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. Jean: Sounds like the flour you’re using and the longer rest time aren’t agreeing with each other. I bet KAF AP will solve your problem because its higher protein will absorb more water and result in a drier dough. Alternatively, you could try decreasing the water a bit. To the best of my knowledge, KAF medium rye isn’t available in the Twin Cities so I’ve ordered it from the KAF website. And if you’re loaves are spreading laterally, the Dutch Oven or other pan will solve the problem.

    Dr B: My Fantes Brotorm arrived too! I’ll try it as soon as I’m back in town, but it looks perfect for small loaves like one-pounders. The baking time should be the same if the loaf weight is about the same. I was just going to use flour rather than messing with Bakers Joy, we’ll see if that works.

    And thanks for your suggestion about a general question area, we know we need it. There are some technical challenges that we are working on; the WordPress software is flexible, but only to a point, and then you need a bunch of custom programming. Jeff

  2. Those are gorgeous pictures. I mentioned in my LiveJournal that I was having troubles with the basic boule recipe; my most recent batch from the second week wound up *very* wet, so wet that I poured off water when I took it out of the rising bin and had to knead flour into it to give it any body at all. It rose well out of the oven, but fell flat and stayed that way in the oven.

    You asked on my LJ if I were using a high-protein flour. My staple flour is King Arthur (the regular, not the bread flour) which is very high-protein and I used American yeast.

    Are there weight equivalents anywhere on your site? I might try that next time, rather than the scoop-and-sweep method.

  3. Hi Jonquil.

    Ok, so it isn’t the flour! I use KA all-purpose all the time with no issue.

    Perhaps try weighing the flour and see what you come up with.

    2 pounds = 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

    With the KA flour I usually add another 1/4 cup of water, because the protein content is so high and it absorbs so much extra water.

    As you mentioned on your LJ you will want to wait at least 2 days before baking off your first loaf so that it has time to ferment. After that you should be good!?

    I really hope you will give it another try and let me know what you find.

    Thanks so much! Zoë

  4. I waited two days before baking my first two loaves. The next loaves came a little over a week later, and had the severe sogginess problem I mentioned.

    I may try again with KA’s bread flour instead of the all-purpose.

  5. Jonquil: One other thing to consider if you’re finding your result to be too wet is to skip the covered Dutch oven. That method’s worked well for me when I’ve tried it, but its closed environment retains moisture more than baking a free-form loaf on a stone, where all that surface is exposed to hot air (which dissipates the moisture). That might be why you’re getting a result that’s so much wetter than what you’d like. Jeff

  6. Thank you for the thought; the problem has been that the dough has been too wet when I removed it from the dough bucket, long before it ever reached the Dutch oven, and far too wet to hold its shape when baked free-form.

    I may retry without adding the extra water for King Arthur flour.

  7. Hi Jeff and Zoe,
    I am enjoying your technique, but I have a website concern: so much good information is coming out in the comments, but then they are not really searchable. For example, I want to read all the ideas about setting up the night before, but there is no good way for me to do so. Can you somehow separate the wheat from the chaff (sorry, couldn’t resist) and let the stuff worth sharing come through? Congrats on one of those ideas that is so obvious afterwards…true proof of a great idea.
    –Shari

  8. Shari: You are so right. As of this moment, we don’t have the technical capability to do what you suggest, but we are working on it! Jeff

  9. I got the book for christmas and in the last week have made the basic boule and today the almond cream brioche. I am utterly amazed at the ease and the flavor!! I’m sooo hooked!Am taking one of the brioches to work tomorrow and my husband says I’ll score major points!

    I made the boule and then some baquettes and like the internal texture of the baquettes the best.

    My one question is how to tell when the interior is done…..the crust looks great but I worry that it might be doughy inside. Any tips?

  10. Hi Chris,

    We go by the color of the crust to determine if the bread is dough. You can see on the cover of the book that we go for a nice deep brown crust. Once you’ve got that color it should be done.

    If you are using a thermometer than it should read 200 degrees. But we never do, we just go by color!

