The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Proofing High hydration dough in couche or banneton

Rodger's picture

Proofing High hydration dough in couche or banneton

After I proof my Basilicata-style high-hydration loaves, one of two problems occurs.  Either I've floured the couche too sparingly, and the dough bonds to it so that I have to separate it with a knife blade (sometimes with unhappy results), or I've floured too liberally, and the dough carries a thick layer of unincorporated flour that spoils the crust.  In the second case, I try to scrape off as much of the extra flour as possible with a blade or a brush, but still the extra flour still prevents portions of the crust from caramelizing, and leaves an unpleasant dusty feel on the tongue when you bite into it.  How do you wizards do it?

tjkoko's picture

Just my speculation.  Would proofing using a well floured linen cloth (used for baguettes) solve the problem?  Just a thought.

subfuscpersona's picture

Try using rice flour instead of regular (wheat) flour to dust the couche. Dough is less likely to stick to the cloth when rice flour is used. Thoroughly rub the rice flour into the couche.

I don't know where you live, but in the USA, rice flour is available in supermarkets that serve a Latino population. It is inexpensive. A one pound bag should be ample.

davidg618's picture


I assume Basilicata-like bread dough is not unlike ciabatta dough. When I make ciabatta I turn the bulk fremented dough out onto a board floured only enough to keep the dough from sticking to the board. I don't degas it except very large gas bubbles on its surface. I roughly shape loaves with floured hands and transfer the dough to previously cut and sized parchment paper rectangles. When all the loaves--usually three--are shaped I dust their tops lightly with flour and cover them with a light, linen tea towel. I've never had the towel stick to the loaves, and the parchment paper goes right into the oven with each loaf.

I'm satisfied with the rustic mottled crusts I get. The degree of carmelization is more associated with the presence or absence of gas bubbles just under the surface, than the light dusting of flour, and I consider the slight grittiness from the unincorporated flour part of the breads charm, its personality. I don't get any flour taste.

I buy my specialty and organic flours from a semi-local organic food/health food store. Next time I go, I'm going to buy some rice flour. Reading TFL I've seen it recommended frequently, especially for dusting unlined bannetones.

I've included a picture of my latest ciabatta loaves.

David G.


Janknitz's picture

before flouring. I know some people would consider this sacriledge, but it works. I have one of those pump oil sprayers (NEVER never use Pam or similar commercial sprays).

I learned this from Breadtopia. As soon as you empty the banneton, rinse it quickly with hot water and dry it near the oven vent on your stove (caution--don't "toast" it!).

works every time for me, even with very slack, wet doughs.

bobm1's picture

i use a linen couche. at first i under floured it and slack dough had a tendecy to stick.

not good. ofcourse i over floured the next time (i wasn't going through that again!) and, as you did, found myself with brush in hand removing the excess flour from the dough. it was trial and error to find a balance and as the linen became 'broken in' it was less and less a problem.

rice flour in the bannatons work really well. i don't oil mine or wash them. just knock them out after a proofing and let them air dry, then use a brush to remove whats left.

easy peasy.

davidg618's picture

I searched the internet for a Basilicata bread recipe, and, although I learned a lot about southern Italy, and its foods (especially bread soup) I couldn't find a bread recipe. Will you share yours?


David G.

Rodger's picture

Sorry about that, David.  I'm sure there is no formula labeled "Basilicata" anywhere.  Yet I chose the term carefully.  I was trying to avoid "Pugliese" or even "Altamura," because many of the loaves (and formulas) so labeled have little to do with the bread I used to eat when I lived in Puglia in the 1980s.  (Just like the Anglo-American word "pizza" does not describe what you eat in Naples.)  The bread is characterized by a charred crust, a moist, open crumb, a long shelf life, and (most of all) enormous flavor.  I've been trying to re-create this bread in my ovens for the last several years, and every so often I come close.

Actually, the loaf is familiar all across southern Italy as "pane casereccio" (hearth bread, I guess), and maybe that would have been a more useful term than "Basilicata," which was only meant to mean "Southern Italian."

Anyhoo, one formula that has yielded a recognizable shadow of the original is:

Durum flour 50%
Bread flour 50%
Instant yeast 0.3%
water 83 %
Biga (or firm starter) 35%
salt 2% plus a pinch

Also, Dan Leader's "Genzano Country Bread" is a pretty good facsimile:

Biga 74
water 80
Bread flour 100
instant yeast 1
salt 3

Leader then has you beat the daylights out of the mass on high for about half an hour, not unlike the famous "Coccodrillo" recipe making the rounds on these pages.

Sorry for the confusion.  Best,


davidg618's picture

Wow! That is a wet dough. I'll give it a try.


JoeV's picture

I final proof my high-hydration breads in parchment paper sprayed with either olive oil of cooking spray, then transfer paper and all to the cooking vessel. It releases nicely when sprayed, but not if don't spray.

Just my 2 cents.

dmsnyder's picture


The rice flour and the parchment solutions are good.

Since you mention Leader's breads, for the pane de Genzano, he recommends dusting the banneton heavily with wheat bran. I found this works well, as long as you have no objection to the bran coating the loaf.