Need your opinions on this matter. i've come across some 100% cotton canvas, unbleached. Does this make a good couche?
Good couche cloth tends to be closely woven (not knitted) but with large threads - hence the idea of "canvas".
If you're going with natural fibers, linen seems to make the best couches. I'd be wary of cotton; even if you somehow get it to not "stick", it won't wick away moisture at the right (moderate) rate.
If you're going with synthetic fibers, your choices are quite limited because synthetic fibers are not often used to make closely woven cloth with large threads. Cloth restaurant napkins from a restaurant supply may be your best bet.
Hi Ray - welcome to TFL!
When I first started out baking, I wanted to save money on equipment so I purchased a bit over a yard of unbleached cotton canvas at a local fabric store, washed it, zig-zagged the edges, and started to use it as a couche.
The fabric, even after washing, is stiff. The fabric had to be heavily floured to keep the dough from sticking (and even that didn't work all the time). Most importantly, the cloth really didn't wick away the moisture, especially with dough that was being retarded. Even though I shook out the couche thoroughly after use and allowed it to dry, small clumps of dried flour stuck to it, making the cloth even rougher.
Having read Pat's (Proth5) blog on linen, I decided to order two yards of linen from SFBI and have loved every minute of use. It's softer than the canvas, does a great job of wicking moisture, and the dough just doesn't stick to it. Last weekend I retarded two batards overnight and forgot to flour the couche. That made no difference when moving the bread from the couche to the peel. I also use the linen any time my dough needs to be covered. The stiffness of the cotton canvas would never work for that because it doesn't drape well.
I have very good linen napkins and tried one of the napkins to line my brotform. The weave is much tighter than my couche linen and it doesn't wick well, so I purchased two of the SFBI linen liners for baskets.
Having used both cotton canvas and linen, for me there's no contest. Linen is the way to go.
Thank you Lindy,
I'll have to find a local store that can sell me some Linen. I'm sure I can pick some up in the garment center from some storefronts.
i use a material called duck cloth in the artisan bakery where i work. it works very good
thank you. where can this cloth be obtained from?
I don't know about where you live, but around here fabric stores are fairly rare these days. Then finding one that has cloth that's the right fiber for a couche and heavy and fairly close weave and quite flexible and unbleached is almost impossible. (What's right for baking is wrong for sewing, so fabric stores that cater to seamstresses won't have it.)
While "imaginative" tools are often part of the challenge of home baking, IMHO this is one tool where the repurposing approach just plain doesn't work very well. For a long time I dithered between the high cost of a ready-made couche from some baking suppliers and the difficulty of getting the right fabric outside of the baking world. Then, thanks to TFL, I discovered that San Francisco Baking Institute sells exactly the right raw linen canvas cloth at a reasonable price.
You can look at SFBI's website. Then to order you need to call them on the phone. Give them your credit card number over the phone and a few days later a roll of just the right couche cloth will show up at your doorstep. I highly recommend them.
(I'm supposed to let this topic go, but I just can't)
I can't agree more with Chuck. I used to work near San Francisco and there is a great fabric store there. It was the one and only place where I have found linen that is the approximation (and only an approximation) of linen couche cloth as supplied by TMB Baking. I would use it in a pinch if for some reason I couldn't use my couche. (I actually use it for sewing projects...)
The cost? More than $50 per yard.
Go to TMB's website. Do the math.
Cotton duck or cotton canvas is used by many bakers with great success, but if you are not constrained by having to purchase locally or by severe financial concerns, try the linen. With care it will last several lifetimes and be a joy to use.