I finally got around to buying bannetons for my bread baking and just used one for the first time. Worked great! However, I used rice flour to coat the interior and, after releasing the dough, there is quite a bit in the grooves throughout the bowl and it doesn't fall out by shaking or tapping. So do I leave it there to build up for future proofing or should I get a brush and get it all out?
I have several bannetons (also called brotforms). Two are wicker and 2 are cane (you can also find them made from wood pulp). I simply use a small, stiff pastry brush to clean away any flour left behind. Sometimes I find it helpful to leave it out overnight so the flour dries and it is easier to brush away. I have even given the canes a quick rinse but I do make sure to thoroughly dry before storing. In addition to rice flour, I have used AP and bread flour with success.
With the wicker ones, sometimes I use food grade linen that I flour and line the banneton with to proof the bread. I have also used plastic wrap that has a light spray of olive oil. These two methods eliminate the need to flour the banneton. It just depends on my mood and the surface finish I want on the baked loaf.
In theory, you should always clean your bannetons very meticulously. The main steps (as I was taught from a bunch of very experienced old ladies) would be:
- Knock them upside-down on your workbench two or three times to let loose material fall out.
- Take a stiff-bristled brush and scrub along the ridges to loosen stuck flour. Work carefully but firmly to get everything out.
- Knock the loosened flour out again like in the first step.
Cleaning the baskets well is very important because flour residue that stays there during storage invites little guests of the creepy-crawly kind. You may even think about tucking the baskets in the (slightly cooled!) oven after baking to heat them through once in a while.
I'd caution against using water: If you remember that you can make a "glue" out of flour/starch and water, you might end up with a concrete-like layer of "flour-glue" down in the ridges. And this attracts bugs again. Besides, some materials tend to warp and depending on how the canes are fixed together, there might be even nails or pins that start to rust.
But honestly, if you are baking at least once a week, a solid "smack on the bottom" should be enough for day-to-day upkeep, but always store them in a dry space (again: humidity+flour=glue...).