The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


dmsnyder's picture

A question arose recently about the use of a couche for proofing bread. Here is a demonstration of how to use a linen couche.

Step 1: Mis en place

Equipment needed: Proofing board and a length of baker's line.

In the bakery, loaves that are not proofed in baskets are proofed on wooden boards covered with baker's linen. After the loaves are placed on the linen between folds, they are  covered with heavy plastic sheeting. The boards are then shelved in rolling racks which are usually themselves covered with plastic.

Baker's linen is an ideal material on which to proof loaves. It is relatively inexpensive. It is flexible. It is inherently non-stick. Even when proofing loaves made with high-hydration, somewhat sticky dough, flouring of the linen is generally not needed. The linen absorbs some moisture from the surface of the loaves which makes them easier to score cleanly.

Baker's linen can be purchased from King Arthur Flour or from TMB Baking (affiliated with the San Francisco Baking Institute). The latter's prices are lower. (I have no financial association with either.)

At home, we are usually only proofing 2 to 4 loaves at once, so a simpler procedure can be followed.

Step 2: Preparing the couche.

Cover the board with the linen. Fold back one end, and roll it up to form a supporting structure for the first loaf place on one end of the couche.

Step 3: Placing the loaves on the couche.

The loaves are placed on the couche. Note the roll of linen supporting the right hand side of the loaf on the right and the fold of linen between the two loaves.

Step 4: The left hand end of the couche is brought up and over to cover the proofing loaves.

Any excess linen can be folded back over to cover the loaves with another layer of linen.

Step 5: The covered loaves are left to proof until ready to bake.

I generally prefer proofing loaves seam side up. The exception is loaves topped with seeds. When transferring loaves proofed seam up with a transfer peel, the loaves must be flipped over on the couche before being transferred to the transfer peel, then to a peel for loading onto a baking stone.

Step 6: Uncover loaves. (Seen with transfer peel)

Step 7: Pull linen from left end to flatten out the folds

Step 8: If loaves were proofed seam side up, flip them over so the seam is down.

Step 9: Transfer loaves to a peel.

Step 8: Score the loaves.

Scored loaves, ready to load.

Loaded onto the baking stone.

Twelve minutes into the bake. Good oven spring. The cuts have opened nicely with good ears. The loaves have just started to color. Time to vent the steam.

 After another 13 minutes baking and 7 minutes resting in the turned off oven with the door ajar ...

San Joaquin Sourdough. My last bake of 2012.

Happy Baking to you all in 2013!


MNBäcker's picture

SBI Linen Couche - wash before first use?

June 19, 2012 - 7:48am -- MNBäcker

I just bought a few yards of linen couche from SFBI - should I wash it before the first use? I have read conflicting opinions on the topic after a search.

Als, I bought 5 yards - should I cut the pieces down to the sizes (1 yard each) before or after washing (if I need to wash)?

I do know never to wash once I start using the material.

Thanks in advance,


Lalush's picture

Where to find bulk supplies: Linen Bannenton / Couche / Lame

January 2, 2012 - 5:23am -- Lalush

Greetings bakers, 

I'm opening a small bake shop, but I'm having trouble finding a few items in bulk at reasonable prices.

-Linen Lined Banneton:

         I found them online by Matfer Bourgeat, but they were $20-$30 each! That sounds crazy!? I was paying just $9  for each 1kg willow bannenton from Germany:  

MANNA's picture

Couche from

December 29, 2011 - 5:28pm -- MANNA

Want to share my recent experience from I purchased 3 of the natural flax couche. I am happy to report the whole experience was great. I will definitly order all my bread stuff from them in the future. The prices are the best I have seen and the quality of the products is excellent. Here is the link to my recent purchase.



ph_kosel's picture

I recently got a $20 bakers couche from and tried it out for the first time today.  I floured it up liberally and whomped up a couple of sourdough loaves with sesame seeds for tomorrow (Thanksgiving). 

The loaves expanded lengthwise more than I expected as they rose in the couche so I had to sort of scrunch them a little as I maneuvered them onto my oiled baking sheet so they would fit, and they wound up with some minor "accordian pleats".  A nice skin formed on the loaves as they rose in the couche and that made slashing easy as pie.  Somewhere along the way the "accordion pleats" mostly went away and the loaves turned out rather pretty!

I'm not really sure how to get the excess flour off without losing sesame seeds but I'll try to deal with that tomorrow.  Aside from the unexpected lengthwise expansion and the excess flour problem I think I like this new couche!

Any input from others on "couche techniques" would be most welcome!


Peggy Bjarno's picture

Bread Flour vs All-Purpose Flour

April 4, 2010 - 10:08pm -- Peggy Bjarno

I’ve been working since September to produce my own “perfect” sourdough bread. Three weeks ago I was pretty much there, but you know, I keep tweaking, trying to make it more sour, and the recipe more reliable. Well, my tweak this time was changing flour. I’d been using KA Bread flour, but kept reading about people using KA All-Purpose flour and it was “just the same,” “worked just as well,” etc., etc. They never said it was just as good but different. . .

sergio83's picture

turning drop cloth into a couche

January 30, 2010 - 7:26pm -- sergio83

Hi everyone,

I mentioned it in my blog but I thought I'd post it here too.  I bought a canvas drop cloth at the hardware store.  it says it's heavy duty, tight cotton weave; absorbent; washable and reusable.

See?  Okay, so it's rather blurry and sideways.

Here's as good a closeup as I can get of the weave:


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