What is the function of a banneton?
A banneton’s function is to support the dough with structural strength to allow the dough to hold its shape as it proofs. Without the banneton, the dough will gradually flatten under its own weight during proofing, resulting in a baked loaf with poor volume.
The banneton also allows us to transfer the dough onto the peel without touching the dough, as we can simply flip the dough and the banneton onto the peel to reduce the risk of the dough sticking to our hands and tearing.
Common kitchen items as an alternative for a banneton
Any stiff and light material that is washable and food safe can be used as an alternative to a banneton. The dough should take up roughly half the space of the container, leaving enough room for the dough’s expansion during proofing.
The container should be stiff, so that it does not deform under the weight of the dough, and is able to hold the dough in shape as it proofs.
The container should be light enough for you to comfortably handle it with one hand, as you would need to flip the container upside down onto a peel when the dough has finished proofing.
The container should be the right size for your dough. If the container is too big, the dough will flatten as the walls of the container are too far apart. If the container is too small, the dough will expand and flow out of the container.
Here are some common kitchen items that works well as a banneton:
- Plastic, ceramic, glass, metal, wooden bowls
- Pots and pans
- Wide thermos jugs
- Tightly woven sieve
- Aluminium foil trays
Choosing the right cloth to line your proofing basket
Your homemade proofing basket should be lined with a cloth which acts as a non-stick layer when it is dusted with flour. The non-stick layer allows a clean transfer of the proofed dough from the proofing basket onto the peel without tearing.
The cloth also acts an impermeable barrier which the dough can not pass through, when using a porous container like a colander or a sieve as the proofing basket.
An oversized cloth that has a tight weave is the best cloth to line your proofing basket with.
The tight weave ensures the flattest surface possible for the flour to coat and create a non-stick surface for the dough. If the cloth is fluffy, or loosely weaved, the flour finds its way in between the loose strands of threads, creating a less effective non-stick surface for the dough.
When an oversized cloth is used, we can wrap the excess cloth onto the dough which functions as a cover for your dough to prevent it from drying out excessively.