The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

High quantity cold proofing

Tstockton's picture

High quantity cold proofing

Ive started baking 32-hour cold proofed sourdough for friends and family, and am considering starting to sell at farmers market. But I'm wondering if I really need to buy 20-30 bannetons for shaping/proofing, or if there is another method (maybe with a couche?) that works with a high number of loaves? Any ideas appreciated! 

AlanG's picture

That's my standard size loaf (bake two of them at a time for home eating).  I would think that to go higher than that would require a banneton.

jimbtv's picture

Personal experience here. I have proofed batards in the 600 - 800 gram range in a couche and had them turn out just fine. With that said I have now moved over to bannetons for the same batards so that I can cold proof them for 8 - 10 hours. They pop out of the bannetons with a firm shape and some awesome floured lines (visual bling), and they score effortlessly. Maybe I could cold proof in couches too but I just don't like placing my baker's boards in the chiller, or in a proofer for that matter. Those nice, flat wooden boards might not take to rapid changes in humidity too well. I think I get a bit more oven spring using the bannetons but it's not a whole lot different.

I read of bakers that use those very cheap woven-plastic baskets that you see usually stuffed with a burger and fries at the local diner. I have seen them lined-up with a single cloth liner that laces it way through each basket, so you might not have to invest a lot of money to get that "banneton" result.

My bannetons are dusted with rice flour and I do not use a cloth liner. The rice flour is an amazing release agent for this purpose.

Hydration will likely have an effect on the couche/banneton debate too. Wetter doughs will probably need a form of some sort to keep them from collapsing under their own weight. Of course, the gluten build will affect the results too. 

Personally I'd do some experimentation and see what works best for you.



Tstockton's picture

Fry baskets are a good idea! I use rice flour too; love my bannetons, but I'm just not sure I want to spend $15 a pop for another 20... I'm around 75% hydration for the loaves id probably sell so it can be somewhat loose dough. 

RoundhayBaker's picture

...couche? Might be very tricky getting them in and out of your retarder/fridge without disrupting the dough. Have you considered cold retarding during the bulk ferment then shaping and proofing afterwards? Depending upon how many loaves you intend to load into the oven at a time, this method might mean you could economize on the number of bannetons.

Tstockton's picture

Hmm that could work. I'll have to experiment with a cold retard at bulk and see if I can produce the same results!

MichaelLily's picture

I got all my baskets from Lucky Clover trading co. Lined baskets, about $3.50 each. Rattan bannetons are about $8 each. Good quality, and you can't beat the price.

Tstockton's picture

Ooh good resource!!! Thank you!

Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

I use several different things for cold proofing, though I usually do a cold bulk ferment instead. I have baskets that I get from a shop in Chinatown; cost me $1.19 each. I flour them well and they work well, no problem. I have also lined a pan or baking sheet with parchment, sprayed with oil spray and pleated like a couche between the loaves. Then just 'unpleat' the parchment and slide it into the oven (either still on the pan or off the pan onto the stones).

But what works best is my homemade bread risers, made from scrap wood, dowels and bamboo placemats:

For cold proofing I cover the loaves with a cotton napkin then put the whole thing into a plastic bag and into the fridge.

Tstockton's picture

That is amazing!! Like something my woodworking uncles would come up with. I could actually make one that fits my "proofing fridge" (basically a dorm fridge) dimensions perfectly.. Thank you for the idea!! You should patent and sell them ;) 

BethJ's picture

@Tstockton:  What beautiful bread!!