Essential Tools

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

November 28, 2016

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.

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.

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...

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

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.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I like a perforated, trough shaped pan for baguettes- the dough rises right on the pan, and is placed in the oven without shock; it bakes beautifully. I am baffled by the practice of using ice to make steam- hot water is so much easier and more efficient. Bread baking temperatures (about 480 is best for crusty loaves) tend to be too high for parchment. ”
— Smaug

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

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Kristin McCarthy
    Kristin McCarthy
  • Diane
  • Kkay
  • AntoniaJames
  • Don M. Pringle
    Don M. Pringle
I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


Kristin M. December 16, 2020
I think these baskets are going be game changer for my bread making! I have a number of Jeff and Zoe’s books. In the video, what size Brotform did you use? It looked you were forming up the “grapefruit” size from their recipes. Thanks so much!
Diane April 15, 2020
Favorite bread hack right now? Using a chopstick to stir down/feed sourdough starter.
Kkay October 3, 2019
Another great storage idea is use one of your purse or shoe dust bags.
AntoniaJames November 28, 2016
Best breadmaking tool I own: Thermapen. It's especially helpful for focaccia and other high hydration breads. ;o)
AntoniaJames May 25, 2016
In all fairness to the two baguettes not shaped in a basket, they would have had a much different, better look (and shape), and would not be so very sad looking, had they been scored along the axis, as is customary: ;o)
Sarah J. May 25, 2016
My baguettes' feelings are a bit hurt (I was proud of how they turned out and they tasted great anyway), but thanks for the tip about scoring! I love how the amount to learn—about bread baking, cooking, you name it—is constantly growing every day. Happy baking!
Don M. May 24, 2016
I use bannetons for my sourdough and no bread baker should be without a brotpisker or Danish dough wisk.
Ellie B. May 24, 2016
yessssss I think I need this!!!!! It's exactly what I think is missing in most bread recipes~not imperative, but certainly beneficial to own. I've been itching to make more bread again and I'm afraid if I get this I'll have to start donating bread. ;))
Russell C. May 24, 2016
Ah, baking bread! Probably one of the first foods our ancient ancestors made with their own two hands! Oh how it hark-ins back to a better time!
Robert H. May 24, 2016
Using a starchy flour such as rice flour or whole rye to coat the baskets helps to keep the dough from sticking when it's released.
Bob Hoover
Thomas C. November 28, 2016
Rice flour also does not brown as much as wheat flour (the main ingredient in most bread) so it provides a nice contrast after baking. Try it. Generously dust the brotform with white rice flour, proof, then bake. Tell me the finished product doesn't look much nicer with the accentuated stripes from the brotform coils. Incremental improvements add up.
Mrs B. April 25, 2016
Does the food52 staff recommend using these baskets for conventional yeast breads, the kinds of dough you'd put into loaf pans for sandwich bread?
Sarah J. April 25, 2016
Yes, you'll get a slightly different shape but the dough should function in the same way.
AntoniaJames April 25, 2016
Sarah, I'd really be interested in whatever insights you have into the question I just posed on the Hotline . . . Maybe you could get some of the other bakers on the editorial staff to weigh in on this. Thank you. ;o)
Karen O. April 24, 2016
How do you clean the brotform after using? What about storing the baskets?
Sarah J. April 24, 2016
You can simply shake off the excess flour, and if there's any dough stuck to the basket, you can wait for it to dry, then scrape it off.
Windischgirl April 24, 2016
I use rice flour because I heard it's more "slippery" than wheat flour and enables the dough to loosen more easily from the brotformen.
To clean, I use a small stiff brush to loosen the excess flour from between the coils of rattan and knock it out. I then stick the baskets in the cooling oven, after I've removed the baked bread and turned off the "cook" any nasties that might want to lurk in the brotformen, as well as drive off any moisture they make have absorbed from the dough. Once they are cool and dry, I stick them, stacked, in a resealable plastic bag. No problems so far.
I would NOT get them wet. If you are concerned about dust, etc, when you first purchase the baskets, wipe them with a paper towel just dampened with vinegar, and air dry thoroughly.
Ellie B. May 24, 2016
Super useful advice <3
Ahayson September 1, 2020
Thank you! Was just about to post ? about how to clean! Annoyed I'll need yet another flour in my cabinet but I'll give it a try
Smaug April 23, 2016
I like a perforated, trough shaped baguette pan- the dough rises right in the pan and is placed in the oven without shock, and bakes up beautifully. I am perpetually baffled as to why people use ice to make steam- hot water seems so much easier and more efficient.

I like a perforated, trough shaped pan for baguettes- the dough rises right on the pan, and is placed in the oven without shock; it bakes beautifully. I am baffled by the practice of using ice to make steam- hot water is so much easier and more efficient. Bread baking temperatures (about 480 is best for crusty loaves) tend to be too high for parchment.

Windischgirl April 23, 2016
Thanks for this, Sarah! I love my brotformen and would like to use them more often. Is there a guide for knowing how much dough (by weight) will fit into a particular form?