Bread in a Banneton
Hello! How gorgeous is that loaf of bread? I always wondered how beautiful round loaves were formed, and when the sweet Natalie of Freckled Hen Farmhouse offered to send me on of their gorgeous proofing baskets, I knew that it was going to be love at first sight. Oh my! How fun it was to read into something new and exciting when it came to bread making. In fact, I was all set on sharing this post as a Colonial Kitchen because I figured there had to be some history and interesting facts about proofing baskets, which are also called bannetons or brotforms, but I could not find a single thing. Not even on an educational site or university... it was odd. As far as I found, bannetons have been used for the past several centuries. But why? Who discovered them, and were they used often? Or are they more modern? I did discover that most proofing baskets were earlier made of straw and are now made of cane, rush, wicker, and plastic. The purpose of a proofing basket? It is a more free form shaped bread, meaning it is not baked in a loaf pan. However, while you could just roll a loaf of bread up and create a baguette shape, this allows you have either a round, ovular, or rectangular shaped bread that is not confined to a pan. Having your dough rise in the basket allows for it to dry out a bit and lose its moisture, so it's preferred to use this type of technique for wetter doughs, like sourdough. That might explain why making sourdough in a loaf pan was a bit difficult for me!
My favorite part about using a banneton? The imprint that the woven basket leaves on the loaf! There are some really gorgeous breads out there, most likely baked by a professional, and while I still have a lot to learn when it comes to baking bread, I was happy to see that my loaf turned out... decent. It could still use some work! To be completely honest, I haven't kept a sourdough started for a while now. Our schedule has been a bit hectic, but I hope to get back to it by November when we're done traveling for the year. Sourdough would have done a lot better in this basket than my simple Italian bread recipe. It did not rise much!!
If you are new to using a proofing basket, you'll want to do a few things before using it! One is to prep the fiber, which is easily done by spraying it with a layer of water and then dusting the entire inside of the basket with flour and corn meal. Pretty easy! This is to help prevent your dough from stitching to the basket when it is ready to be turned out and baked. The basket never goes in the oven, and it really doesn't have to be cleaned often. Just always give it a good dusting before use, and if you don't use it often, you'll want to try and prep it at least once a month so that it doesn't lose its seasoning. It's a bit like a cast iron skillet in ways!
To bake, find a bread recipe with a wetter dough. You could try my sourdough recipe if you like! Or, if you're a bit too impatient for sourdough which can take over a week to become ready, you could always try my easy common bread recipe. Now there is a wet dough! It's probably the easiest bread recipe on have on our website, and it only takes two hours to bake from start to finish. This is usually a bread that I will whip together in the late afternoon so that we have something to break over supper. Again, it's nice and sticky, so should bake well in your proofing basket!
To use the basket, you'll want to wait until the dough is on its second rise. For all breads, they usually rise twice. The first rise tends to happen in a greased bowl, until the dough doubles in size, and the second rise comes after shaping. Making bread in a round banneton is interesting because there's not much shaping to be done! Punch down your dough, which had doubled in size, knead back into a loose ball, and place into the prepped banneton to rise again. Make sure you cover the rising dough with a nicely dampened towel or plastic wrap as this dough will need a lot of moisture! You do not want to excessively dry it out, as the basket will be doing that already. As it rises, pull the dough back to make sure that it is not sticking to fiber. If you prepped it well, you should have no issues.
Ready to bake? Simply turn your bread out onto a prepped baking sheet like you would any other time. It should fall out easily! Make sure you wait to turn it out until the last minute before placing it in the oven or else the shape may begin to fall. Put a slice in your crust. As you can see, I chose a simple cross, and brush with egg and a bit of water. Bake as normal! I noticed that having the bread in this condensed shape made it a bit different of a baking experience, meaning that it probably could have spent a bit more time in the oven. Wait until the crust has reached a nice deep brown color, not burnt, and sounds a bit hollow when knocked upon. You want to make sure the center is cooked!
I hope that you try this fun technique! You'll be making bread that looks like it came from a professional bakery. If you're a huge bread lover like me, you'll know how happy that can make a person. I love being able to try out a new tool in the kitchen. They are some of my favorite gadgets, and even though I was not able to find much on the history of this particular little basket, I still feel like I am connected to a past life when I use it. Love this basket? You can find it here or they also have a long, rectangular shaped one as well! And that cute little wire tool is a break whisk! Perfect for bread making if you don't feel like pulling out the electric mixer.
What is your favorite kind of bread to bake?