If you're looking for a proofing basket alternative, chances are you'll be able to use something you already have at home.
While bannetons are a great tool to have in your sourdough baker's kitchen, they aren't absolutely essential to great sourdough bread.
You can use other things in your kitchen successfully.
Before you understand what you can use instead of a proofing basket, you first need to know what proofing sourdough actually means.
This blog aims to clarify the role of proofing in the sourdough process, as well as what you can use to proof instead of a proofing basket.
What is Proofing?
So now you might be wondering, well what is proofing when it comes to sourdough?
Proofing refers to allowing the dough to rest after shaping. This can be a little confusing in sourdough, because it can be referred to by many different names.
You might hear people call it the cold retard, cold proof or even the second rise (which really really makes people confused!).
Proofing is different to bulk fermentation, however some people use this term interchangably.
For a more detailed explanation of proofing, you might like this sourdough glossary or this post detailing the differences between bulk ferment and cold proofing.
Since writing this article, I've also written an article on proofing sourdough in the fridge.
What is a Proofing Basket?
A proofing basket (or banneton) is traditionally a rattan basket made specifically for proofing or resting artisan bread.
You'll most typically see it used for sourdough, but it can be used for yeasted breads too.
A proofing basket allows the dough to breath while it proofs.
It also supports its shape during this final rest.
You'll find more of the benefits of using a banneton here.
Getting the right size banneton is important to the final outcome of your sourdough bread.
But what if you don't have a banneton? Or you're trying to bake sourdough on a budget? What can you use instead of a proofing basket or banneton?
10 Banneton Alternatives
Here are 10 things you can use as a proofing basket alternative:
Bowl (Ceramic, Stainless Steel, Glass)
A bowl is probably the simplest thing you can use as a banneton alternative.
No matter how small your kitchen is, chances are you'll have a bowl of some description that is suitable.
It could be a ceramic, stainless steel, glass, wood or even plastic bowl.
It really doesn't matter what it's made out of because you'll need to line it with a tea towel or some kind of cloth.
I have used a stainless steel mixing bowl many times. I do prefer to use a banneton, I won't make any secret of that.
However, before I purchased my bannetons, I used a stainless steel mixing bowl lined with a thin, cotton tea towel.
If you think creatively, there's sure to be a bowl you can utilise in your kitchen.
I like to have fun with my sourdough. These small children's bowls were perfect for making mini sourdough boules.
A wicker basket is another idea for an alternative to a banneton. They are relatively cheap at dollar stores or kitchen stores.
You do need to be careful that you are able to purchase natural baskets. You don't want to use a basket that's coated in chemicals.
Much like a banneton, you could use it without a liner or you could choose to line it with a cloth.
Either way, your dough will have the pattern of the basket imprinted on it as it proofs.
A metal or plastic colander can be used as a proofing basket alternative in the same way as the ricotta basket below.
Smaller is better as it will support your dough better and stop it from spreading out.
If you own a Thermomix, you might have one or two simmer baskets lying around the kitchen.
They are perfect for proofing smaller loaves. I use my simple Thermomix sourdough recipe and divide into two boules at shaping (after bulk ferment).
I use a small piece of thin cotton cloth (an old pillow case is perfect) and rub it well with rice flour.
These are great because like colanders and baskets, they allow the dough to breathe.
A couche is made from heavy linen cloth and is traditionally used to rest baguettes.
But you could use a couche for batards as well.
You would need to place the couche on a baking peel or baking tray so that you could easily transfer it to the fridge for cold retard.
It's also a good idea to place something like a heavy book or similar at each end to stop the loaves from pushing outwards.
You could choose to buy a couche that has been stitched or simply fashion one yourself from a heavy linen tea towel.
It may seem crazy, but you could use a clean terracotta pot as a proofing basket alternative.
You do need to be careful, as some terracotta pots contain chemicals that you don't want near your bread dough.
For this reason, I would also advise using a cloth to line the terracotta pot.
Some garden centres may have a large range of pots and you will be able to find one that is shorter and wider rather than the traditional shape.
Do not attempt to bake your bread in a terracotta pot. This can transfer chemicals from the pot to your bread.
A ricotta basket is a great alternative to a proofing basket or banneton. You can generally find them in two different sizes at the supermarket - 500g and 1kg.
