Guide to bannetons (bread proofing baskets)

 

Bannetons are baskets for bread proofing, used to hold shaped loaves as they proof and undergo their final rise. These dough rising containers are also referred to as Brotform in German and Gärkörbchen in Austria and come in various shapes and materials. There is plenty of variety out there, so here is my quick guide to bannetons to get you started.

Round banneton
Round banneton

Why use a banneton?

Bannetons are great for doughs that are too sloppy to proof as free standing loaf without flowing into a flat bread. Bread proofed in a basket can therefore be wetter as the dough is held in shape during the proofing process. Once proofed, the loaf is flipped or rolled out of the banneton basket and goes straight into the hot oven, giving it little chance to relax into a puddle before the bake.

You’ll find that, as the proportion of rye in bread recipes increases, bannetons become more useful, providing lateral support for fragile loaves. For a higher and prettier result, loose doughs are therefore best supported by proofing baskets in order to rise upwards, not outwards.

Great lightness and a very open structure are possible with such (wetter) dough, but only if it can be held in a reasonably coherent shape before being fixed by the heat of baking.”

Andrew Whitley, Bread Matters

How to use a proofing basket

Using a proofing basket is simple:

  1. Put your loaf into the basket upside down (seam-side up).
  2. Cover the basket with a polythene bag to keep the moisture in i.e. to prevent the dehydration of the surface and to prevent a surface skin from forming
  3. Let the bread rise.
  4. Turn out the loaf onto your baking tray lined with baking paper or La Cloche baking dome or your baking peel, depositing the bread gently on to the surface, before transferring it into the hot oven.

A problem I faced when using my round wicker banneton for the first time was that my dough got stuck in the basket. This is because new cane bannetons need to be conditioned prior to their first use.

Before its first use, lightly mist your cane banneton with water and dust it with a layer flour. For any future uses, lightly flour your basket before you put in the dough and dip your dough in flour before you put it in the basket.

However, be careful, as too much flour results in a thick, floury crust and will diminish the cane’s spiral pattern, so you may have to experiment before you get it exactly right.

I like using white or brown rice flour to dust my banneton and to bathe the loaf in before it enters the basket. It will give your loaf a beautifully clean finish.

After use, leave it to dry out for a day, don’t place it back into the cupboard straight away.

How to clean a banneton

Brush with a dedicated stiff brush and store your banneton in a well ventilated spot.

I’ve never washed my bannetons as the brush does the job well. It’s not recommend to wash it and absolutely avoid soaking it.

However, every few months, you can place your proofing baskets into the oven at 150°C for 15 minutes to kill potential bacteria which may be lingering.

Oval banneton
Oval banneton

Types of banneton basket

There are several types of bannetons. I personally prefer cane baskets but here are your options.

Cane wicker bannetons – Wicker makes an ideal container as it allows the air to circulate around the dough and let it breathe. Cane baskets will give your loaves a beautiful pattern and last a lifetime.

Wood pulp bannetons – Mostly made in Germany from 100% local spruce trees and less prone to sticking!

Plastic bannetons – These won’t get a recommendation from me…

Lined bannetons – Linen-lined proofing baskets are also a great choice when picking a banneton.

Banneton sizes – Proofing baskets come in different sizes, so make sure your dough quantity is aligned with the banneton basket size.

Proofing basket substitutes

If you are looking for alternatives for proofing baskets, you could simply use a loaf pan to keep your dough in shape or improvise using a bowl lined with a flour-dusted lint-free tea towel. Alternatively, you could also try the all-rounder that is Lékué‘s silicone bread baker.

 

Guinness Bread Rolls Recipe

 

Irish stew is the order of the day, and what better accompaniment than some homemade Guinness bread rolls. Irish stew, by definition a simple dish, based on the few but substantial ingredients of lamb chops, onions, carrots and potatoes and flavoured simply with salt and pepper, is a superbly rich dish. My Guinness dinner rolls have a light crumb and exquisitely full-bodied flavours, divinely complementing the umami taste experience of the stew. I’ve also noticed that I’m spot on topic with this month’s #BreadBakers theme of ‘Irish Breads’, hosted by A Day In the Life On The Farm.

I’d baked bread with beer before and achieved some delicious results, but I’d never used Guinness. This Guinness bread recipe very subtly brings out the dark-roasted barley flavours.

Irish Stew Guinness Bread Rolls
Irish Stew with Guinness Bread Rolls

Guinness Bread Rolls Recipe

An Irish stew calls for bread rolls to soak up all the delicious juices and this recipe for Guinness bread rolls does the job perfectly. A wheat-based dough, enhanced with a little added rye and fortified by the ruby colours of that famous Irish stout, produces delicious Irish bread rolls.

Ingredients

  • 550g white bread flour
  • 150g white rye flour
  • 6g dried yeast
  • 10g salt
  • 440g Guinness, at room temperature
  • 75g water

How to make Guinness bread rolls

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl to form a dough
  2. Knead for about 10 minutes
  3. Let rest covered for about an hour until the dough has significanlty expanded in volume
  4. Punch down the dough and transfer to a lightly floured surface
  5. Divide into 16 equal parts, cover the dough parts with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for about 10 minutes
  6. Shape each dough part into a roll (I like to make rolls with pointed ends as the tips form a superb crust), place onto baking trays lined with baking paper, lightly flour the rolls’ surface and cover with clean kitchen towels. Make sure to leave enough room between the rolls to allow them to expand unless you like them to attach to each other during the bake, as I did in the photo above.
  7. Leave to rest for about an hour or more until proved
  8. Preheat the oven to 180°C
  9. Bake for about 20 minutes until nicely browned and fully baked through
  10. Cool on a wire rack

Take a look at the Irish bread recipes from my fellow #BreadBakers!