The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.


DoubleMerlin's picture


Hey y'all,

I've been trying to proof breads in a make-shift banneton, that is, a metal colander with a linen towel, and it always ends up with partially hydrated bits of flour all over the top of the bread. How does one ever use floured cloth to make a good bread? And if I should actually buy myself a form that doesn't require cloth, what should I use?



Elagins's picture


The dough is sticking most likely because (a) you're not using enough flour and/or (b) you're using a cotton cloth, rather than linen. For some reason, linen wicks the moisture away from the dough, unlike cotton, which holds the moisture and bonds with the dough. Which is why the French line their bannetons with linen and use linen, not cotton, for their couches.

The Germans use brotforms made of wicker, which, when floured properly, won't even let rye doughs stick, and leave a nice striated pattern on the dough.

Myself, I prefer brotforms, but it also depends on the kind of breads I bake (keeping things culturally appropriate, since the French and Germans have a long history of not getting along).

Stan Ginsberg

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Also, you should use rice flour instead of regular flour to dust your baskets.  Works much better.


StuartG's picture

Or sift rye flour to remove any course grains and use that.  Leaves a beautiful dusting on the loaves.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

to get a nice even coat of flour, at least it helps me.  I tend to use plastic colanders/baskets as they have more holes in them unless your metal is more of a screen.  It can be that there are too many solid spots on the metal colander (I'm guessing it looks like it's the spaghetti type draining colander with just a few holes?)  

The idea of using any of these rising techniques with a form (other than one that also goes into the oven) works on the principal  that air can circulate so the dough builds an even skin next to the fabric.  This skin then supports the free standing loaf in the oven until oven spring takes over to shape the loaf.   If that skin is not happening or has wet spots and is bonding to the cloth or shows obvious wet spots on the skin, some king of tweaking needs to be done.  That skin is then great for scoring.

Perhaps a different form or less time in the form or more flour or a low or no gluten flour or pale baked bread crumbs.  Try dusting the dough before it makes contact with the cloth or rolling the dough in some absorbent seed or flattened grain like oats, flax or sunflower seeds or raw nut flours.  I tend to use plain ol' cotton dishtowels and I picked up a nice plastic colander from Good Will for a quarter.  It has lots of holes for good circulation.  I also place the filled colander on a cooling rack while the dough is rising so air circulates under the loaf.  <(another very good tip!)  

How does one flour the cloth?

Lay the cloth out flat, sprinkle some flour (or whatever) around the center and partially out to the sides, about where your dough will touch and rise onto.  You want enough flour to just cover up the cloth texture and patterns. You don't want the flour deep enough to think about going to the beach or dream of hitting the ski hill.  If you missed any spots, add some more flour (big tip here)>  take your finger tips and using a circular motion work the flour gently into the cloth.  Add or subtract flour as needed.   You may also want to add a layer of flour to make a decoration on the dough using a stencil (or cut out phyllo dough or cabbage leaf or braids or or or... .) 

(If you are a production type baker, spread out all your forms draped with cloth and aim from the sidelines with a bowl of flour to dust as many as you can, as fast as you can creating a big dust cloud that settles eventually onto all the waiting forms.  Don't Breathe and stay away from open flames.)  :)  Lol! 

Plop your dough upside down on the cloth, pick up the corners and gently cradle it in the colander, unglazed flower pot or basket.  Or tie the ends of the cloth together leaving room for the dough to expand and hang from an upper cupboard knob.  

Also worth mentioning is that very high hydration doughs tend to stick to just about everything and a runny or sloppy dough might do better rising in a floured form, a form that supports the rising dough that can take the oven heat;  won't deform, burn up or melt in the oven.  Make sure the opening is larger than the bottom of the pan if you want the bread out in one piece.