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There is no denying the deliciousness of Sourdough bread. Luckily it is also pretty easy to make at home, as long as you have a little patience and a well-cared-for starter culture; think of it as a pet and feed it every day. Many aspiring bakers, having forked out for a pair of fancy cane bannetons, immediately have problems handling the often high hydration sourdough.

Sourdough is a high hydration dough, typically 75% water, and as it reaches ripeness, it becomes more so. How do you stop sourdough sticking (like wet, sticky bubblegum) to your bannetons, and making your turned out doughs look like they have been run over by a bus?

When I first started out, I would wash my bannetons after every use. They were rinsed and scrubbed in soapy warm water until sparkling clean. Then I started to use a combination of wheat flour and semolina flour to help stop the dough from sticking to the bannetons before proving. I liked the effect of the semolina flour, but I didn’t like the texture. I came to the conclusion that the issue lay with the banneton; it was just too sticky. Then I came across this site, which  explains how these little proving baskets are used in the real world (hint: they are not cleaned after every use)

The idea is to build up a layer of flour and moisture inside the basket to prevent the dough from sticking to it. The drier the banneton, the easier the dough will stick to it, a layer of flour also builds up a smoother surface for proving, and a moisture buffer. By deliberately not washing the banneton after each use, you allow the build up of a layer of flour which prevents the dough from sticking.

Clearly, if you are not washing and drying your bannetons after each prove, you will need to tend to them closely to stop them from going mouldy (or should I say too mouldy, as it seems a small amount of mould is deemed acceptable), and this is about keeping them in a warm dry environment open to the atmosphere, or somewhere cool, and making sure they are dry before storing them away. It would be nice if we all had fridges where we could keep our bannetons (not stacked, of course) when not in use. But alas we live in the real world. I put them in a cupboard in the kitchen, open to the atmosphere.

Before each bake, lightly dust the bannetons with flour. Brush them once a month to remove excess flour.

I must admit, I still like to use semolina flour, especially if I am retarding the fermentation overnight. I love high hydration sourdough, it just gives such a lovely bread texture, and semolina flour seems to be the best way to keep the loaves form sticking. It seems to have the ability to absorb moisture. If you are starting out, I recommend you do the same to give yourself a fighting chance.

Professional bakeries wash their bannetons every 6 to 12months.

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