Sunday, June 3, 2007
My wonderful sister-in-law, Betty, gave me a gift certificate to Williams-Sonoma for Christmas. It took me five months to decide what I wanted--out of so many possibilities--but I finally settled on a French banneton. I'd been making any recipes that required a banneton with a makeshift combination of a plastic colander, a cotton towel, and a piece of cardboard cut to fit the bottom of the colander. It worked fine, but it didn't make the lovely decorative rings of flour that you get with an authentic banneton.
After I bought the Williams-Sonoma banntton, Jim decided that a banneton was just what I needed for my birthday, so suddenly I went from no bannetons to two. I was going to return one, but then I happened on a recipe for Pane di Como, from The Italian Baker, which made two loaves of bread, each requiring its own banntton. Well, there you go. Kismet.
My first foray into the banneton world had mixed results. The bread was awfully good, but the shape didn't meet my expectations or satisfy my hopes. The dough was supposed to be "elastic but still slightly sticky," when the kneading was done, and mine was probably still too sticky. It raised beautifully, up to the top of the banetton, just as it was supposed to do, but when I turned it over on the hot baking stone (not an easy feat for someone who was told in the eighth grade that her fine motor skills were sub-par and her vocational choices might be limited), it sank into a limp puddle. But it was a limp puddle with distinctive banneton markings.
Although the directions said that both loaves could be baked on the stone at the same time, this was clearly not going to work if the loaves both spread out, as they did, so I baked them separately, which is why one loaf is darker than the other. And I'm pretty sure they're not supposed to crack on top, but they did. I might feel unhappier with the result if the taste hadn't been so good. And I still think they're cute.