Baking with a Banneton

On my trip to the US in early December, my friend Mabel gave me a gift she had been holding for some time: a pair of banneton.  These wicker baskets are used by the French when proofing bread dough – after it is shaped and is undergoing its final rise before baking.  At some point in the past I had mentioned that I’d like to find some banneton and when she saw them, she purchased them for me.  Since December I’ve had the opportunity to use them a few time and thought I’d share the results.

The video is here, a nice, succinct two-and-a-half minute piece.  If you cannot view, pictures are below.  Link to the video is here.

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The banneton is traditionally made of wicker, although some modern ones are made of plastic.  The purpose of the wicker, though, is that it wicks moisture away from the surface of the dough, making for a better crust.

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Proper flouring is essential, otherwise the dough may not want to leave the cozy nest of the banneton once it is finished proofing.  After reading a few online baking sites, I decided to go with the suggested mix of all-purpose wheat flour and rice flour.  This worked very nicely and I’ve had minimal troubles with sticking.  It was also a neat way to use up some leftover rice flour.

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After removing the dough from the banneton, you can see the lines left by the wicker.  A few slashes to help the loaf expand and then slide it into the hot oven and onto a baking stone.

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The end result is very beautiful and, I must say, rustic-looking.  Not sure to what extent I can tell if the crust is really any better.  I create a steam bath in the oven with a small tray of boiling water, so the environment is going to be about as conducive to a good crust as this home-use oven will allow.  Nonetheless, Tawn and I have been enjoying the results, especially when it is time for panini!  Thanks for the thoughtful gift, Mabel!