If you’re a keen bread baker you probably will have one or more proofing bannetons. These can actually represent quite a bit of financial outlay, if you’ve amassed a collection. The fact that they’re such useful and essential kit for a baker together with the financial investment does mean they need a little looking after.
Cane or wicker
These can need ‘settling in for the first 3-5 bakes. Spray the banneton very lightly (do not soak) with water and then dust with flour and tap out the excess.
Normal home baking use
Bannetons should be fairly well dusted with flour before each use.
If the flour isn’t dusting the banneton as you’d like (all the flour just falls to the bottom, for instance), then use a light misting of water, wipe round with a clean cloth to make sure it’s evenly dampened, and then dust.
For dusting, I use a 50:50 mix of rice flour and any other flour I have to hand, so for instance 50% rice flour and 50% strong white or 50% rice and 50% gram flour. The rice flour is exceptionally drying and increases the barrier that the flour provides to stop the dough sticking to the banneton.
Only use your bannetons for proofing your dough: never bake in them.
After use, tap out the excess flour and allow to dry before storing. For most uses, this is enough to keep your banneton in good working order.
Never put your banneton away unless totally dry.
Keep them in a damp-free environment.
Once dry, bannetons can be stacked together if in a suitably dry environment (if it’s remotely damp, store with plenty of air circulation between them).
If your banneton has crusty old flour and bits of dough built up, the first thing to do is dry brush it.
There are specialist curved banneton brushes you can buy, but I now use the little round wooden palm washing up brushes you can get. Never use them wet though to brush off normal-use levels of flour (apart from washing – see below).
In 30 years of bread baking I’ve only had to ever wash one or two bannetons, because even though I bake all my bread it’s still not that often as compared to a professional level of use. If you really think your banneton needs a wash, here’s how I’ve washed mine:
- Give the banneton a bath in warm water (no cleaning liquids) for about 15-20 minutes. Use your cleaning brush or a washing up brush to scrub and flick away any mould or previously-stuck on dough.
- Immediately tap out the water and dry with a clean tea towel.
- Leave to dry in a warm spot (in front of a fire, by a radiator, in the sun or ideally in the sunshine in fresh air if the weather is right).
- If you don’t think you’ve got a sufficiently dry place, pop them in a warm-ish oven (100-130C) for 30 minutes.
If your banneton is very mouldy, I’d say it’s time for a new one. I have to be frank and say none of mine have ever got to this point. So, I don’t honestly know if there’s any coming back from it or not. My best suggestion, is that it might be worth soaking in a mild sterilisation fluid (such as Milton) which is used for baby’s bottles and then scrubbing and drying thoroughly. However, I’d make sure the banneton is 100% dry (maybe use the warm oven technique above) so that there’s no trace of the sterilisation fluid: as that might possibly inhibit yeast activity.
Dust liners liberally with flour if using.
Like the bannetons themselves, liners need to be stored bone dry.
If there’s a little flour and dough build-up, it’s easier to wait until it’s dried and then simply brush off.
Liners are much more likely to need cleaning than the bannetons they pair with. The good news is they’re easier to clean:
Brush off as much as you can. Soak in warm water with a tiny amount washing up liquid or clothes detergent. Use the liner to scrub against itself
Brotforms – wood or paper pulp forms
Care for these similarly to bannetons, but they must NEVER get cleaned with or immersed in water as they’ll start to disintegrate (they’re basically constructed in the same was as paper).
Follow the given manufacturer’s instructions, but most suppliers state that these can be semi-sterilised in a cool oven (100-130 C) for about half an hour.