The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

SBI Linen Couche - wash before first use?

MNBäcker's picture
MNBäcker

SBI Linen Couche - wash before first use?

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,

Stephan

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Purchased three yards of linen from SFBI a couple of years ago, washed it, let it air dry, then cut it in half to make two couches.  No shrinkage, no problems.   Ditto for the SFBI linen liners for my brotforms.

While I haven't had to wash my couche (yet), I have tossed the linen liners into the washing machine a couple of times.  They still work perfectly and release the dough.   I think high quality linen is going to stay high quality, even after a few trips through the washer.

See previous postings by proth5, our resident textile expert, on the topic.  

wally's picture
wally

We don't wash the couche we use at the bakery for two reasons: 1- the edges will start unravelling, and 2- you want a 'seasoned' (via flour) couche so that over time you need to rely on less and less flour/rice flour to sprinkle on it.  I would recommend that after each use you allow it to dry thoroughly (at home I lay mine on top of the hot oven as bread is baking), and then take a bench brush (a paint brush will do) and brush off any remaining flour.  Then roll it up and store it.

We cut our couche in nearly 5 ft sections, but then we use it for multiple loaves.  A yard might be a better length for you if you're only planning on placing a loaf or two at a time upon it.

Larry

MNBäcker's picture
MNBäcker

"A yard might be a better length for you if you're only planning on placing a loaf or two at a time upon it."

One yard = 3 feet. Those would have to be some pretty good-size loaves if I could fit only one or two at a time on a three-foot long couche...:)

I did the math, and those three feet should be just the right length for my 28 inch long baking sheet that would hold the loaves. I think I'll be able to fit 5 or 6 loaves on it comfortably.

Stephan

wally's picture
wally

Stephan,

It all depends on what you're placing on the couche.  (And I assume you are remembering the folds in the couche between the loaves and the fact that it should cover the dough being proofed). Baguettes... well, you can easily couche 4 on a yard of linen.  1.5# batards...well, maybe just two.  As for placing 5-6 loaves on a 28 inch baking sheet, good luck, unless it's sticky buns you're baking.

Larry

vtsteve's picture
vtsteve

Are you allowing for the pleats between loaves? You need to bring a fold of the couche above the top of the proofed loaves, or they'll "muffin top" and grow together while proofing. If your loaves will proof 2.5" high, that's 5" per pleat, or 20" for four pleats between five loaves.

I was ordering linen from SFBI, and used their online product info request to ask their suggested length, and it was 1.5 yd. for 18" linen on an 18x26 proofing board.

MNBäcker's picture
MNBäcker

Thanks for the reminder, Steve, but I had the pleats figured in already. I took the 5 yards they sent me and measured - they were actually quite generous with quite a few extra inches. I did a mockup with pleats on the table and came to about 41 inches for my 28 inch baking sheet. Turns out, that was exactly the number I needed to divide their "5 yards" into five pieces of the same length.

Stephan

proth5's picture
proth5

was that I felt the thing needed washing.  After washing it will be "all chaotic" - or as I like to say - wrinkled.  I use my couche in that condition with no problem, but if you want to nice smooth, nwe looking material - you will need to iron it.  Use high heat and iron the material while it is still damp - if you want that extra special smoothness, you can iron both sides.

If you wash - wash before cutting to length - there will be some raveling on the fabric, just trim it off.  Washing prior to cutting will keep this to a minimum.

That being said - when instructed to - I have used this couche brand new without washing.  I thought it had an "odor", but it was in no way transferred to the bread and everything was fine.  The cloth is a little stiff, but will soften over time. You can clean it by scraping down with a bench scraper, if required.

Have fun with your new purchase!

Pat