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How to Use a Brotform for Prettier, Loftier, Tastier Loaves

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You're new to bread-baking and you can't figure out how to come away with loaves as tall and mighty—let alone as dramatically rustic—as your favorite bakery's. (I know because I'm there, too.)

Or, you're an experienced baker ready to make your bread the best it can be—to give your boules and baguettes a signature look and to make sure its flavor, texture, and color hit high marks.

10 Essential Tools for Making Sourdough Bread at Home

10 Essential Tools for Making Sourdough Bread at Home by Natasa Djuric

Brotform Bread Rising Baskets

Brotform Bread Rising Baskets

From $28

Sounds like you need a brotform! Also known as a brotformen or a bread- or dough-rising basket (or, in France, a banneton), this mold girdles your dough during its second rise. During this period, when the dough has a tendency to relax and spread, the basket cradles it gently, which results in a taller, more uniform shape, a crunchy, textured crust (more delicious bread), and a hypnotizing spiral pattern I once attributed to magic or aliens.

Yes, you can improvise with a greased bowl or a linen-lined colander, but as Natasa Djuric of My Daily Sourdough explains, the material of a brotform (in this case, that's cane) allows the dough to breathe during its final rise. Ahh.

One of these baguettes rose in a brotform; the other two did not.
One of these baguettes rose in a brotform; the other two did not.

And while bowls can offer a temporary home for rising boules, their round shape is, obviously, not suited to oblong loaves or baguettes. The Frieling brotforms in our Shop come in various shapes and sizes so that your miche can be as snug as your sandwich bread.

Using a brotform is (I'm sorry to say) the easiest part of making bread. When your favorite dough—or the one you're working up to this month—is ready for its second rise...

  • Flour the basket generously (sift flour directly over top of it and rub some into the coils—too little flour and your dough might stick or the markings may not be visible). If you just want the shape benefits without the distinctive markings, line the basket with a floured tea towel.
  • Plop your shaped dough in, nice side down.
  • Give it some breathing room (that is, cover in a tea towel or as directed and leave it alone) while it takes the second rise.
  • Flip the dough out of its cozy-basket-home and onto whatever implement you'll use to transfer it to the oven—a cornmeal-dusted baking peel, a piece of parchment paper...
  • Make a slash in the dough using a serrated knife, lame, or straight razor so that the steam can escape from the bread in a controlled manner.
  • Bake as directed in the recipe (or as you prefer! I like to use a preheated Dutch oven).

Get started with this basic recipe...

Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François' 5-Minute Artisan Bread
Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François' 5-Minute Artisan Bread

...then move onto something a bit more advanced!

Oat Porridge Bread

Oat Porridge Bread by Chad Robertson

Dan Leader's 4-Hour Baguette

Dan Leader's 4-Hour Baguette by Genius Recipes

Rosemary Ciabatta with Stout Beer

Rosemary Ciabatta with Stout Beer by TheWimpyVegetarian

Flax Seed Potato Bread

Flax Seed Potato Bread by AntoniaJames

No-Knead Sandwich Bread

No-Knead Sandwich Bread by Carey Nershi

Toasted Peanut Butter and Honey Sandwich on Rosemary Chocolate Bread

Toasted Peanut Butter and Honey Sandwich on Rosemary Choc... by indieculinary

We originally ran this post last spring, but since Baking Season (and Giving Season!) are well upon us we thought you might want the reminder.

What's an underrated bread baking tool that's made your experience less frustrating? Share with us in the comments!

Tags: Essential Tools, The Shop, Videos