    Thanks, enjoy the brioche! Zoë

  11. My first attempt at bread using a banneton/brotform was a mixed result. I floured the brotform liberally so the risen dough easily dropped onto the stone, however the bread was a bit dense with an undercooked center.

    Since most of the dough surface is on the brotform it is not exposed to the ambient tempature as is on a pizza peel, thus I should have allowed it to rise for a much longer time.

    I did not bake it to a dark crust because I failed to follow the recommendation Zoe made a few messages above this one. I will try again!

    The bottom line is the brotform, from Fantes, worked but I will refine my technique over time. Flour, water, yeast and salt are cheap so playing around with dough doesn’t cost much but a little time.

  12. Dr B: What size brotform did you get from Fantes, and how long did you rest the dough? I have the 6 1/2 diameter basket and I still haven’t baked with it. When I used the 8 1/2 inch basket, I had to let it rest a long time (2 hours). I’m wondering if the rule with these brotforms may be that you need to let it come completely to room temperature but I’ll see.

    Jeff

  13. I used the 6.5″ just like yours that was in the Fantes link I gave you last week. I may try to make another in a couple days when I have more time. Anxious to hear your experience.

  14. OK, I’m cheap! I just improvised by using a plastic serving basket I bought for a buck from my local pub – the type they serve french fries and buffalo wings in – Also used straw basket that came with a fruit assortment at Christmas !

  15. Gary: That should work just fine, so long as the plastic doesn’t stick to the dough. We have to work on a Buffalo Wing bread, thanks for the idea.

    Jeff

  16. Hi,
    well KA doesn’t sell malted wheat flakes anymore. . . For their malt bread (or something like it) it says you can substitute Maltex cereal for the malted wheat flakes, what do you think? I don’t know why I’m fixated on the granary bread but . . . I am.

  17. Teresa:
    Arghhh!!! Sorry about that, I promise it was available when we wrote that recipe. I’d trust KAF and go with the Maltex; their test kitchens are pretty careful. You could always order the real thing from England (http://www.expats-shoppingarcade.co.uk/supermarket/baking/flour,-yeast-and-bread-mixes/?page=0). Just kidding, unless you actually ordered the Hovis Malted Brown Granary flour. I suppose I’ll be doing it at some point. I promise, I am more obsessed than you are. Jeff

  18. All: The 6 1/2-inch Fantes banneton form worked beautifully, much easier to bake through. It only took about a pound and a half of dough. Jeff

  19. I use a banneton from KA – works better now that it seems more season after multiple uses. The loafs come out good but my slashes(the ones I cut on loaf tops) often close up. The flour does seem to help with being able to cut better slits – but in general my slits in all of loafs from the book don’t stay open as well. Just wondering if this is a symptom of using the wetter dough – yet the pictures in the book have great slits!

  20. Lisa: Cut a little deeper (maybe a half-inch rather than the quarter-inch we specify in the book), and keep the blade square with the surface (not at an angle like traditional methods specify). We use a long serrated bread knife rather than a razor or French-style “lame,” those work well for traditional drier dough but not so well for our wet dough.

    If nothing else works, mix your dough a little drier, maybe a quarter-cup less liquid per batch. Or even just two tablespoons could be all you need.

    Jeff

  21. Thanks – I will try that. I was using my lame and slashing at more of an angle. I am a JWU pastry grad and have this slashing technique drilled into me!

  22. Baked off a pumpernickel loaf last night and slashed as you described and it came out great – nice deep tic-tac design! Thanks for all of your feedback – never before have I been able to get a book and cook my way thru it while getting such helpful feedback from the authors!

  23. A friend gave me excellent bread to taste, she made it from a recipe that she got from the N.Y.Times. She used beer and vinegar for some of the liquid
    The bread had a real sour dough flavor. If I use beer & vinegar in your Boule, what other subsitutions do I have to make?

  24. Add a half-cup beer, 2 tablespoons of white vinegar, and decrease the water by 1/2-cup plus 2 tablespoons and let us know what you think.

