A while ago I wrote about brotforms, the German coiled cane proofing baskets that leave a spiral pattern on the crust of your loaf. What if you don’t have a brotform, or don’t want that spiral pattern? A banneton, French cousin to the brotform, is a woven wicker basket that usually has a linen fabric liner sewn into it.
A basket provides support for a proofing loaf; the linen liner reduces sticking and yields a smoother crust than an unlined basket. While I do proof most of my boules and batards in linen-lined baskets, they’re not official bannetons. Instead, I use loose pieces of natural unbleached linen that I lay inside of whatever basket or other vessel I want to use use for proofing. This works very well and has quite a few advantages over sewn-in liners:
It’s flexible. Any basket or bowl can be used; you don’t need special “proofing baskets.” I have been known to use decorative wicker or sisal baskets; the basket from my salad spinner; plastic chip baskets; and salad and mixing bowls made from wood, ceramic, plastic, or metal. Whatever size you need, you probably already have it around the house. Of course if you already have a brotform, you can lay a linen liner in that too, if you feel like it.