use the banneton liner that came with my banneton?
Many bannetons come with a liner. These liners can be used, it’s completely a personal preference. Without the liner, the bread is more likely to inherit the characteristic lines created from the wound wicker from the basket. The liner makes the bread have a smoother appearance. In some instances, I prefer to use the liner, in others I don’t.
If you decide to proof with the liner it is still important to flour dust to prevent the dough from sticking to it.
If proofing bread that is especially wet I prefer to not use a liner as if it gets wet the dough will stick and they are a nightmare to clean. Often resulting in the bread being a fail and the liner having to be thrown away.
Cleaning the liner
A regular cleaning routine for banneton liners is not followed in most bakeries, they just get a good bang before use to remove any dry dough. If you do end up using them for a wet dough that gets stuck to the liner there is a way to clean them.
Simply allow them to dry out for a couple of days if possible and remove any pieces of dry dough with your fingers and then place them in a saucepan of water and boil them for 30 minutes. Depending on how dirty they are this may have to be repeated again with clean water. Use tongs to remove each time and leave to dry.
The choice of bread proofing basket is not going to make or break your recipe, it’s a personal choice for what you are most comfortable using.
I use a mixture of rattan banneton shapes or wicker baskets to proof the majority of my bread, but now and again I whip out the painibois for something a bit different.
There is no right or wrong however, I would stay away from the brotform versions if you are a beginner to avoid the risk of having to replace them.
Bread baking as a beginner can be hard so choosing equipment that’s reliable is going to keep you motivated when you need to problem solve.