    Thanks, Jeff

  25. O.k. I found the reference in KA Whole Grain Baking: Maltex, a hot cereal that may be found in your grocery store’s cereal aisle alongside the oatmeal, is a great substitute for hard-to-find (impossible now that KA doesn’t stock them) malted wheat flakes. In Maltex the berries are chopped into fine pieces reather than sliced, but their flavor is the same. Use them 1:1 as you would malted wheat flakes.
    So after trying to track Maltex down for a few weeks I found it, finally. I’m going to try the granary bread again!
    teresa

  26. Hi Jeff,
    I found the Maltex at Hannafords = I found a post on chowhounds for someone looking for Maltex in the Boston area that said that was the only grocery store to carry it. . . you can email the manufacturer and they will tell you if there’s anywhere in your area to carry it I suppose. The bread is really good.

  27. Hey! I made the sun-dried tomato and parmesan and it was great so I am thinking of spreading some of my homemade pesto on and rolling up and baking. I was in a hurry so made just the filling from the sticky bun recipe and spread it on some rolled out master recipe dough and rolled it up and everyone loved it so then I did the same and sprinkled on some chocolate chips as well. Weight Watchers has banned me from future weigh-ins- but I’m happy.

  28. I’m glad to hear that the 6 1/2-inch Fantes banneton form worked so well. I just ordered one.

    I am having so much fun with your book. I identify myself as a cook, not a baker, but I have been thrilled with the results that I’m getting. Weighing the flour rather than using the scope method has worked better for me.

  29. I’ve had good result letting small loaves and sticky buns rise slowly in the fridge overnight and baked in the morning. Given the long rise necessary for an 8/8.5 inch brotform, do you think it is still possible to do a slow rise in the oven. I am looking for a way to get a large loaf fully baked out of the brotform in the morning without getting up at 3 a.m. to shape and rise.
    Thanks.

  30. Hi Ethan,

    What are you considering a large loaf? I do think that this retarded refrigerated rise will work well for a larger loaf of bread. Having said that, there is probably a limit to just how big. You may need to do some experimenting as to just how far you can push the size of the loaf.

    Thanks! Zoë

  31. I’m using an 8 or 8.5 inch loaf – I believe the same one Jeff used in the pictures above, so I am figuring about 3 lbs of dough. Any thoughts on this size for the overnight fridge rise?
    Thanks, appreciate all the help and support you guys have provided.

  32. Ethan: Well, it’s worth a try, but I think we should view any attempt to bake this right out of the fridge as an experiement— you may waste 3 pounds of dough. If it works, great, but I’m skeptical about this large a piece of dough being baked cold. It’s just going to be hard to get done in the middle.

    But as I say, it’s worth a try. I’d put the whole thing in a plastic bag because the fridge can be dehydrating. Jeff

  33. Thanks. I may just get up early to shape go back to sleep while it rises. A small price to pay for fresh baked bread at brunch.

  34. Ethan: You are more obsessed with bread than I am, which believe me, is saying quite a lot!

    Thanks for your enthusiasm, and let me know how it works out. Jeff

  35. I was just wondering…. Is it o.k. to use SAF instant yeast with your recipe? Should I use a different amount? Thanks!! Kim

  36. I made a batch of master dough on a Friday night (my first) and didn’t touch it until Tues night and it had the most spectacular sourdough flavour and smell and had that creamy custardy consitency when chewing. While I wait for my baking stone to arrive I’m going to bake the rest in my dutch oven. I’m so glad I found your book and can’t wait for the 2nd.
    Abby

  37. Greetings from sunny South Africa (Johannesburg). I have been downloading recipes from your site for ages but finally received my book! Anybody out there to give me some tips on how to get a better crust? The loaves look and taste great but (I think) the crusts are too thin.

  38. When I put the dough into the banneton I cover it with a piece of parchment paper.

    To put it into the oven, I just put my peel over the paper, flip the benneton and put the parchment paper and bread onto my preheated stone in the oven.

    Works like a charm!

    • Yeah, parchment is kind of the wonder paper, isn’t it? Using it quite a lot, though I’ve never had a problem just dropping the loaf right onto the stone. Jeff

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