How to use a cane Banneton
How to use a cane banneton A new banetton is effectively ‘green’ and so until you have conditioned your new banneton it is not ready for use.
Cane bannetons work best with a thin build-up of flour and moisture and if you have a moment to look in any normal bakery you will see that all bakers value a small build up of flour on their proving baskets. It is the build up of flour and moisture which helps your dough leave the banneton before baking.
Conditioning a banneton.
After three regular uses the banneton you can expect that the banneton has perfect moisture levels to retain a dusting of flour and this facilitates easy release of your dough.
The first time that you use your new banneton you can help to condition it by lightly misting it with water then dust your banneton with flour and tip out the excess the day before you use it. This is the beginning of your flour and moisture build up.
When it comes to using your banneton everyday you need to liberally dust it. Ideally the flour will get between the cracks between the cane, but be careful not to over do it. Too much flour will stop the lovely spiral effect your banneton creates. On the other hand you do have to have a good even coverage because equally you don’t want your dough to stick.
Once you have been using your banneton for a few weeks you will find a the right balance .
What flour to use?
There are several views on which flour to use, but really it depends on what finish you want your bread to have. Some people swear by using rye flour. It absorbs moisture well and gives your bread a good crust. For beginners I suggest making up a 50:50 mix of rice flour and stoneground white. It makes it easy for the dough to come out of the basket and leaves a beautiful clean white pattern. You can use other ingredients to dust. I’ve used turmeric and flour mixed with great effect and a mix of cocoa powder and flour to create dark rings, as well as a mix of roasted barley malt and white flour, but be aware that all of these leave a residue on your basket.
Please don’t roll your eyes when I say that bannetons are for proving only. Do not bake in the bannetons! (and yes I do know several people who have mistakenly baked their sourdough in the basket. It was not a pretty sight.)
The way in which a bannetons works is by creating a very slightly humid micro-climate between the dough and the banneton during proofing. Bannetons holds most of the dough, but the top of the dough is exposed and you must protect your dough from drafts. Generally I use a shower cap, but a dusting of flour and either a light cotton or soft linen cloth will also to the job. Again a build up of flour is also a good thing on your cloth.
The best place to to prove your sourdough is somewhere draft free at temperatures of 8C to 18C if you want to bake the same day with a lighter flavour or overnight in the fridge to develop a fuller flavour. There is absolutely no need to use a humid proving cabinet as the banneton is the prover!
After use leave in the sunlight for a few hours. Brush with a dedicated bristle brush and store your banneton in a light well ventilated spot.
What about washing my banneton? Personally I avoid washing my bannetons but if you get your dough dried on in such a thick and crusty way that your basket looks scaly rather than smooth then you can wash it. Do not use soap. Use cool water and make it as brief as possible. Do not soak your basket for longer than about 8 minutes or it will expand and unravel. Give it a good scrub but be aware that you can ruffle up the natural fibres by scrubbing too hard and your basket will unweave. Generally the only thing I have ever actually done in a professional bakery is brush them out dry with a stiff brush once they are dried out. Certainly if you dust your banneton well then a home baker’s banneton which is used less frequently should never really actually need washing.
Don’t panic if you find mould on your banneton. Pop your banneton in a warm oven (130C) for 45 minutes. At this temperature all moulds will be destroyed and the banneton will dry out. You can prevent mould in the first instance by airing your banneton in direct sunlight for several hours after each use and by making sure that they are stored dry when not in use. It is important to store bannetons away from both humid or odorous environments and to make sure that air can circulate freely between them. If you can, then find a way then avoid stacking bannetons on top of each other because stacking them creates more humid environments suitable for mould.