Bannetons and Liners
Choosing your bannetons
A banneton is a dough container designed to help with the retarded fermentation. It helps the loaf to take on the shape you want and also improves the quality of the crust. Bannetons come in many shapes and sizes
Loosely weaved basket
Cane bannetons are the best. If properly used and maintained they will last many years. Fibre bannetons are cheaper but not really worth the cost – if cost is an issue you can achieve as good a result with a plastic, ceramic or glass bowl from your cupboard. We have not used baskets, although they are often used in commercial artisan bakeries; be aware you must use a liner with baskets because of the loose weave. The leading manufacturer of baking materials in France is selling dishwasher-proof plastic banettons, but we have not tried them. We suspect they are aimed at commercial bakeries rather than artisan bakers
Cane bannetons are deeper than wood fibre, and are also wider internally because wood fibre is always very thick. A cane banneton intended for a 500 gram loaf will successfully hold enough dough for a 2/3 kilo loaf.
Cane, and some wood, pulp bannetons leave an attractive pattern on the loaf. Please be aware that using a liner (see below) under the dough means you will lose the pattern.
A common belief is that wood pulp bannetons are more suitable for high hydration doughs than cane ones. We find the opposite to be true; we use cane without a liner and always bake high hydration bread. Mould is a major drawback if you use wet doughs in wood fibre and no liner
Liners are used inside the banneton to protect it from moisture during the retarded fermentation and to prevent the dough sticking to the banneton. We use liners for wood pulp bannetons but not for cane. Liners are essential for baskets to prevent flour and dough escaping through the gaps in the weave
Liners may be made of cloth (or coarse linen which can lend an interesting antiqued textured pattern to the bread) or wood fibre (which tends to absorb moisture and also dries out quickly after use)
Liners quickly become encrusted with flour. One a week, we soak ours in hot water with a dishwasher tablet overnight then rinse thoroughly and dry out
You can also use a liner to cover your banneton during retarded fermentation(we do). Alternatively, use a plastic freezer bag or shower cap. The idea is to avoid the dough drying out resulting in a thick leathery crust on the bottom of your loaf
Conditioning new cane bannetons
When you use a new cane banneton, you will inevitably find the dough refuses to come away from the banneton when you tip it out for baking. Retailers never seem to warn you of this. A cane banneton would typically require four or more uses before it works properly, but there is a solution. Spray the inside very lightly with water, then a generous drizzle with flour, working it well into the banneton especially into the grooves. Shake out the excess then it will be “good as old”
Sooner or later, mould is inevitable in bannetons, especially with wet doughs. Please note, if mould happens on your loaf during retarded fermentation, don’t worry because it will be rendered harmless during the bake because the bake temperature is so high. Nonetheless, we try to avoid it because we don’t want mould lurking in the warm humid conditions in our micro-bakery or your kitchen!
To prevent mould as much as possible, air your bannetons and liners immediately after use, and take care when stacking them to enable air to circulate well. If mould appears happens, brush out as much flour as you can with a banneton brush and place the banneton in the sun or in the oven at 135 degrees Celsius for 45 minutes. Sterilise your bannetons this way whenever you see new mould appear. After sterilisation, re-condition your cane banetton
After a few uses without a liner, flour will have built up inside the banneton to the point where turning it upside down and tapping it does not remove the excess. Use a special banneton brush to remove the flour, but don’t be too feisty with the cane ones as some flour is essential for maintaining humidity and the condition of the banneton
Never immerse your cane or wood fibre banneton in water! A cane one will unravel, permanently