Originating from France, where we know bread baking is taken very seriously, bannetons are a neat accessory for professional and or amateur bakers alike.
Designed for use in the proofing step, bannetons are essentially a glorified basket used to aid in the rising of your dough. Typically composed of wicker, modern variations made of silicone and plastic are available as well.
The shallow basket provides structure to maintain a chosen uniform shape while the bread is rising. It also wicks moisture from the crust and allows the bread to breath. Additionally, bannetons can add in desired decorative elements, such as coil or spiral designs. Bannetons are typically used for boules, or round loaves, but can also be used to shape traditional loaves along with other unique shapes.
To use, lightly grease it and dust with flour, to assist in the removal process. Once the dough is done rising simply tip the basket onto your baking sheet or stone and bake.
The care and keeping of a banneton is simple as well. Avoid washing, depending on the materials, since the collection of flour and yeast will aid in the rising process for future loaves. Simply, shake out larger particles from time to time and your banneton will provide optimal results for years to come.