Using a banneton

“Looks like someone’s got a nice new bowl there” remarked our surprisingly cheerful postman when he arrived at the door yesterday morning with a parcel.

It’s easy to see why he might have thought this was the case, but he had in fact delivered one of eBay’s finest banneton’s. Here it is, all £7’s worth.

A banneton. Today.
A banneton. Today.

For those not in the know, a banneton is used during second proof to give your loaf a nice round shape. I like baking bread in our Le Creuset casserole dish, as per James Morton’s instructions, because it ends up with a delicious crust. The problem with this is that the shape is always a bit variable; sometimes it looks like this, which is great…

They don't always turn out like this
They don’t always turn out like this

… but other times they’re barely round at all, or the top does weird stuff – I made one a couple of weeks ago that looked like a hedgehog, and no-one wants to eat bread that looks like a hedgehog.

So I was excited to receive my banneton, which would hopefully put an end to these issues. To fill it, I made a dough that was 300g wholemeal flour and 200g strong white bread flour. It was going to be a Pain de Campagne style loaf with walnuts and raisins, but in my excitement to try the banneton I forgot to add the walnuts. Or the raisins. This should give you an insight into the reliability of my memory.

Anyway, here’s the dough:

Dough ready to go
Dough ready to go

To use the banneton, you coat the inside with plenty flour to stop the dough from sticking. Then after your dough has proved once, you make a ball and push it into the banneton, smooth side down. Then it’s back in the airing cupboard for second proof. Hopefully by the time you get it out (I left mine for an hour or so), it will have expanded to fill the banneton like so:

IMAG1798
After proof two

Now the tricky part, turning it out. I put my hand in the centre of the dough and quickly tipped it into the Le Creuset. It worked ok, and it’s probably easier if you just use a baking tray.

Dough in the pot
Dough in the pot

You can see the rings, which is the whole point of using the banneton, so all good at this point. Then a quick slash, as it were, to make a cross on the top of the dough and let some of the air out.

Slashed dough
Slashed dough

And into the oven, 20 minutes with the lid on, 20 with the lid off, and the end result looked thus:

Voila
Voila

Generally I was quite pleased. The loaf kept its shape pretty well, and the cross on top is neater than my previous efforts, though this probably had something to do with the brown dough, which was a lot less wet than the white recipe I usually bake with.

However, I put too much flour on, so the loaf looks like it’s been dusted in icing sugar rather than having the distinct rings, which you can just about see at the bottom here:

IMAG1803The banneton is definitely a worthwhile thing, but next time I’ll know not to use quite as much flour. My web surfing got me scared that my dough would stick to the basket, but I probably needn’t have worried. Oh well, you live and learn.

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Using a banneton

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