How to make Homemade… Proving Baskets

I write this from Shetland, my family home and where I grew up. Down sooth, in Glasgae, I live during term time. And when coming home for the summer, there’s a few things you absolutely cannot forget: dough scraper, digital scales, an array of cookbooks and, most importantly of all, proving baskets.

Unfortunately, I left my two best brotforms with only each other for company and was forced to improvise. Soon, those horrible memories flooded back, of overly wet sourdough stuck to tea towels. Ruined. But actually, I am so happy with the results of those many failed attempts that I thought I’d let you know how to make them. It’s mostly common sense – but just remember a few things: A LOT OF FLOUR, but no matter how much flour, if your dough isn’t tight then it is going to stick.


Step 1: Get yourself some strong flour (preferably a light Rye, but white is more available and cheaper), some bowls (or baskets, anything round shaped) and a some tea towels that have seen better days


Step 2: Flatten the tea towel on your surface and coat a (bigger than) bowl sized area very liberally with flour


Step 3: Spread the flour evenly across the tea towel. As the flour becomes more engrained into the fabric, you’ll probably want to add more, as the towel can ‘absorb’ quite a lot!


Step 4: Carefully, so as not to dislodge the flour, place the towel inside the bowl. These nice round ikea ones are particularly good! Then sprinkle them with MORE flour!


Step 5: Add your shaped dough, and sprinkle some more flour round the edge just to be sure, as the sides never quite get as well coated as the bottom.


Though please do remember – any proving basket has the potential to stick if the gluten is arranged in the wrong direction. Always shape tightly, and preshape and fold when appropriate. Once your dough is proved, overturn onto a floured peel/board, score and pop in the oven to bake.


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  2. Hi James, brilliant description of how to get sourdough to rise and shape properly; flour, flour and yet more flour!! Unfortunately I found it too late! Now I’ve got to try and get my super sticky sourdough off the cloth and into the roasting hot cast iron pot to bake!!

  3. Have just come across this, very helpful thanks! One small tip that I might add is that I find rice flour (in addition to or instead of the wheat or rye flour) works wonders to stop sticking.

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