I tend to stick to the 500g as the 1kg tend to make the dough spread out too much.
Use a thin cloth to line the ricotta basket. An old, clean, cotton pillow case is perfect.
Rub it really well with rice flour to ensure the dough doesn't stick.
You'll find that the dough will take on the bumpy pattern from the basket.
These plastic baskets are particularly good if you live in a humid environment and are concerned about mold.
I love using these small ricotta baskets to proof my small batch sourdough bread.
Heavy Linen Tea Towel (DIY Banneton)
You can make a DIY banneton using a heavy linen tea towel.
You need the linen to be quite thick in order to support the dough.
Here's how to make a DIY banneton from a linen tea towel.
- Using your hands, pleat the tea towel into an accordion.
- Use a strong elastic band or some string to secure one end. You need to make sure it's nice and tight.
- Create a "nest" for your dough to sit in by smoothing out the cloth close to the elastic band.
- Place the dough into the nest, with the end as close to the elastic band as you can.
- Pull the cloth around and secure the other end with another elastic band.
- Cover the DIY banneton with a plastic food cover or place it into a plastic bag and into the fridge for cold retard.
Using this method, I highly recommend rubbing the tea towel with rice flour or coating your dough in corn meal or something similar to stop it sticking.
It's also really important to ensure your dough has a strong gluten network and tight shaping as this will give you the nice, smooth skin that stops it sticking to the cloth.
A loaf pan can be a great proofing basket alternative with the bonus that you can bake a loaf shaped sourdough. Perfect for sandwiches! You'll find a full guide to baking sourdough in a loaf pan here.
You can shape your regular sourdough into a batard and then place into an oiled loaf tin.
Cold retard as per normal and then bake in the oven. You could use some of these techniques to bake sourdough without a Dutch Oven.
If you have a wok in your kitchen, you could use it to proof your bread in a pinch. It's certainly not ideal, but the rounded base will support your dough.
It's a good idea to use a thin cotton tea towel or other cloth to line the wok and wick some of the moisture away from your dough.
It also helps to lift the dough out when it's ready to bake.
What Cloth Should I Use?
When using a proofing basket alternative, you will more than likely need to line it with a cloth.
You should choose a thin, cotton or linen cloth. A thin linen tea towel, napkin or even pillow case are best.
Avoid using anything too thick when lining a basket as it will deform the shape of your loaf.
Also, avoid thick, fluffy tea towels as you will not be able to rub rice flour into them and the dough will stick making an awful mess!
It looks rough, but I've just cut up some old cotton pillow cases my kids no longer use. They have been so good for this purpose and wash really well too!
Disadvantages To Using Banneton Alternative
As bannetons are made specifically to proof dough, using an alternative does come with disadvantages.
You may find that not using a banneton can cause some or all of the following issues:
- Your dough may not be able to breathe adequately
- Moisture may not be wicked away from the dough, particularly if using a bowl, wok or loaf pan.
- Your chosen alternative may not allow you to shape the dough how you want to. Using a specific banneton shape will allow you to shape your dough into a batard, boule, courrone etc.
- The banneton alternative you choose may not be the right size. Too big and your dough will spread out, sacrificing oven spring. Too small and it may overflow the container.
Frequently Asked Questions
Try to avoid it if you can. Parchment paper does not let the dough breath and will actually soak up water from the dough while it proves. Then when you try to lift it out the parchment will generally tear. The other issue is that when you bake the sourdough, the wet parchment will get baked into your bread and is really hard to peel off. Definitely avoid using parchment to proof you dough.
Yes, many people use oil instead of cloth if using a bowl or smooth surfaced banneton alternative. However, oil does not allow moisture to be wicked away from the dough. It can also cause issues when flipping the dough out of your chosen shaping container.
Rice flour is usually the best flour to use to prevent your dough sticking to your banneton or banneton alternative. Rice flour is gluten free, so will not adhere itself to the gluten in your dough. If you don't have rice flour, corn meal or semolina can also be used.
Yes you can. I would advise lining it with a thin cotton cloth. You could use a plastic container much like you would a plastic bowl. Just be aware that your dough will take on the shape of the container.
You can make a banneton yourself. A DIY banneton can be fashioned from a heavy linen tea towel and some elastic bands using the instructions above.