Sunday, February 24, 2008


If you make your own bread you will have come across the proving baskets known as bannetons. Traditionally these baskets are made of wicker or cane, some sort of breathable material, and often they have a cloth liner made of calico to prevent sticking. For some reason the ones you can purchase for domestic use seem to be incredibly expensive. I have made my own from time to time, fashioned from a basket or a colander lined with a tea towel, and it didn’t work terribly well! A while ago I was given a couple of cane baskets by an artisan baker and I have been using them a lot. They give a lovely beehive finish to the loaf. But they do stick occasionally.

Lately I came across a German company called Ernst Birnbaum who make proving baskets for the bread trade and will sell them to domestic breadbakers for a small additional cost. They have a very utilitarian web site which has an English version. Their range is astonishing and the prices are extremely reasonable. It took me a while to figure out the best way to pay for my order because my bank wanted to charge a huge amount for transferring the money, but eventually I used PayPal and I would urge anyone considering the exercise to do likewise.

I expected that the order would take a few weeks to arrive but four days after the PayPal instruction went through there was a knock on my front door and there they were. I was amazed.

These proving baskets are made of wood pulp and are very light but also sturdy. I suppose if commercial bakers are using them regularly they expect them to last. They do somehow remind you of something you might have seen in a hospital! I floured mine well before the dough went in and when I turned it out there was a satisfying sucking thunnckkk as it came out perfectly. The basket leaves tiny linen like indentations on the surface of the dough which stand out nicely when you slash the top.

I ordered seven pieces in different sizes for friends and myself and the total, including delivery charges from Germany, VAT and extras came to 45 euros. Impossibly little for something that really works well. I recommend them unhesitatingly.

Ernst Birnbaum


Welshcakes Limoncello said...

I make my own bread but I've never come acriss these. I just improvise! I am going too look into them, though.

ostwestwind said...

I tried them and found they are not high or deep enough, but they are good and cheaper than wicker.

I prefer my deeper wicker baskets, although they are more expensive.

Ulrike from K├╝chenlatein

June said...

Hi Ulrike

I find they are the same overall dimensions as the cane ones I have been using. What do your wicker baskets look like?

ostwestwind said...

Hi June,

I have to kinds: oval and round

For the oval scroll down.

It's unbelievable, but I don't have a picture from my round wicker basket, but it looks like this one. The higher the basket, the less the dough could lose its height. German bread flour isn't as strong as the British, so my breads tend to get flat breads :-) And wicker makes this nice pattern

Ulrike from K├╝chenlatein

June said...


Yes, these are the same as my cane baskets. Perhaps it's just a question of the size. The brotformen I wrote about come in lots of different sizes and are much cheaper, but the same company makes the cane baskets too.

Himanshi said...

Great artcle and great website.I wish you could update if more frequently.

June said...

Sorry Himanshi! I only write when I am particularly interested by something and it just doesn't happen every day - but I will try harder!

Y said...

I need to get myself a proper bread basket. I've tried the colander method and it wasn't the best either.

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