The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

A sieve or a proofing basket? More adventures in jury rigging

wally's picture

A sieve or a proofing basket? More adventures in jury rigging

This weekend I decided to try Hamelman's Country Bread in the shape of a boule.  However, I lack proofing baskets, and as I proceeded through the recipe, a nagging thought kept injecting itself: So, how do plan on keeping your boule from turning into a pancake?

I baked only one loaf, so I scaled down his recipe thus:

Overall formula:

Flour (sir galahad)    454g    100%

Water                         309g     68%

Salt                                4g      1.8%

Yeast    1/4tsp instant dry       .6%

The pre-ferment is a stiff pâte fermentée:

Flour                        227g

Water                       136g

Salt                              2g

Yeast  1/16 tsp instant dry

Final dough:                DDT = 75° F

Flour                       227g

Water                     173g

Salt                             2g

Yeast  1/4 tsp instant dry

Pre-ferment            365g


The pâte fermentée is made up 12 - 16 hours prior to the final dough.  Final mixing involves incorporating all ingredients except the pâte fermentée on speed one, and then cutting in the pre-ferment in chunks as the dough comes together.  Increase to speed two and continue for 2 - 3 minutes (or longer).  Hamelman's description of the final dough is "supple and moderately loose, with moderate gluten development."  My own experience was that while the dough had developed some strength, it was still relatively slack.

Bulk fermentation:

2 1/2 hours, with two folds at 50 minute intervals.

Shaping and Baking:

Pre-shape, cover with plastic and bench rest for about 20 minutes.  Final shaping into boules is followed by placing the loaf into a floured banneton or a couche.  Final fermentation is approximately 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hour.  Bake is at 450° in a pre-steamed oven that is steamed again once the loaf is loaded.  Baking time is approximately 35 minutes.

The moment of truth for me came at the shaping stage when I had to decide what to do with this boule I had created.  It was clear to me that with a final fermentation time of an hour or longer, even a tightly shaped boule would begin to imitate ciabatta dough, and I do not have any bannetons.  But as I surveyed my kitchen, it occured to me that I did have a fairly sturdy sieve, into which I could fit a floured tea towel.  That revelation then raised the question, how to suspend the sieve so that it was level/  A 2 qt. calphalon pot volunteered and I glimpsed a true jury rigged solution to my problem.

I heavily floured the tea towel with rice flour, which I've discovered is much less absorbent than AP - I haven't had anything stick to surfaces I've dusted with rice flour and this was no exception.

The result is a boule which, though it spread some in the oven, does not resemble the pancake I had dreaded as I began my project.  The country bread has a pleasing taste - thanks to the pre-ferment - and makes a nice (if not so wide) sandwich bread.

Meanwhile I've made a note to add bannetons to my Christmas list.  But in the meanwhile, I'm happy with my sieve and makeshift proofing method!






SylviaH's picture

Looks like a very tasty boule!  I have banneton's but still use small bowls and my stainless steel collander comes in handy.


wally's picture


Thanks!  I've gotten two comments mentioning the possiblities of collanders.  I may do a switch to one for my next boule bake to see what result I get.  I love clever solutions that don't involve big dollar expenditures!


This Day's picture
This Day

When you suspend the sieve in a bowl or a pot you can thread the handle of a wooden spoon through the loop on the sieve that's opposite its handle.  Place the spoon handle outside the bowl or pot.  This will keep the sieve from falling into whatever it's suspended in.

I don't have bannetons either; instead I use straw hats with round crowns.  I line them with floured towels and suspend them in bowls slightly larger than, but deeper than, the crowns of the hats.  The brims of the hats prevent the dough in the crowns from falling in.


wally's picture

Now that's really out-of-the-box thinking!  I don't have any, but I'm willing to bet I could probably buy a dozen for the cost of a banneton.  Thanks for sharing!


This Day's picture
This Day

I found cheap hats at a dollar store for (what else) a dollar!


AnnaInMD's picture

the dough still wants to go sideways, I am now doing the last proof in a springform and put the whole thing on the preheated bottom of my La Cloche ( or just a stone would do great). The top of the Cloche still fits over the whole thing, and the bread turns out beautifully.

But the straw hat takes the price !!!   lol