So you went ahead and purchased yourself a proper proofing basket, also known as a banneton or brotform (FYI these terms will be used interchangeably throughout this article). They’re great right? They provide an ideal shape for your sourdough to proof in and add a smashing texture to it. The more you use it, though, the “dirtier” it gets. It’s come to the point now, you feel it’s high time to clean it. Great!
A proofing basket doesn’t necessarily need to be cleaned after every use. Only once quite a bit of flour has accumulated in the nooks and crannies of your proofing basket, do you really need to clean it. Simply put you clean it by, knocking or taping the flour out, spraying it with water, and then thoroughly drying it.
The real work in keeping a banneton up to scuff is the maintenance work. Every once in a while you’ll need to deep clean.
The Proofing Basket
I think it’s important to understand a couple of things when it comes to proofing baskets; what they are made and why they are so ideally suited for proofing sourdough (and even yeasted bread). Knowing these things helps to understand the why, how, and when to clean your proofing basket.
Firstly, What is a Proofing Basket Made Out Of?
Well, bannetons made from natural materials tend to be made from wood.
|Wood Pulp Bannetons (Brotform)||This type of proofing basket is less susceptible to sticking because the wood pulp used to make it is derived from locally sourced spruce trees in Germany.|
|Plastic Bannetons||100% Plastic. Not necessarily a favorite amongst bakers, but it does boast the convenience of easy cleaning in the dishwasher.|
|Cane Bannetons||Made from cane, and if used without the liner that it often comes with, will leave a nice imprint; either spiral from a round proofing basket or long lines from the more oblong types.|
|Wicker Baskets||Natural wicker baskets are made of plant material typically rattan, reed, willow, or bamboo. There are, however, plastic ones out there so it’s important to take note of what you’re buying. These types of proofing baskets are commonly used with a liner, as there are a lot more nooks and crannies for flour and moisture to accumulate which can potentially lead to mold.|
You can see from the above-mentioned types of proofing baskets, why the question of how to clean it comes up. The type of materials frequently used to make proofing baskets, mainly that they are made from natural fibers, means throwing it in the dishwasher, or letting it soak in water overnight isn’t an option (unlike the plastic bannetons).
Why are Proofing Baskets Made Of Wood So Great for Proofing?
Proofing baskets are mainly made from natural materials, namely wood. Wood allows any excess moisture on the dough to be wicked away, therefore preventing it from sticking and making it easy to turn out at the end of proofing. In addition to offering these high points, the proofing baskets breathability produces a nice scorable skin and it provides shape and form to the dough which is ideal for sourdoughs or other high hydration doughs.
In order to get optimal use out of your proofing basket, it is necessary to condition it. The conditioning process is inherently getting your proofing basket “dirty” by building up a thin layer of moisture and flour along the inside of your proofing basket. This build-up provides a more solid surface for dusting flour to cling to, as well as moderate the temperature and moisture levels of your dough thus providing an ideal place for the dough to proof evenly and smoothly before baking it off.
Conditioning your proofing basket Quick Guide
Keep in mind that conditioning your proofing basket is only necessary for the first use.
|Proofing Basket Conditioning Steps:|
|STEP ONE||Lightly mist the proofing basket with water.|
|STEP TWO||Evenly dust the proofing basket with flour.|
|STEP THREE||Tap out any excess flour.|
This is the first layer of flour that will thinly coat the inside of your proofing basking, helping to prevent your dough from sticking (particularly when you’re turning it out and getting it ready for baking)
Cleaning your Proofing Basket
If you’re using your proofing basket regularly, you’ll start noticing an accumulation of flour and dough collecting within the crevices. This presents you with a couple of problems:
- If not cleaned out properly, mold can build on top of the flour and moisture that is being left behind in the proofing basket.
- This can affect the pattern from the proofing basket that you might actually want on your dough.
A deep clean isn’t required on a daily or even a regular basis. You’ll know, more or less, when you need to give it a little extra care. Basic care, however, should be maintained as regularly as possible. Basic care is mainly brushing and knocking out any excess flour after each use. This will prevent an overabundance of flour from collecting and limit the opportunity for mold to grow.
In addition, drying your proofing basket out really well is key. The less moisture that is left behind, the less likely mold is going to grow.
Store in a dry well-ventilated spot in your kitchen.
How To Deep Clean Your Proofing Basket
First and foremost, deep cleaning doesn’t mean soaking. If you’re keen to deep clean, or because of mold issues or excessive flour gunk build-up, then here’s how to get it done:
|STEP ONE||Brush and knock out as much flour as you can.|
|STEP TWO||Wash it out, ideally using a strong spray from your faucet, and shake out as much water as you can.|
|STEP THREE||Invert the proofing basket on top of your hot oven to dry out quickly and thoroughly.|
A few things to take note of; firstly if you’ve decided to deep clean do it as soon after baking as possible. This will prevent any dough or flour from sticking, thereby reducing your work a little. Secondly, Keep in mind, the more often you deep clean your proofing basket the more frequently you’re going to have to deal with dough potentially sticking. Remember, it’s the thin layer of flour that helps prevent the dough from sticking.
If it isn’t so much flour or dough accumulation that is worrying you, and you want to ensure that your proofing basket is dry, you can place it in your oven. To kill any potentially remaining bacteria, you can set your oven temperature to 300°F (150°C) and leave your proofing basket in there for about 15 minutes.
For the most part, you don’t need to wash your proofing basket. By providing basic care of brushing out loose flour and storing it in a dry and airy spot your proofing basket should be just fine.
If you have not yet purchased a proofing basket or you are interested in adding one to the one you already have, you should check out my recommendation for the basket that I like to use and that brings me excellent results in every use. Read it right here.