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Would you like to make your own bread, but are unsure how to give it the perfect shape? Then you should follow the footsteps of professional artisan bread bakers and use a proofing basket.
It might be a tool that the pros use, but it doesn’t mean that it requires years and years of training to master. In fact, it’s just the opposite.
Proofing baskets are a breeze to use and accessible to everyone.
Combine them with a quality bread baking stone and home bread making has never been so easy.
Proofing baskets, also called brotformen or bannetons, are designed to help the loaves maintain their structure and shape during their final rise. They can be found in various shapes and sizes to offer diversity in the bread you make.
In this article, we’ll explore how proofing baskets are used, what distinctions to make, and how to choose an appropriate proofing basket.
Banneton vs Brotform
Before diving into the heart of the matter, let’s review the difference between a banneton and a brotform. Often used interchangeably, these terms actually refer to slightly different things.
While they are both proofing baskets, the word Banneton comes from French while the word Brotform, plural Brotformen, is German. Less common, the word Gärkörbchen is used in Austria and means the same as Brotform.
But the difference isn’t simply etymological. Bannetons consist of woven baskets, which are frequently lined with linen cloth. The linen cloth helps the bread keep a smooth texture.
On the other hand, Brotformen are baskets made of wood pulp withes or coiled willow. They aren’t typically lined with cloth. As a result, the pattern of the basket is imprinted on the dough, often leaving a spiral shape on the loaves.
Bannetons and brotformen may be different in construction, but their function is the same: support the loaves as they proof.
Why Use a Proofing Basket?
Proofing baskets come in handy when doughs are too mushy to proof. In those cases, the dough will turn into flat bread. The proofing basket allows the bread to be wetter while still holding its shape during the proofing process.
After proofing, the loaf is directly rolled out from the proofing basket to the hot oven, thereby guaranteeing that the loaf won’t lose its shape before baking.
The more rye is used in a bread recipe, the more useful a proofing basket becomes thanks to the support it provides for fragile loaves. They allow loose doughs to rise higher rather than simply expanding outwardly.
Types of Proofing Baskets
Proofing baskets come in several types depending on the material used.
Cane wicker proofing baskets
Cane wicker baskets are excellent options. Wicker lets the dough breathe by allowing air flow around it, which makes it an ideal container. They also give a beautiful pattern to the loaves and can last a lifetime.
Wood pulp proofing baskets
These are generally made in Germany from local spruce trees. They offer the benefit of being less sticky.
Plastic proofing baskets
Proofing baskets made from plastic aren’t often recommended by artisan bread makers, due to the use of plastic with additives potentially seeping into the dough.
Lined proofing baskets
A lined proofing basket will give you a nice smooth loath of bread. It also will prevent sticking to the sides of the basket.
How to Use a Proofing Basket
Now that we know the different types of proofing baskets, let’s learn how to use them. Not to worry, it isn’t hard.
First, coat the basket thoroughly with flour. Shake out any excess. This step will ensure that the dough won’t get stuck to it. Cane bannetons, in particular, need to be conditioned this way before being used.
If using for the first time, lightly mist it with water before adding the flour. Adding more flour will result in a thicker, floury crust. Getting the desired consistency might require some experimentation.
Put your loaf into the basket upside down or seam-side up. Place a polythene bag around the basket. It’s meant to prevent dehydration on the surface and avoid any formation of surface skin.
Allow the bread to rise. Line your baking tray with baking paper. Turn out the loaf, gently transferring the bread onto the surface of the baking tray. Put it into the hot oven.
After using your proofing basket, don’t put it away immediately. Leave it out for the day so it can dry.
What Size Proofing Basket Should I Use?
Proofing baskets come in different sizes and shapes. They can be round or oval, smaller or bigger. When baking, the quantity of dough should correspond to the size of the basket. If in doubt, you’re usually better off using a slightly bigger proofing basket.
The banneton doesn’t have to be filled entirely to perform its task. The most important thing is that the dough doesn’t spill. The only downside to using a slightly bigger model is that you might not get the full spiral effect.
For round proofing baskets, 8 inches will fit about 1 pound or 500 grams of dough. A 10 inch round proofing basket is suitable for 2 pounds or 1 kilogram of dough. These sizes have enough space for the dough to rise and expand without spilling over the sides.
For oval proofing baskets, 8 inch bannetons are suitable for 1 pound or 500 grams of dough, while 10 inch bannetons are for 1.65 or 750 grams of dough.
Lastly, don’t forget to make sure that the loaf you’re making fits into your oven.
How to Clean a Proofing Basket
Washing your proofing basket isn’t recommended. You especially want to avoid soaking it.
Use a dedicated stiff brush and store it in a well-ventilated place.
What’s a Good Alternative to Proofing Baskets?
If you don’t want to purchase a proofing basket or find yourself in a pinch, you can always try to improvise to keep your dough in good shape. A loaf pan can be used, or a big enough bowl. If using a bowl, line it with a tea towel dusted with flour.
Make the Perfect Loaf
You now know all the essentials of proofing baskets. The words banneton and Brotform are commonly used to describe them, though the distinction they represent isn’t always acknowledged.
Pick a good size and shape for the loaves you want to make and take excellent care of your proofing basket by brushing it.
Proofing baskets also come in different materials, though you can’t go wrong with a cane wicker banneton.
Enjoy your delicious bread!