A banneton is a wooden basket used to shape bread loaves prior to baking. By mixing doughs wetter than usual, bakers can develop improved texture and retain moisture in the crumb. However, these wet doughs need a bit of structural support during proofing to prevent the final loaf from spreading out too thin.
Baking supply stores sell nice bannetons, lined with Belgian canvas or made with wicker spirals, for $20 - $30. You can make a quick and dirty banneton by lining a basket or small mixing bowl with a tea towel, but for $2.00 you can make your own dedicated, cloth-lined banneton and start baking better loaves today.
Step 1: Material
The dollar store or a yard sale are the best places to score a cheap basket if you don't have any lying around already. For the lining, I used some fabric labeled "flour sack linen" which seemed appropriate, but you can used anything that is a bit porous and won't shed little fibers into your bread.
- An oval or round basket, 8- or 9-inches in diameter, at least 4-inches deep
- A sheet of canvas, flour sack fabric, or other linen that won't shed fibers, big enough to cover the interior of the basket with a few inches to spare.
- Kitchen twine
- A tapestry needle, which should have an eye large enough to thread the twine
Step 2: Sew the Base
- Center the fabric in the basket, and push down so the base is smooth and without wrinkles
- Thread the twine onto the tapestry needle and make the first stitch, starting from the outside. I was able to secure the end with a simple knot, but you can just leave some excess twine for trying at the end.
- Continue stitching at one- or two-inch intervals, taking care to ensure the fabric is smooth and somewhat taught on the bottom.
- Your last stitch should go from inside to outside. Take a moment to tighten the twine from beginning to end, and then try the twine off.
Step 3: Sew the Sides
- Start stitching the fabric about a half inch below the rim. For this oval, I started in the center on the long curves.
- As you stitch around and rounded edges, make small pleats every stitch or so. This will keep the sides smooth, not wrinkled and bunched up.
- Tie the twine off after tightening.
Step 4: Secure the Rim
- Using shears, trim the fabric to a uniform excess around the rim, about three or four inches
- Roll the fabric down and away from you until it creates a little padded rim. Secure with a loop of twine around both the fabric rim and the basket rim. Continue around the rest of the basket.
Step 5: Get Baked!
- To use your banneton, flour liberally across the entire interior. I use rye flour, which gives a nice dusty top to the finished loaves.
- Shape your loaf and place in the basket. The top of you loaf should be in the bottom of the banneton.
- Cover the loaf with a kitchen towel and proof per your recipe. This is especially convenient when doing extended proofing in the fridge, as this is way less bulky than a baking sheet.
- The porous linen will start to dry out the exterior of the loaf, which will aide in crust formation.
- When you are ready to bake, sprinkle a baking sheet with cornmeal or flour, and flip the loaf onto it. The top on the banneton becomes the bottom of the actual loaf.
- Bake as usual, let it cool, and enjoy some fine bread. Happy baking!