Beautiful boules with a banneton (brotform)

 

Keep that scorchy flour off your lens! Here’s how it looks a little closer in:

People have asked how to prevent free-form loaves from spreading sideways, especially if the dough is a little too wet or it’s near the end of its batch-life (two weeks). Using a banneton (or in German, brotform), is one gorgeous solution to the problem, and they work well with our method. But, you’ll have to make a few adjustments. Interested? Bannetons (brotforms) are wicker rising baskets available from baking supply places or on Amazon. By containing the rising/resting dough, the basket prevents sideways spread with wet dough, and creates a beautiful pattern of flour that contrasts nicely with slash-marks. Since very small bannetons (5 or 6 inches would be ideal) are hard to find, you’re stuck making large loaves, like the one in the picture, with my 8 to 9-inch banneton. That’s OK, but keep in mind that rising/resting times, and most importantly, baking time, will have to increase dramatically. To make the loaf in the pictures took nearly 3 pounds of Italian Peasant dough (page 46 in the book). So, here’s how to use the banneton:

Put some white flour into the bottom of the banneton and then shake it all around so it coats the sides. Be generous with the flour!

Shape and “cloak” a round freeform loaf as usual, pinching together the loose ends underneath. Choose a loaf-size so the dough comes about 2/3’s of the way up the sides of the banneton. Place the loaf into the banneton with the irregular side up. The smooth cloaked side should be in contact with the wicker basket. For the 8 to 9-inch banneton, this took about 3 pounds of dough, so the loaf needed along rest to come close to the top of the basket, about 2 hours. Twenty to forty minutes before baking, preheat your oven to 450 degrees F, with a baking stone near the center of the oven and a broiler tray on any other shelf that won’t interfere with rising bread:

After the dough is rested, use your fingers to be sure that it isn’t sticking to the wicker (it wasn’t). Don’t dig way down or you’ll start deflating everything. Gently turn the basket over onto your preheated stone; it should gently drop onto the stone. If it doesn’t, help it out with your fingers and make the best of it. It should be salvageable even if it deflates a bit, because of oven spring. Slash the loaf in a cross, which will be beautiful with the concentric circles of flour:

Now comes the tricky part; this is a beastly huge bread. It took about an hour in my oven at 450 and I was happy with the result (crumb pictured below, crust above). When you make a large loaf you risk doughiness in the center; let the crust get deep, deep brown. Frankly, mine could have gone even longer. It’s tough to overbake large loaves made from high-moisture dough. But the result was worth the effort. If I can find a small banneton, I’ll post again.

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137 thoughts on “Beautiful boules with a banneton (brotform)

  1. Has anyone tried to bake (or just proof) in a stoneware form to maintain the integrity of the design? I work with clay and it would allow my creativity including the coil effect.

    • Hi Chris,

      As long as you flour the inside so the dough doesn’t stick to the form I bet it would work. If you do make one please report back so we know how it turned out!

      Thanks, Zoë

  2. Hi there I don’t know if already posted, but another cheap brotform alternative is a waffle weave tea towel in a appropriately sized bowl. Generously flour the tea towel and give a spritz with a bit of cooking spray. Don’t have to worry about longevity of a traditional brotform staples if you want to do overnight rises in the fridge with very wet dough etc… The larger the waffle on your towel the more dramatic the look. I even managed a slight flower decoration on one loaf using an embroidered cloth napkin, before I found the waffle tea towel. That was pretty cool!

  3. I should add I use this technique so I can make a grapefruit sized boule – instead of an enormous loaf which you get with a brotform – I use my smallest glass mixing bowl. The bigger the loaf the more side folds the teatowel needs, and it is just not as pretty. I also cover with parchment. Just before baking I flip the whole thing onto the peel, remove the towel, slash and into the oven pronto.

  4. Just got your “Healthy Bread” book and can’t wait to give it a try. I found the smaller brotforms you mentioned (5.5 inches round) online for $12.99 (each) here:
    http://brotform.com/zencart/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=1
    They say they’re for a half-pound loaf, but that doesn’t make sense given that you needed 3-4 lbs of dough for the 8 inch size. I’ve ordered a couple of these smaller ones and am going to give them a try.

  5. I have a question. Why are people asking about how long the dough can be stored? I never seem to keep my stored more than a couple of days because we eat it too fast. Thanks for the book and its secrets!
    Real question: How do you keep baked breads fresh longer? I never seem to get more than 2 days out of a cut loaf.

  6. Totally off topic, but I was intrigued by mention of Bubbles’ boozy peach jam and have spent the last hour scouring the internet for a recipe. You would think it would be easier to find one here in virtual land. I’m going to try this one:
    http://bookcook.blogspot.com/2009/11/vanilla-bourbon-peach-jam.html

    On a more on-topic note, I’ll be trying my first loaf of bread from the article on the Mother Earth magazine website tomorrow. I have the book on hold at the local library, but I’m 7th in line before I get it. I should probably just buy it now, since I’m sure I’ll end up with it anyway!!

