What is a Great Proofing Basket Substitute?

/ / What is a Great Proofing Basket Substitute?
What is a Great Proofing Basket Substitute

Knowing the best alternatives for a proofing basket is pretty handy! If you are just getting started and don’t own a banneton or you bake a lot and don’t have enough, you might need a proofing basket substitute. These proofing basket substitutes can work as permanent or temporary solutions. And these alternatives are so good, you might want to keep using them!

So what can you use to proof bread when you don’t have a proofing basket? Here are some alternatives for how you make a proofing basket out of ordinary objects that you might already have at home:

  • Linen cloth or couche
  • Mixing bowl
  • Wicker Basket 
  • Colander
  • Soup bowl
  • Plastic Containers Or Tupperware
  • Terracotta Pot
  • Free standing

What is a proofing basket used for?

A proofing basket shapes the dough, allowing it to rise upwards. The proofing basket provides the bread it’s shape. The perfect basket compliments its texture, taste and how the bread can be cut after it cools.

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Proofing baskets are known as bannetons or brotform baskets. They are usually round or oblong and are used to give shape and structure to bread during the final rise. A proofing basket allows sticky or soft doughs to be baked without expanding outwards. 

In addition to shaping they give the crust a pattern. The traditional wicker bannetons leave a beautiful lined indent on the bread. They also allow a small amount of air to enter the edges of the dough which draws excess moisture from the crust.

But if you don’t have one, maybe one of these alternatives will work nicely for you.

Proofing basket substitutes

A proofing basket floured and ready for bread

Here is a specially compiled list of proofing basket alternatives so if you are ever stuck thinking, “What can I use in place of a banneton?” You’ll already have a few solutions. Many of which could already be lying around your house or in a kitchen draw.

Linen cloth or couche

Making a couche with a linen cloth is a great way to support a dough as it rises. The industry standard way for baguettes and ciabatta to final rise, couches can be used for larger loaves too. 

Couches offer little support to proofing round loaves but when it comes to longer bread, or batards, they are a fantastic solution. Using a couche to proof your bread can use less space in your kitchen.

A tea towel makes a great cloche

You can buy a couche using this link, or make your own using a clean tea towel, heavy duty cloth or curtain liner.

Cloche from Amazon

See latest price on Amazon

Once proofed, the dough can be lifted out of the cloth onto a board, scored and baked.

Mixing bowl

You can grease or line a mixing bowl with flour and use it for a proofing container. To prevent the dough sticking to the mixing bowl, you may want to line it with a clean cloth and dusting with flour.

A mixing bowl as a proofing basket substitute

Wicker Basket 

If it’s good enough for the best bakery in the world then it’s probably wise to consider using a wicker basket to proof bread! The Poulin bakery uses wicker baskets to provide their unique shape to their Miche’s. You will have to use one with a cloth that won’t fray easily to protect it from sticking.

A wicker basket makes a great proofing basket substitute

Wicker baskets are cheaper to buy than bannetons, but tend to be less durable. A serious contender and finding your own unique basket will make your bread special!

Colander

You can use a colander covered with a dusted tea-towel or cloth to prevent the dough sticking to proof bread. A colander is a handy solution, especially if you have nothing else around! Expect the dough to spread out wide so it’s best to use collanders to proof large dough sizes.

A colander can be used as a proofing basket substitute

Soup bowl

If you are wondering “can I use a bowl instead of a proofing basket?” then you’ll be pleased to know that, like a mixing bowl, a soup bowl can be used to support bread as it rises. Unless you have big bowls you are likely to be restricted to making small round cobs if you use this technique.

Soup bowls can proof small loaves

Plastic Containers Or Tupperware

You can use plastic containers to proof bread in unusual sizes. I’ve even heard of bakers using old metal biscuit tins to make square loaves! They are best lined with a cloth that’s dusted with flour before the dough goes in to rise. Another good reason to eat ice cream!

Plastic containers as a proofing basket substitute

Terracotta Pot

I bought a couple of terracotta pots to bake bread in. The test bake turned out to be a disaster as I couldn’t get the bread out of the tin. Maybe this could have been rectified by greasing with oil but I have heard that they contain harmful chemicals so it’s not something I’ll be pursuing!

When it comes to using terracotta pots as a proofing basket alternative you can have success. You are best lining it with a cloth as the pot will soak up oil and flour is hard to evenly spread. Expect unusual shapes!

Terracotta pots can be used to proof and bake bread in.

Free standing

How do you proof dough without a banneton? Well you could not use anything! Just shape your dough and let it rise on a tray without a basket!! This solution works for strong, slightly dryer doughs. No chance of unnecessary lines on the crust if you don’t like them, or sticking to the container! Just keep the surface moist by regularly spraying with water or covering.

You don't need a proofing basket at all if you free stand proof your bread

Why should you use a standard proofing basket?

Now you’ve seen all these proofing basket alternatives, I bet you’re wondering why should you use a standard proofing basket? Well, here’s why:

Pros:

  • Relatively cheap when you consider how long they last
  • No need to clean after every use
  • To get the true bread “shape”
  • For a beautiful spiral imprint on the bread
  • Ergonomically shaped well, making them easy to use

Cons:

  • Hard to find in the high street
  • Encourages you to use it for every bread, making all of them the same shape!
  • The cloth liners are hard to clean
  • Storage space
  • If left in a humid place they can attract insects.

How to remove the dough if you haven’t used a proofing basket

When using a banneton we can simply turn the basket over and tap it on top to release it. But with some of these proofing basket substitutes the drop can cause the dough to deflate with the thud. Here’s a solution to this issue:

Grab the 4 corners of the liner and lift the dough out of the proofing basket. Turn the dough onto a board (or peel) upside down.

Take 4 corners
Lift the dough out the basket
Turn the dough out

Pull the liner away, being careful if the dough has stuck to it. Once on the board you can score it and it can go straight into the oven.

Remove the liner
Score the dough
The bread is baked!

Ending thoughts on proofing basket substitutes

Don’t let not having a banneton stop you from making sourdough bread! There are many solutions that you probably have at home or can nip out and grab from your local store. But have I missed one? What is your favourite banneton alternative that you use? Let me know in the comments.

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