The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Replacing Flour Sack Towel? (For Ciabatta)

WannaLearn's picture

Replacing Flour Sack Towel? (For Ciabatta)

So I'm attempting to make this Cibatta break recipe, (4 cups of flour, 2 cups of warm water, 0.25 tea spoon yeast, 1.5 tea spoons salt) and after 18 hours of letting the dough rise, you place it on the sheet and cover with... the Flour Sack Towel.. now, this is the first time I've ever heard this term before (eventhough this Cibatta is going to be my first break ever, so I'm obviously new to this), so I've done some research about it online.. and found out its 100% cotton (like any other towel) yet I cant seem to understand how it is different than a normal towel. In the vidoe I can tell it is MUCH lighter, by the way it moves and what not, and it alreasy looks different, but in actual terms, what is the difference?

I can't seem to find it for purchase in my city so I'm being forced to find an alternative D:


Thanks alot in advance =]

RonRay's picture

At one time, flour usually came in cloth bags, rather than paper or plastic. Women used the empty sacks to make many thing. Flour Sack Towel was one, even dresses, etc.  The flower sack material was about equal to a cotton pillowcase, or summer cotton bed sheet material - NOT Terry towel.


Chuck's picture

How old is your recipe?  (Was plastic wrap already invented when the recipe was published?)

I suspect there's a giant stack of "flour sacks" right next to the stack of "record albums", and in front of the stacks of "baling wire", "tophats", and "skeleton keys".

proth5's picture

there are white all cotton towels that are currently marketed under the name "Flour Sack Towels" by several on line retailers (and I'm sure brick and mortar retailers).

It is indeed a smoothly woven cotton towel as reported above.  It is doubtfull that the fabric ever held flour...

(And baling wire is widely available as it is still in active use for many applications... )

flournwater's picture

This is such a nostalgic post.  Grandma used to make my shirts out of flour sack material.  Thanks for the memories.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

was to tuck and sew the edges of flour sack dishtowels.  For as long as I can remember,  the dish towels in the kitchen were big squares of cotton from the flour sacks from my grandparent's depot in the upstairs closet.  That was a fun house and it seem bigger when I was little.  

When Grandpa moved from the farm into town, he was the first to have built-in-closets built right into the house!  The builder didn't know how big closets should be upstairs where the bedrooms were located so he set up a supporting wall (for the roof) at normal room height.  The closets ran between that wall and the eaves and yes, the length of the house.  The angle of the roof wasn't too steep so that meant we could get a double bed mattress or two in just one of the closets!  What a treasure trove!  As kids we always argued over who got to sleep in the closets!  There were even a few cedar chests and sets of chester drawers in there!  A rack with all the bride maid dresses from most of my aunts weddings and I remember a small box with waxed orange blossoms for a bridal veil.   The closets had no windows.  After all, they were closets!  We told lots of ghost stories in there!   There, in that closet, time stood still.

The flour sacks were there, clean, folded and stacked in several piles.  Some were prints, other just plain white muslin.  Some had stamps on them.   I think mom said they also made good diapers.  We always had a few with us when we left my grandparents.  

Here is an interesting link I found:  LINK 

subfuscpersona's picture

a flour sack towel is a slightly thinner fabric than a good quality 100% cotton kitchen "tea towel". The weave is also slightly looser (if you hold it up to the light, you should be able to see the shape of your hand behind the fabric). Used to cover rising bread dough (which is what it was to be used for) it would allow some air exchange (which the heavier, more tightly woven tea towel would not).

Flour sack towels are a good replacement for those over-priced little packets of cheese cloth one sometimes finds in supermarkets. I use them to line a colander when draining the whey from home made fresh cheese. I also use them to line a colander when I strain home made stock. Unlike cheese cloth, they can be washed & dried and used over and over. (A tea towel is not good for this because the weave is too tight and the liquid doesn't drain through easily.)

Hope this helps.


proth5's picture

again, if you order cheesecloth from a good cheese making supply house you can get cheesecloth that can be washed over and over.  I use fine cheesecloth (or "butter muslin" ) in butter making.  Since I also have the cloth that is currently marketed as "Flour Sack Towels" - the butter muslin is just a bit more open than the towels allowing for better drainage when washing home churned butter  (got to get back to doing that...).  I also use butter muslin for stock - and like a towel it can be tossed into the wash machine with some bleach and comes out sparkling clean.  I normally line dry cheesecloth, but have accidentally tossed some in the dryer with no serious problems.

Also good for jelly making in a pinch, but because I love me my toys, I have a special rig for that (which has, on occasion, been pressed into the stock making role...)

Just sayin'


EvaB's picture

I saw was in about 1962 or so, mom always used the flour sacks and they were kept for all sorts of uses. She used to tell of a friend of hers who fainted one time at a country dance and her skirts flipped up and the printed name of the flour company was across the butt of her unders.

My brother loved them for straining his wine, and mom used them for jelly, straining water ( we got water until 1958 in a big barrel on the front step) and just about anything you'd use a dish towel for.

I just go to the fabric store (gettng harder and harder to find those) and buy yards of muslin, wash the sizeing out, and you have lovely large squares of fine thin cotton fabric. I still have a few of the old flour sack cloths and they sure work a lot better than old cotton sheets.

bpezzell's picture

May be purchased in the restaurant section of Sam's Club (and presumably Costco) and even in the home furnishing area of any Walmart, usually with the dish towels, etc.

alldogz's picture

In an effort to be a bit more green i use them in lieu of papertowels in the kitchen (still have the papertowels just not using them everytime i wash my hands)..i got a bunch of them at walmart...they were in kitchenwares and are just plain white, simply edged (think it was in a bunch of 3 or 5)...cheesecloth is probably too thin...and remember those old tea towel calendars...they would probably work too...i have a bunch of those from my grandmother (i was going to use them in quilting but i couldn't bring myself to cut them up)...they are out just have to look!

ADK109's picture

Actually there are different types of towels available. If you go for the kitchen towels and flour towels then you will find different quality of material used for it.  Even in Kitchen Towels there are various types and varieties.