  7. I used to bake bread using a poolish and it involved doing the final rise in a basket. However, any bowl-shaped object will do (have used baskets, bowls, colanders). The trick is to line the container first with a well floured piece of cotton (something with a fine weave). The floured cloth keeps the bread from sticking to the basket, but allows the dough to form and take on any bumps or ridges as it rises. The result is beautiful, and a more rounded shape. I’m hoping to try this with my next batch of dough.

    • Hi Elaine,

      When you are working with our dough you will want to use a considerable amount of flour on the cloth, since our method requires a wet dough.

      Let us know how it goes! Zoë

  8. CAN I use a Bakers couche to proof baguette shape loaves.?

    Also can I use a couche lined basket? This would save me a lot of money

    There is an art store where I live which sells raw flax linen at a reasonable price

      • thanks Also, your pizza dough is so good. If you ever get to St. Louis be certain to go to the Hill. It’s the Italian section of St. Louis. Great restaurants and, of course pizza. Volpi sausage store is there

  9. I’ve been proofing the Master Boule Dough (New Bread in 5) in a 13″ long coiled wicker brotform, about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds of dough, with good results. I’ve been forming the ball and then stretching it into a log, but it takes quite a bit of handling to get it that long. Even so, the bread has a lovely, holey crumb although one end of the loaf is often a little thicker than the other because the dough is so nicely springy.

    In order to get a more uniformly-shaped loaf, however, I wondered if I would be better off rolling out the dough into an 11- or 12-inch wide oval and then using the letter-fold to shape it before transferring it to the brotform. I know it will stretch a bit as I am moving it to the brotform. I don’t really want to roll out the bubbles but hope that they might re-form during the steamy oven spring. What are your thoughts?

    • Hi Rita,

      Yes, I’d recommend that you use the letter-fold technique to get it to the shape and length you desire. It will rise and bake beautifully!

      Cheers, Zoë

  10. I didn’t want to get any oil on my brotforms when covering my dough with oiled plastic wrap during the 90-minute or longer proof (final rise); it is unwieldy and sometimes it stuck anyway. I found several sizes of plastic shoe or boot boxes at The Container Store that would accommodate my 13 1/2″ brotforms/bannetons. (Best ones for me are the men’s shoeboxes.)

    http://www.containerstore.com/shop/dorm/storage/storageBoxes?productId=10000166

    They also have some square accessory boxes that might work for small boules. If proofing multiple loaves under one roof, they also carry larger under-bed boxes, although I find the single-loaf boxes more convenient.

    I just turn them upside-down over the rising dough on the counter, whether it was in brotforms or shaped as free-formed boules on parchment. This keeps them in a moist environment during the proof and keeps them from forming a skin. Since they are clear, it is easy to check on the dough’s progress. And if placing the brotforms in a right-side up box, they can be moved or stacked to save space.

    And lastly, the boxes are great for storing the brotforms and my bread-making equipment!

    In the unlikely event that you should have a spare empty dough bucket, you could use that as a proofing box for boules as well.

      • Thank you SO much for the quick reply. I did it your way- first one not too bad and I let it go longer so it got nice and dark! I just love baking bread thanks to you and Zoe and I LOVE the new book!

  11. Hi Jeff,

    First off, I’m amazed that you are so great at responding to people here, and your first book changed my life :-) Now to my questions, is there a reason that the dough has to totally fill the banneton? Is it so that there’s less of a chance of it deflating when you tip it out, or just for the design aspect? And second, even with lots of flour my dough stuck to the wicker. I see that some people use a bit of oil before the flour. Are you opposed to that? TIA.

    • Hi Kate,

      The design made by the flour is more noticable if the dough fits in the basket. If it is just a small ball at the bottom you will only have the rings on the top of the loaf.

      I make sure the dough has a good covering of flour, so it isn’t as sticky when it goes into the banneton. I’ve never had a need for using oil, but it may work. I’d use it very sparingly.

      Thanks, Zoë

      • I have had great success following exactly what Zoe and Jeff suggest. I have an 8″ basket I found on Amazon and using 3 lbs of master dough and letting it rest two hours was just the right time for it to rise. I only use rice flour in the basket (no oil, no water etc). I baked it for an hour and it got really dark but was very moist inside. The challenge I have now and keep working on is the scoring- a good serrated bread knife seems to work best for me- The more loaves I do the more the rice flour builds up in the banneton and the better the circles. My question now is what changes, if any, do I need to make with this and other breads in a gas oven. Never made bread in one before and I’m heading to vacation home that has one. Do I put the water pan on lower rack (thought I read one place it just sits on bottom of oven w/out a rack) and pizza stone above just like w/ electric oven? Can’t wait to take the “new” book and try lots of new things- just a bit nervous using a gas oven. Thank YOU!

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